Avoiding Music Copyright Infringement: What You Need to Know

I know, it's a scary term. One you don't want to see in the subject of an email, at all!

But what happens if you do get one of those scary emails?

What does that mean for you?

Or perhaps you have your music out there in the world and have been the victim of infringement.

Each of these events, those on opposing sides – are just as concerning. And, the steps you should take might be different…

Avoiding Music Copyright Infringement: What You Need to Know

What Is Music Copyright Infringement?

Music copyright infringement is an act of using copyrighted music without the permission of the copyright owner.

This includes not only recording and performing a song, but also any kind of reproduction or performance of someone else's musical work, even if it is done without profiting from it.

As defined by the U.S Copyright Office, “copyright” gives authors and creators exclusive control over how their original works can be used and reproduced – for a limited period of time – by others.

Therefore, anyone who uses this music without authorization would be breaking federal law and could face significant legal penalties if they are found guilty in court.

Copyright infringement is a serious offense that should not be taken lightly, as it can have severe consequences for those caught engaging in such activities.

Understanding copyright laws is a must! You need to know the laws surrounding intellectual property rights to ensure that your work isn't being used inappropriately.

Types Of Music Copyright Infringement

When it comes to music copyright infringement, there are two main categories:

  • direct infringement and,
  • contributory infringement.

Direct infringement

Direct infringement occurs when someone reproduces or performs a copyrighted piece of music without the permission of the rights holder, such as downloading songs from the internet.

Contributory infringement

Contributory infringement is committed when an individual knowingly provides assistance for someone else to commit a direct infringement, like offering illegal downloads on their website.

Think about the old school Kazaa (if you are old enough to remember that like I am!) or Limewire!

There are also other forms of copyright infringement, such as:

  • sampling (using elements from existing songs),
  • lyric theft (stealing lyrics),
  • unofficial remixes,
  • false attribution/plagiarism,
  • broadcasting unlicensed performances ,
  • and more.

All of these activities require permission from the respective rights holders prior to taking place in order to prevent potential legal repercussions.

Fines, jail time and damages caused by infringing could be faced if convicted in court.

So, it's important to understand and respect intellectual property laws in order to use music lawfully.

Legal Consequences Of Music Copyright Infringement

Unauthorised use of copyrighted music comes with serious consequences.

Depending on the country and the severity of the transgression, criminal charges may apply, along with hefty fines amounting to tens of thousands of dollars per incident.

In some cases, imprisonment may also be possible.

Furthermore, repeat offenders can see their assets seized until debt repayment is made.

Class action lawsuits may also be initiated by victims seeking punitive damages that can have a significant financial impact upon defendants.

In certain countries, rightsholders can even sue individuals directly for copyright infringement instead of going through government channels.

Therefore, it is best to heed caution when accessing torrent sites or engaging in any activity involving pirated material as the risk of harsh punishment is ever-present.

How To Avoid Music Copyright Infringement

Obtaining the appropriate license prior to using any sound recordings is the best way to ensure compliance with a country’s intellectual property laws.

Publishers and record labels can provide the necessary licenses, as can online licensing portals that offer various services that cater to different needs.

It' i's essential to read any user agreement associated with the sign-up process carefully, so as to avoid any surprises during a project’s execution.

You'll also want to keep detailed records of all transactions related to said audio track in case one needs proof of legally obtained consent.

Music Licensing Agencies And Options Available For Artists & Producers

For artists and producers in need of music licensing, there are numerous resources available.

From traditional methods such as contacting publishers and labels, to third party companies offering specialised services to help streamline the process, there are plenty of options to choose from.

Popular services include:

  • TuneCore
  • Songtradr
  • DistroKid
  • Audiosocket
  • RightsFlow
  • SoundExchange
  • BMI
  • Harry Fox Agency, etc.

Most of these webpages provide a wealth of information regarding pricing options and procedures associated with their service, making it easier for users to decide which option suits them best.

Additionally, a contact list can usually be found via a search engine results page.

Recent Music Copyright Infringement Cases

One of the most recent music copyright infringement cases is the case of Dua Lipa vs. Artikal Sound System, which took place in March 2022.

In this case, Artikal Sound System filed a lawsuit against Dua Lipa claiming that her song “Levitating” was an infringement on their 2017 song “Live Your Life.”

According to a report by Rolling Stone, musicologists were asked to take on the case and offer their opinions on the matter.

This case highlights the importance of copyright protection in the music industry, and the need for artists to ensure that their work is original and does not infringe on the rights of others.


As long as you follow the guidelines outlined above, you should be able to avoid any issues stemming from improper utilization of someone else's musical works with regard to copyrights.

It is always a good idea to familiarize yourself with local and international legislation that protect creators' interests, preventing misuse and its potentially damaging consequences.

Music Copyright Infringement FAQs

What is considered copyright infringement in music?

Copyright infringement in music occurs any time a song or sound recording is copied, distributed, performed publicly, adapted, or otherwise used without permission from the copyright owner.

How can I legally use copyrighted music?

You can legally use copyrighted music by obtaining permission from the copyright holder. This can come in the form of a u003ca href=u0022https://industryhackerz.com/music-synchronization-rights/u0022 data-type=u0022postu0022 data-id=u002235718u0022u003esynchronization licenseu003c/au003e, u003ca href=u0022https://industryhackerz.com/music-mechanical-rights/u0022 data-type=u0022postu0022 data-id=u002235719u0022u003emechanical licenseu003c/au003e or master use license.

Is it OK to copy music that is copyrighted?

No, it is not OK to copy music that is copyrighted. Copying and sharing copyrighted music without permission from the original creator is a violation of copyright laws and can result in legal action.

How do you avoid copyright infringement on songs?

You can easily avoid copyright infringement on songs by getting proper licenses and permissions from the copyright holder! This includes obtaining mechanical licenses for cover songs as well as synchronization licenses for videos that feature music.

What is considered Music Copyright infringement?

Music copyright infringement is the unauthorized use of copyrighted music, lyrics, or other materials.

What are the Copyright Laws for using music?

The Copyright Laws for using music involve obtaining a license from the copyright holder and paying any applicable royalties. Different countries may have their own unique laws, so it's important to research the specific laws of your country before using any music.

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About Author

Arielle P

Arielle P

Songwriter | Music Producer | Engineer.

With a background in music production and a strong passion for education, Arielle is dedicated to helping emerging artists navigate the music industry. She has worked with a diverse range of artists, from indie rock bands to well-known hip-hop and grime artists. Arielle's unique approach to teaching focuses on empowering artists to take control of their brand, ensuring they retain creative ownership throughout their journey. In her free time, she enjoys experimenting with new sounds in her home studio and sharing her insights through music production tutorials and workshops.

📧 Email Arielle