It seems, I'm in a catch-22 situation. I took a song from Free Music Archive website. I was careful to find a song which does not contain No-Derivatives rule. The licence of the song says: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

My video is not being used for commercial purposes, so as far as I understand, I'm good to go as long as I add the same licence to my video, right?

And here is the problem. When I uploaded my video, Youtube immediately recognized the correct author and title of the song and said that my video contains a song from a 3rd party, thus I might have trouble:

Your video has copyrighted audio that may affect its availability. You may be able to fix this by removing a copyright-claimed song below.

I decided to ignore it and just change the licence setting for my video from Standard Youtube Licence to Creative Common licence to comply with the Share-Alike rule of the soundtrack. Surprise! Youtube seemed to ignore the licence setting. When I looked for more info I found that I cannot change licence for videos which have been marked suspicious by Content ID:

You cannot mark your video with the Creative Commons license if there is a Content ID claim on it.

This means, that I cannot mark my video with proper licence to comply with the song author's licence, thus I'm violating the licence because Content ID doesn't let me change it.

What should I do? Is it enough to just add a note in the description: "Please ignore the licence setting - this video is actually licensed under CC SA NC licence"?

Of course, I could find another song, but what if Youtube Content ID will recognize every song from Free Music Archive and again mark my video as suspicious and prevent me from setting the correct licence for it?

What's even more strange is that Youtube says:

Ads may appear on your video due to the presence of this song.

Hm, isn't Youtube itself then violating the NonCommercial rule of the song author's licence by adding ads to it?

2 Answers 2


I am not a laywer, but my limited understanding of the situation is this.

I see two issues here:

  1. When you upload a video to youtube you need to grant them certain rights. As Youtube is without any doubt a commercial plattform, beyond others you have to grant them the right to commercially use your video. Unfortunately, as your soundtrack is CC NC, you didn't have the right to do so yourself. That's why Youtube is correct in complaining about the song.

  2. "SA" means you have to share your work also as CC SA NC. As Youtube doesn't allow you to select that exact license, it's technically impossible for you to comply with that condition. (When you select CC-BY in Youtube, an additional license claim anywhere else, e.g. in the video description, would probably not legally binding)

So after all - if you want to upload a video to Youtube, it must contain only material that

  • has been created or licensed by you
  • is under CC BY license
  • is public domain or CC-0
  • Youtube is said to generate $ revenue. No chance for any "NC" licensed material ;-)
    – nwsp
    Jun 25, 2014 at 7:48
  • This is what you sign when uploading to YT:When you upload or post Content to YouTube, you grant: to YouTube, a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable licence (with right to sub-licence) to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform that Content in connection with the provision of the Service and otherwise in connection with the provision of the Service and YouTube's business, including without limitation for promoting and redistributing part or all of the Service (and derivative works thereof) in any media formats and through any media channels
    – nwsp
    Jun 25, 2014 at 14:33
  • If that is incompatible to CC NC SA (and from my perspective it is), you have no right to upload such media.
    – nwsp
    Jun 25, 2014 at 14:35
  • Thanks for posting the relevant bits. Didn't have access to Youtube at the moment to check. Might be worth adding that as a quote in your answer too. I'm not sure if that specifically allows them to monetize it or not, but I'm not familiar enough with a few of the terms they use to be sure. It certainly does add even more ambiguity though.
    – AJ Henderson
    Jun 25, 2014 at 14:36
  • If YouTube recognizes the music, they may be licensing it through a traditional music rights organization, which the music's owners could be using in addition to the CC licence. Then YT would have the right to run ads on the video (forbidding it from being licensed as CC-NC) as long as they pay the music owners their cut. Jan 3, 2022 at 10:53

This is hitting an automated filter. There should be an option to contest the finding and it should then make it up to the copyright provider to identify if it actually is a violation (which is sounds like it shouldn't be). I would also suggest adding a note in the description that it actually is CC SA NC since Youtube won't allow you to specify it.

As NWSP pointed out, it may also be possible that the Youtube TOS may be incompatible with NC licensing. It isn't 100% clear from checking around the internet and seems to be ambiguous. Certainly monetizing is ruled out, but it may be possible that YouTube requires commercial use to be allowed by the upload policy in their TOS and I don't think that has been tested in court yet.

As for the thing about displaying ads, that would go to the license holder. Just because the copyright holder released it under a NC license doesn't mean THEY can't use it for commercial purposes. They don't have a licensed copy, they own their work. The trickier part would come from the fact that if you release your video under share-alike, then they can't derive commercial use from your work either, so display of ads would actually be in violation of your rights, unless you don't mind the original author getting some money for their efforts.

  • YouTube takes a cut of the ads, so they're still violating the NC clause if they run them. (On the other hand, the music might be licensed through a traditional music rights organization in addition to the CC licence, which is how YouTube usually handles music. Then YT would be within their rights to run ads and give the music owner their cut; but at the same time, that would interfere with putting the video as a whole under a CC licence.) Jan 3, 2022 at 10:49

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