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“I Do Not Own The Rights To This Music” – What Does It Mean?



I Do Not Own The Rights To This Music

Posting “I Do Not Own the Rights to This Music” on social media does not clear you of violating copyright infringement. It’s like a car thief saying, “I was only borrowing it.”

Copyright infringement is a complex subject, but we want you to be aware of the basics of this law so you’re protected and understand how violating copyright laws hurt the artist who created the music.


“I Do Not Own The Rights To This Music”

Let’s say you’ve created a fun video or slide show, and you decide to slap on some music. The problem is The Killers (for this example) created this song.

Even though you know this, you reason that it’s okay as long as you add the disclaimer, “I Do not own the rights to this music” or “No Copyright Infringement Intended.” By adding this rhetoric, are you off the hook legally? No!

Here’s the bottom line: unless you get the artist’s express permission in writing, you’re violating copyright laws. Copyright laws protect works of music, art, literature, photographs, movies, etc.

Additionally, adding the disclaimer “I do not own the rights to this music” is your admission of guilt for violating copyright laws.

“Okay, so I’ll use a song without permission, and I won’t post a disclaimer. They won’t care, right?”

It depends. While we’re not legal eagles, you’re probably correct that lawyers for The Killers won’t seek legal damages on a Facebook live post with only 100 likes. But if your video goes viral, you may need legal counsel.

It would help if you also looked at this from the musician’s perspective. From their point of view, you’re stealing their music and maybe even profiting off their work.

“Wait a minute! I’m not a thief! I’m just posting goofy YouTube videos!”

Hold that thought; you may feel differently at the end of our post. For now, let’s take a walk in the artist’s shoes to understand better how copyright works.


What Is Copyright Infringement?

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, copyright infringement is when a “copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner.”

A “copyrighted work” is anything a person (also called the “author”) creates for expression. For the sake of our discussion, we’ll limit this to songwriters and musicians.

Whenever a song is played on the radio, in a restaurant, on television, or in a movie, the “author” of the song gets paid a royalty. Organizations like ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC report and collect such findings for the songwriter and mail them a check. These groups protect the authors.

Most musicians and songwriters struggle financially and rely on getting royalty checks. But according to a study done by Berklee College of Music, 20-50% of music royalties don’t get back to their rightful owner.

With the advent of streaming services like Pandora, Spotify and others, tracking what gets played and how often has become challenging.

For the listener, such change is tremendous: it means free music. But for the songwriters, the net result is next to nothing, financially speaking. Here’s what we mean.

When Spotify plays a song, the artist gets $0.00331 and $0.00437 per stream and only after it has been in heavy rotation. (Check out our list of the best Spotify stats websites if you want to analyze your Spotify data.)

Will superstars like Beyonce feel the financial impact of you using her song without permission? Doubtful. But an Indie artist may. One could argue that the Indie artist is getting “free exposure,” but notoriety doesn’t pay the bills, either.

We hope you better understand the plight many new artists and songwriters experience and will consider doing the “right thing.”

But if you’re still not convinced, let’s look at what could happen when you use a song without permission.


What Are The Risks Of Using Copyrighted Music?

What are the risks? Here’s an extreme example from when I worked for a compact disc manufacturer.

A client’s tape I was preparing to master sounded familiar. I did some research and discovered that he was trying to release an obscure record by Supertramp (if memory serves me correctly) but claimed it as his own. We reported him to the RIAA (Recording Institute Agency of America), and they prosecuted him to the full extent of the law.

While it’s doubtful the RIAA will come after you, legally speaking, for copyright infringement, social media companies can impact what you post.

If you post a YouTube video with copyrighted music, they will often not allow it to be published, or they’ll demonetize it. In other words, you won’t be able to make any money, and they may freeze your account.

Other social media platforms follow similar policies, and sometimes entities representing the artist ask you to stop. If you insist on ignoring such pleas, they may seek damages and sue you for copyright infringement.

And we need to reiterate that adding “I do not own the rights to this music” to your content does not permit you to use copyrighted music in any way, shape, or form.


What Are My Options?

Before you give up the ghost, you do have some options.

The first is to use royalty-free music. These companies abound on the internet and offer quality music that you can use for free or come with a one-time licensing fee.

Another option is to reach out to the copyright owners and ask permission to use their material. However, we doubt you’ll get much feedback trying to contact major celebrities or bands about a song you want to use for your zany videos.

You might have better luck reaching out to indie artists or local talent. They may want to help your cause or get more exposure by connecting to your post.

Your last option is to find public domain music: songs no longer copyrighted. There are plenty of resources online to peruse, and with some hard work, it could be worth your while.



We hope this article has helped you understand and clarify what this popular phrase actually means.

Remember, adding “I do not own the rights to this music” does not permit you to upload someone’s music for your personal or professional use.

“I do not own the rights to this music” does not protect you from being prosecuted or having your social media account frozen.

Jay is a professional bass player who spent years chasing Nashville’s neon rainbow performing with Shania Twain and other high-profile artists. As a musician, he's produced scores for videos and jingles using Pro Tools, vintage synths, and various plug-ins. When he’s not writing, he’s debating whether to ride his Italian racing bike, get funky on one of his many basses, or chill with the family.