Examining Facebook’s Music Copyright Rules

Facebook Live is the preferred broadcasting platform many nonprofits use for their virtual fundraising galas.

It’s simple to use and can easily connect you with most of your donor community. But Facebook is strict with copyright rules regarding music and we’ve found three areas that you should be aware of when putting together a presentation.

Violating Copyright Laws

Copyright infringement laws protect the exclusive rights of an artist over their work. It prevents unauthorized reproduction, distribution, display, or performance. It also protects against creations that rely heavily on another artist’s copyrighted work. This applies to all types of original art, including the music you go looking for when creating your online presentations.

How Facebook Finds Violators

There are three primary ways Facebook’s algorithms find copyright violators. Each one is designed to find a different type of illegal activity.

1. The use of copyrighted music in any form.

Music used in pre-taped videos or a live presentation must be free of copyrights. This applies the same whether it is the full version of a song, or just a snippet of a chorus. The law applies to all uses of the copyrighted music, whether it’s used prominently or as background music. If you are found in violation of the copyright laws you’ll receive a message similar to this:

“Your video is partially muted because it may contain music that belongs to someone else.

The audio has been removed from 23 seconds of your video. Play the video above to preview the partially muted version.

The following music has been detected in your video.
(A list follows.)”

2. Re-interpretations of a copyrighted piece of music.

You might think that a musician performing copyright licensed material would not be subjected to copyright laws, but you’d be wrong. The way the law was written makes it about the music, not the artist performing it. Expect a message like this if you are in violation of theft by re-interpretation:

Some of the audio has been removed from your video. Play the video above to preview the partially muted version.

Applied: Worldwide

Make sure you only post content that you own or have permission from the copyright owner to use. Posting content you don’t own may violate copyright law.

3. Aggressive algorithms.

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, Facebook algorithms may hit on a song, or section of a song that categorizes it as a copyrighted work. This could be because the arrangement has similarities to another copyrighted song or Facebook has just mistakenly flagged it as a violator. If this occurs, expect a message similar to this:

Your video from (owner of the Facebook page) was partially muted because it may contain music that belongs to someone else.

Your video matches 56 seconds of music owned by (owner’s name).

What to Expect When You Violate Facebook’s Copyright Rules

Typically, when Facebook finds improper use of copyrighted material the violator will receive the appropriate message and their live feed will be immediately cut off (if your broadcast is live) or hidden if pre-recorded. Currently, it is not Facebook’s policy to delete your recording, but they will mute the section that contains the disallowed music from a recorded copy of your broadcast. If you are broadcasting live, you’ll experience a disruption that will leave you scrambling for several minutes to get past the copyrighted music.

 Are you considering hosting an online event? Check out the Greater Giving article “Are You Tech Ready to Host a Virtual Fundraising Event?” with Brian Harris and Todd Campbell from The AV Department. They will help you navigate the complicated world of technology required to host an online event.

The Solution

Facebook has created a SoundCloud archive to prevent sudden disruptions during your event while protecting the work of musicians. It is an exclusive collection of original, copyright free tracks and sound effects that can be used on Facebook and its affiliate platform, Instagram. It is located in the Creator Studio’s Creative Tools and includes over seven thousand tracks and sound effects. The catalogue is cross-categorized by genre, mood, duration, and vocal styles, making searching for a specific type of music or sound quick and easy.

Facebook also makes it easy to collaborate with your team through its sharing capabilities. And, inserting your final choice into your presentation can be easily completed by simply embedding the link into your video.

To use this free service you’ll need to set up an account at SoundCloud.com and connect it with your Facebook, Google or Apple accounts in the Connection Settings page. If connecting through Apple you’ll be required to set up a multifactor authentication (MFA) code and you can only connect through personal profile, not a business or organization’s page.

When putting together a presentation you want to be reassured your choice in music respects the rights of its creators. Facebook simplifies the search process and protects you from lawsuits with SoundCloud. Its large archive is filled with great choices that can add another layer to your nonprofit’s message.


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