Are we at risk for lawsuits if we make arrangements of copyrighted songs? Especially on YouTube.

• Dec 5, 2019 - 10:34

Copyright protection exists in an arrangement the moment it is fixed in any tangible form, as by recording the arrangement or writing it in sheet music. As a copyright holder, the arranger has exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute and perform his arrangement. If the arrangement is recorded, either the arranger or the producer of the recording acquires an additional copyright in the sound recording of the song. U.S. law does not require these copyrights to be registered. However, copyright registration creates a record of ownership and allows copyright holders to sue in federal court if their copyrights are infringed.

I've been having a lot of copyright issues lately on my channel, I filed disputed and most of them worked out for me most likely because I'm a small channel with only 5.4k subs. In doing that so, am I actually abusing copyright? I arrange the songs in my own style and many had told me that I shouldn't worry about it too much because I definitely own the rights to it.

But do I? Vsauce BGM kicks in
Ok.. jokes aside, even if I'm making an entire complete instrumental arrangement. Would it be subjected to copyright? I want to be loyal to its original compositions so I stayed like this up till now.
I may have more questions but I can't come up with any as of now......

If you want me to link you my works if needed for discussion, I'll do that in the comments.


Publishing an arrangement of a copyrighted pieces without the consent of the copyright holder is a copyright violation. Even if that arrangement is of substantial artistic value to in itself be(come) copyrighted.

In reply to by dds

YouTube has license agreements with many publishers and they actively check for possible conflicts. When one is discovered, it is flagged, and you are given the option to include an ad on the video to pay the copyirght holder.

The model on is similar, if different in detail, Bottom line: post what you want, tell the truth when it asks if the piece is copyright and what the source material is, and let them take it from there.

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

So you're saying that there's already a community and a culture that does this and they haven't been discovered by higher ups yet? Or do they not care and see the potential in those doings?
Is there a chance for someone out there appealing this law to the court to have it updated? I mean, yea, logically speaking the composition is definitely done by composer itself. But isn't what we do considered as "transformative" work
"So what is a “transformative” use? If this definition seems ambiguous or vague, be aware that millions of dollars in legal fees have been spent attempting to define what qualifies as a fair use. There are no hard-and-fast rules, only general guidelines and varied court decisions, because the judges and lawmakers who created the fair use exception did not want to limit its definition. Like free speech, they wanted it to have an expansive meaning that could be open to interpretation."
If people can make parodies of other original fictions, then wouldn't music be like that as well? The same way as art drawings.

In reply to by Haoto 2

Last month, just read a printed book has ISBN written by PhD
related to ethics of global business published 20years ago.

A funny fact the Preface mentioned.....
Some citation extracted from the other scholars on this book,
need an official approval no matter from the authors and/or publishers,
Sadly, not all of citation got approval because copyright issues.

That means this PhD can't quote what he need on the book,
but don't know any citation could be used freely on his final paper or not.

AFAIK, public domain music score, once you edit your own notes, fingering, articulations,
you are legitimate to register a copyright, but don't know it's myth or not.

In reply to by Jojo-Schmitz

for instance, Suzuki Violin Volumes, Over 99% pieces are from
other composers were born from almost 300years ago.

only a few of pieces actually composed by Suzuki himself, especially mid-high level pieces.

for someone whom want to publish their own 'Violin Volumes' based on public domain sheets,
final products will be printed-matter and DVD or Video Online with newly edited fingerings,
re-input all notes from scratch, make some minor changes
the slur/separate/up/down bows, etc....

such scenario, would the copyright violated? What's the safety way to do this legally.

there was a time, some of IOS/Android apps just provide
public domain music sheet scan-copy directly from imslp
and embedded a music from anywhere, combined both as video score to make money. W..T..?...

In reply to by dds

were born from almost 300years ago pretty irrelevant, what maters is when thes died. But that would be more than 70 years ago, I guess, so copyright expired.

The edition may be copyrighed, so you're not allowed to photocopy it, the music won't. Minor changes would not be copyrightable (?)

But IANAL, better seek legal advice from the pros (those most probably would charge you for that though)

In reply to by Haoto 2

"So you're saying that there's already a community and a culture that does this and they haven't been discovered by higher ups yet? " - not sure who this is directed at, but what I am saying is exactyly the opposite of that. I am saying people do this because YouTube specifically allows it. They do get discovered - YouTube has both automatic and manual means of discovering this - and they do the thing I described with ads to make sure the copyright owners get paid and everything stays legal.

As for fair use, "parody" is specifically covered in US copyright (case) law, might not be that way in all countries. But most covers of songs don't count as parody.

And as others have said, for real legal advice, best to consult a lawyer, or at least a forum (on some other site) dedicated to legal issues, where actual lawyers are more likely to participate in the discussion.

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