How many seconds of song can you use without copyright

How Many Seconds Of A Song Can You Use Without Copyright?

There is a very common myth and misconception amongst music users, that limiting a piece of music to 5, 15 or 30 seconds will avoid copyright problems, however, this is not true.

As a general rule, you cannot use copyrighted music without permission, regardless of the length of music used. Any use of copyrighted music without permission counts as copyright infringement.

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly where this copyright misconception came from. Perhaps it originated from the fair use copyright laws, or perhaps content creators think it is OK to use shorter pieces of music as YouTube and other online platform algorithms find it more difficult to identify music with smaller sample sizes.

Either way, you need permission regardless of music length to use music legitimately in your content.

Can I use copyrighted music if I give credit?

Giving music credit does not exempt anyone from copyright law. At the end of the day, you must have permission from the music copyright holder to use music as part of your own project.

It is great to share the name of the artist and song titles of music you use. This really helps artists spread the word about their music.

Simply using music, and declaring that you do not own the music does not exclude you from copyright infringement.

Again, you must always have permission to use music from the copyright holder in your content, unless you can claim you are exempt due to “fair use” or the music is in the public domain.


I am not making money. Can I use copyrighted music?

As a general rule, music copyright permission must be cleared for all projects, be it profit or non-profit projects.

Even if you are not making money, you must still ensure you have the relevant permissions to use copyrighted music in your projects.

To learn more about this area, the following article covers this topic in greater detail:

copyright music

How can I legally use copyrighted music?

With the abundance of safe to use royalty free music libraries online, there is very little reason to take risks with music copyright.

In a nutshell, a good royalty free music library will be very clear on how you can use the music in your content and provide you with a full written music licence so you can prove you have the correct permissions to use the music.

To check out my free royalty-free music library and how you can use the music in as background music in your projects, see the link below:

With my free music library, all the music ticks the following boxes. Whatever music library you end up choosing, ensure it does the following:

  1. Provides you with a written music licence agreement so you have proof you can use the music.
  2. Is very clear on how you can use the music. If in doubt, ask your music supplier and they should help you quickly.

How do I use a famous song legally?

On the other hand, if there is a particular famous song that you have your heart set on, which you really want to use, then you will need to do more work to clear copyright permissions.

In general, every song has two pieces of copyright included with it:

  1. Sync Rights – these are the rights to the written song, typically owned by the composer
  2. Master Rights – these are the rights to the recording of the song.

In order to use a song that is not from a music library or royalty-free library, then you will need to ensure you have cleared both of these rights.

You may need to contact different parties such as the artist, music publisher or record label, depending on who owns the copyright.

As you can imagine, this can be a long and complex process hence the popularity of using easy to licence royalty free music.

To learn more about licensing a famous song for your content or one that is not available as “royalty free” I go into greater depth in the following article, which includes an example of using Spotify to identify the copyright holders.

A Pop star Singing: How Much to License A Famous Song

Alternative Sources of Safe To Use Music for Content

There are some great music libraries out there that provide high-quality music for content.

Of course, I am going to say check out my own free royalty free music, which you can download and use for free as long as you give me a music credit.

However, in comparison to some of the larger, paid-for, royalty free music sites, my collection is pretty small.

Personally, I recommend Shutterstock and Envato Elements as good and reliable sources of royalty free music. In addition to music, they also offer images and footage which is a must for all content creators.

Envato Elements

  • A great source of paid for royalty free music, photos and footage.
Envato Elements

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  • A great source of paid for royalty free music, photos and footage.

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Content Disclaimer: This blog is intended as a guide only for educational and informational purposes. It is not legal advice. The content contained in this article is not legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific matter or matters.