If you’ve ever wanted to use copyrighted music on Instagram, you’ve probably come across conflicting sources: some places suggest freedom with credit, while other information says otherwise. That’s made even more complicated by Instagram’s ever-growing and -changing rules and features over the years.
Today, we’re giving you all the rules and requirements to use copyrighted music on Instagram. We’ll also break it down by feature, so you can find all the details you need to create Instagram videos with music.
The contents of this post do not equate legal advice and are subject to change. Always pay attention to Instagram’s direct insight and any in-app suggestions or restrictions. The nature of copyrighted music is always changing, and the best advice is only to use music you have the rights or correct license for.
Today, we'll cover:
- What are Instagram's rules about copyrighted music?
- Does Instagram have its own copyrighted music?
- Can I use copyrighted music on Instagram Stories?
- How do you avoid copyright on Instagram Reels?
- Can you play music on Instagram Live?
- Can I get banned for playing music on Instagram Live?
- Can I use 30 seconds of copyrighted music on Instagram?
- Does giving credit mean you can use copyrighted music on Instagram?
- What do you do when Instagram blocks your video?
- Other ways to use copyrighted music on Instagram legally
What are Instagram’s rules about copyrighted music?
When artists make music, they – and their labels– want to make money from their work. The law also agrees that the creator should be paid. Most platforms, including Instagram, have strict rules against using copyrighted material that you do not have the right to use. In some cases, platforms make deals with rights-holders to pay them a flat rate, allowing copyrighted content to exist on their platform.
Instagram has made several deals with the music industry to allow some use of copyrighted music on the platform. While the specifics of those deals are confidential, there are some guidelines to follow in an announcement by Instagram from May 20, 2020:
- Music recorded from live performances is permitted. If you attend a concert and share Stories, Reels, or Instagram Live videos of the gig, you should be okay. 'Music in Stories' is permitted wholly.
- Using too many full-length recorded tracks may limit your ability to broadcast live. If you’re streaming on Instagram Live and playing track after track, you might find your broadcast cut short.
- In general, video clips containing music should be short. While there is no clear answer on what 'short' means, aim for short-form content when in doubt.
- You should always have a video component when using copyrighted music on Instagram. Just playing songs with no visual element isn't permitted.
- Music may not be allowed in some countries. While music is available for Instagram in 90 countries, some places do not currently hold the rights, and might render these guidelines irrelevant in your area.
Does Instagram have its own copyrighted music?
Instagram does have its own catalog of copyrighted music. It’s by no means the biggest, most comprehensive collection in the world, but you can find certain songs on the platform when posting Reels and Stories.
To access this catalog, hit the music icon while editing your post, then type what you’re looking for into the search bar. Doing this means a music sticker will be added to your post, clearly showing and linking viewers to the track and artist.
Can I use copyrighted music on Instagram Stories?
Yes, you can use music in Instagram Stories. Stories allow you to use both recorded and live music performances – the only exception is countries where music usage is currently limited. Your content should include a visual component, and you can use Instagram’s music catalog.
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How do you avoid copyright on Instagram Reels?
You can use music on Reels. Revealed in August 2020, Reels has a built-in music catalog and is the preferred platform for music use – it’s a pretty perfect medium for video and music. Reels are short-form pieces of content, which line up with Instagram's agreements made with rights holders. Using music on Instagram Reels also requires a visual component.
Can you play music on Instagram Live?
You can conditionally use copyrighted music on Instagram Live video. Live performances of artists are allowed, so they're your safest bet. Streaming full-length recorded tracks may result in your stream being limited or even stopped – the more full-length tracks you play, the likelier your chance of being restricted. As always, you should have a strong visual component when using copyrighted music on Instagram Live streams.
Can I get banned for playing music on Instagram Live?
While Instagram Live videos are only available at the time of broadcast, it doesn’t mean you can use copyrighted music without consequence. If you don’t have the correct license to use the track, you could end up in trouble.
If you fall on the wrong side of copyright law during an Instagram Live stream, you’ll receive an automated pop-up message. This basically serves as a warning, giving you the chance to stop playing the music or change it to something you’re cleared to use.
This process is automated, so mistakes can be made. If you don’t follow the message, though, your Instagram Live video can be muted or even stopped.
Can I use 30 seconds of copyrighted music on Instagram?
‘You can just use a few seconds of music on Instagram – it’s fine.’ That’s a line you've surely heard before – unfortunately, it’s an urban myth. Unless you have full permission to use the music, you can never be truly safe. Sure, you can use 10, 20, or 30 seconds of a track and it might be OK.
But it might not be. Given Instagram doesn’t specifically say how much of a track you can or can’t use, you won’t know until it’s too late.
Does giving credit mean you can use copyrighted music on Instagram?
This is also an urban myth. While giving credit to songwriters, artists, and rights-holders is a nice thing to do, it doesn’t get you out of hot water. Even if you credit them, you still need a valid license or hold the rights to use their copyrighted music on Instagram without restrictions.
There’s no sure-fire way to look at a song and see if it’s copyrighted. You can search for individual songs’ copyright status, but as a rule of thumb, you should assume that you need to obtain a license to use it on Instagram. There are a few exceptions here, namely:
- If the song is your own, and you own all the necessary rights.
- If the song is explicitly labeled as ‘in the public domain.’ This music has no ‘official’ owner and can be used how you wish. You can find a list of songs in the public domain here, which you can use for Instagram music.
- If the track’s copyright protection has ended. For songs published in the United States during or after 1978, copyright protection remains for 70 years following the death of the last surviving author. For music released before that period, copyright protection remains for 95 years after publication. Following this, the track becomes public domain.
What do you do when Instagram blocks your video?
If you’ve done everything by the books and Instagram still blocks your video, don’t sweat it. Accidental copyright strikes and takedowns happen quite often, purely because Instagram uses an automated system to scan content for music. There aren’t real people trawling through each post, so accidents aren’t uncommon.
Occasionally, Instagram can block, mute, or remove content even if you’ve stuck to the rules and haven’t done anything wrong. You can easily appeal this decision, though, by following the below steps:
- Head to the notification menu, then click on the message telling you that your video has been blocked, muted, or removed.
- You should be given details about who’s flagged your content, and why. If the rights-holder has reported you for copyright infringement, their details and reasoning should be available.
- Read the notice saying you actually do have permission to share everything within the video, and click ‘I agree.’
- Hit the ‘Appeal’ button. You can expect a decision within 24 hours, and if you’ve followed the rules and have the right to use the copyrighted music in your content, Instagram should remove all restrictions.
Other ways to use copyrighted music on Instagram legally
If you’re in a country that doesn't currently allow the use of copyrighted music on Instagram, there are ways to use songs in your videos. These options include collaborating with artists, seeking the rights for individual songs, or paying for a safe-to-use catalog.
Collaborate with artists
Collaborating with artists is a great way to get access to their music. If they own the rights to their songs, they can grant you a license – perhaps for free. This allows you to use their music in your videos without worrying about breaking the rules.
The best artists to collaborate with are smaller, up-and-coming artists or local groups. Twitter, Soundcloud, and Bandcamp give you plenty of ways to discover smaller artists whose music may fit with your videos.
Seek to license individual songs
If you want to use a specific song in your video, you can always seek a license. Licensing individual, mainstream songs can be expensive, but worth it if you have something big planned. Licensing services will differ based on the country you’re in, but some examples are as follows:
Pay to access a safe-to-use catalog
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