How to do a Cover

Hey guys! So I got a random technical question for somebody that knows more about this stuff than I do… What’s the correct/legal way to upload a cover song to Soundcloud? I was on Google and there was all this stuff about licenses, and asking the author permission, and paying royalties, etc. and it was kinda making my head swim. :stuck_out_tongue: If I’m just uploading to SoundCloud and not making any money or whatever is it ok to just put the authors name in the title? Thanks!


If it’s not being monetized I think the worst that could happen is you get a cease and desist. At that point I’d just remove it. I’m no expert on these matters but I think in most cases you’ll get a warning first with an opportunity to remove the content.


Yup, if you’re making money off it, them production companies will want dat dolla. A cover is generally considered different enough to not be plagiarism — as you’re adding your own original elements to it.

That’d be fair use.


Sorry, but that’s wrong.

There are typically two parts to music copyright – the recording and the publishing.

The recording is effectively about playing another artist’s recording of a track - e.g. sampling.
The publishing is the musical and lyrical composition itself.

If you’re doing a cover, then it’s the publishing rights that are the issue. And, yes, you do need permission/license to be able to legally release a cover of a track.

(Whether you make money or not doesn’t effect the legality. It only typically impacts how much money they want off you, if they… 1. notice you, and 2. decide to pursue it.

It’s worth looking into the great tradition of bootleg/unofficial remixes.

It’s one of those technically illegal, but rarely pursued areas.

None of the above is covered by fair use/fair dealing.


I’ve done a fair share of research on this topic, though I don’t know too much and I can be completely wrong, but I’m pretty sure you can avoid copyright if:

  • You or anyone who isn’t the owner of the original work are not making money off of it
  • it isn’t recognizable at all as the original song (at that’s point it’d be a pretty bad cover)

Plus I highly doubt that posting that will get in any trouble. There are covers on YouTube with millions of views, and they monetize it.


Fwiw, it’s not YT’s job to police other people’s copyright infringements – even on the YT platform.
If the holder flags the video with a DMCA, YT will typically take it down (without even contacting the YTer first) and the YTer will then need to contest it, if they want the video up again. If it’s a straight infringement, they’ll lose.

What happens then is either the video is taken down/deleted permanently – or the real copyright holder can opt to allow the video to stay up, but they take all the ad revenue.

Not sure what happens to any revenue accumulated prior to the DMCA takedown.


I’m pretty sure you can avoid copywrite [sic] if:…

You or anyone who isn’t the owner of the original work are not making money off of it

Honestly, that’s wrong.
Doesn’t matter if there’s a commercial benefit or not. That really only impacts on the amount that might be awarded as ‘damages’ in a lost lawsuit.


I highly doubt that posting that will get in any trouble.

That bit’s true. It’s extremely unlikely that the publisher will come after a, frankly, very small SC channel.

As @iammane mentioned, the first thing is almost always a ‘Cease & Desist (…or else)’.
That remains typically true so long as you’re ‘small fry’.

If you’ve made serious buzz and/or money, then there’s a chance they may open with a lawsuit.

(Pssst, 'copyright, not copywrite. Copywrite is to write words (‘copy’) typically for marketing and advertising.)


What I mean is, there are tons of covers on YouTube that haven’t had a DMCA flag, and have made money for the creator, without getting in trouble.

Thanks for telling me! I did a little more research, and I think I got confused by the fact that sharing music with your friends is completely fair, and thought it would include uploading it (with full credit & non-monetized)

Fixed. That’s embarrassing lol

They’re still illegal (assuming we’re talking about those done without permission/license).

It’s just that the publishers either don’t know and/or don’t want to pursue each/every infringement. (Some publishers probably unofficially let it slide as unofficial covers can generate interest in the song that’s being covered.)

As mentioned, it’s highly unlikely that you’d get found/in trouble.

I just wanted to make sure the fact that it’s widespread isn’t taken to mean that it’s technically or legally permissible.

:+1: :slight_smile:

All right thanks guys, I appreciate it! So @akabillposters I certainly don’t expect it to, but say my song somehow blew up and a bunch of people started listening to it, are you saying the worst that could happen is that it would be removed? Like I wouldn’t end up in the slammer, right? :stuck_out_tongue:

I know your not asking me, but I’ll answer anyway lol

Worst that would happen is a take down, wouldn’t get any worse than that. Unless you were making money out of it, they won’t take it anywhere past that. Some labels wouldn’t even take it down.

Just make sure to leave credit to the original artist, and you should be fine.

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Ok thanks bro :+1: I should’ve tagged you, too.

They’ll take you to the deep underground secret lairs heated by natural lava flow, where they’ll torture you until you have spilled everything you know.
Then they’ll wipe your brain through a secret process and you will have to learn how to use Auxy again, that is, if you happen to find it and start using it again.


@akabillposters It’s still fair use. You can publish a cover and not make a dime, but no-one will take it down (was my meaning)

As for the fair use that does make a dime…

Sorry, I don’t think you understand what Fair Use is or what it permits.
What aspect of a cover makes it fair use? It’s not a parody, a commentary, news reporting, for educational purposes or a review/critique, so…?

Please show me the part of Fair Use conditions that you believe covers cover versions?

As for the fair use that does make a dime…

If something legitimately qualifies as Fair Use, it’s irrelevant if they make money. They’re free to make money from it.
Whether something is commercial, free or anything in between has no bearing on whether something qualifies as Fair Use or not.

One additional clarification…

A ‘commercial release’ is simply something released with the intention or possibility of directly making money from it. Even if it doesn’t make a penny, it’s still a ‘commercial release’.
Releasing something on Spotify, a fully monetised platform (afaik), would almost certainly be considered a commercial release, regardless of whether anyone ever played it.

(I should clarify that my comments relate specifically to US, UK and EU copyright law. While those conventions are broadly true around the world, by international agreements, conditions may vary in specific countries.)


There’s a difference between ‘the worst that could happen’ (the question you asked) and ‘the worst that would (most likely) happen’ (the answer @kiP gave) .

I think I’ve been fairly clear about the difference in previous replies.

It’s always best to understand the worst that could happen, even if it’s an extremely unlikely outcome. :wink:

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There’s fair points about the definitions of commercial release, and as I found out, by monetising videos, YouTube will acquire a liscene for you. Go figure.

However, a cover (but I guess we are venturing more into the realms of remixes and intrumental covers here) can be considered Fair Use as long as it’s transformative. How transformative? Depends how much a label likes lawyering up. Depends if you intend to make money on it. Viva la royalties.

Transformative works extend beyond education and commentary. Maybe you do a cover of an EDM song via classical piano playing that you have written. That’d be hella covered under Fair Use.

I think an Auxy user would be fine, especially since it’s difficult to use copyrighted lyrics in our little app! It’s a very tricky subject.

I don’t have much else to say on the topic, but I don’t expect many covers to recieve much attention because they are often transformative. I think lyrics are really what pushes covers over to that legal territory.

Did you follow that H3H3 case a little while ago? I think it sparked a larger interest in the topic.

If it’s transformative (enough), then it qualifies as an original work in its own right – so doesn’t require license/permission from the copyright holder of the work that inspired it.


Transformative works extend beyond education and commentary. Maybe you do a cover of an EDM song via classical piano playing that you have written. That’d be hella covered under Fair Use.

It wouldn’t, as you’d still (presumably) be using the musical composition – which requires license from thge music publisher (not the holder of rights for the recording).


Depends if you intend to make money on it.

Again, no it doesn’t.

The commercial/non-commercial nature of an infringing work doesn’t have any bearing.

The commercial/non-commercial nature of a work will only impact on likely ‘damages’ awarded if the work is first found to be an infringement.

Whether something is found to be an infringement or not has nothing to do with it being commercial or not.

The two are separate issues.

Sidenote: YT videos aren’t typically a like-for-like comparison with music copyright. YTers, afaik, aren’t typically reserving rights over ‘scripted elements’ – e.g. s’up you beautiful b**tards? (à la Philip de Franco) – separate from the video (audio + visual) content itself.

That said, if another YTer started using de Franco’s slogans, I’m sure de Franco would have a view on it.

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Ah, all my painful phone browsing, and I think this link can put my mind to rest. There’s also a cool distinction between videos and music recordings. Recordings seems a little more loose — protecting the composition more since the actual recording of a cover is considered its own work. So a note by note mix of something will definitely get you into trouble!!

In mother country, Men at Work’s “Land Down Under” song got their pants sued off by the lady who wrote “Kookaburra Sitting in the Old Gumtree” sing-song. It was a couple years ago, but it sure left a dirty dooty on that song from my childhood.
And this was just the little playful flute section that came in. Jakers.

Good reference. A great video that pretty much reiterates all the stuff I’ve been saying – but with more credibility, I guess :wink:

Would be good to have that video pinned in this category as well as the Tracks & Collabs category.



I checked out the kids’ song and, tbh, and it took me a moment to recognise the MaW hook (also a big song from my childhood). Seems a harsh decision, given how little is ‘similar’ about how those few notes are used.

Meant to post this previously. Could be particularly useful.
Free distribution and simplified cover song licensing.

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