Many recording company uploads their full music to be shared freely on their YouTube channel.

Can I play it in my restaurant with YouTube, or make an app/games full of popular artists as a BGM by embedding a YouTube in my app without contacting or paying anything? By saying that I am just "sharing" the music on my app/restaurant. And the author who uploaded the music onto YouTube have to agreed that it can be "shared".

By using common sense this should not be possible, since clearly I can abuse other's hardwork without caring about them at all. But what exactly prevents me from doing this legally?

2 Answers 2


In the case of an app, this is probably fine. YouTube exposes an API explicitly so that you can embed videos into new contexts, even if the videos are not your own. The copyright holder for the video (assuming the video was legally uploaded by the copyright holder or an authorized agent) agreed to the YouTube terms of use, which allows embedding. If the copyright holder didn't want to allow embedding, they can easily opt out of this functionality. Obviously, if you circumvent YouTube's API to embed a video whose owner explicitly opted out of embedding, then you're in violation of YouTube's terms of use. If you embed a video whose owner did not opt out of embedding, the owner agreed, at upload time, to YouTube's request for permission for the video to be embeddable.

Note also that YouTube has specific requirements for use of their embedded viewer and API. You can't just use it any way you want. In particular, if you play the audio of a YouTube video through their API but hide the video, you'd probably violate at least one of

8. separate, isolate, or modify the audio or video components of any YouTube audiovisual content made available through the YouTube API;

9. promote separately the audio or video components of any YouTube audiovisual content made available through the YouTube API;


14. use a video player smaller than the minimum video player size set forth in the YouTube API documentation and specifications.

If you're really just embedding the video a good-faith effort to show the video in a new context, you're probably okay (but check the terms first, just to be sure).

In practical terms, a copyright holder might agree to this because YouTube includes advertisements with popular videos, so allowing a video to be embedded might mean additional ad revenue for the copyright holder. Alternatively, if a video isn't popular enough for the creator to get ad revenue share from YouTube, getting more views moves it closer to that threshold.

The restaurant case is a bit trickier. In general, when a copy of a copyrighted work is transferred to you, the right to public display of that work is by default reserved by the copyright holder. (In the U.S., this is covered by 17 USC §106(5), "to display the copyrighted work publicly.") The right to view a public video on YouTube is offered to each user of the service. In general, I would not assume that each person in a crowd of people looking at a YouTube video on a public screen are users of the service, but I may be wrong. If such a crowd are not all "users of the service" and in fact you, the restaurant proprietor, are the only true user, as the interactive operator of the computer, then you would be performing public display for the benefit of your patrons, which is a right under copyright that has not been licensed to you.

  • In case of a game, many company put their music on YouTube without an ads because they want to advertise the music itself without ads revenue. I think the author do NOT have any intention for other people to make money from their music content. So is this inevitable that it is now free to make use of the video if they decided to use YouTube? Just using common sense, this sounds unfair to the creator so I thought there might be some law mechanism preventing this. (There are many music games that use YouTube as a music content, for example. The author did not get the reach they deserve.)
    – 5argon
    Commented Sep 3, 2016 at 7:03
  • 1
    @5argon Ah, that's quite a bit different. If you're only playing the audio and not showing the video, you're in violation of the ToS; I just updated my answer after the first paragraph.
    – apsillers
    Commented Sep 3, 2016 at 13:37
  • Ok, actually, the music game also shows the YouTube video as a background while playing in order to be counted as "embedding". So this could be a hole of YouTube API's terms that you can technically use anything you wish?
    – 5argon
    Commented Sep 3, 2016 at 15:14
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    @5argon I'm not a YouTube employee or anything but I might go so far as to say that such a use could be perfectly in line with the intended purpose of the YouTube API, to embedd videos in new contexts. (Provided they don't violate the terms of use, which might require 100% visibility, which a particular game might not abide by.) If a video rights holder doesn't like it, they are free to opt out, or not post their video on the YouTube service to begin with.
    – apsillers
    Commented Sep 3, 2016 at 16:50

"What exactly" depends on the country you are in, but in most jurisdictions copyright holder's right include exclusive right to perform or display the work publicly and to transmit or display by video. Playing the music in your restaurant (to be listened by customers) is displaying the music work, and uploading it to Youtube is transmitting it.

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