There are sites that offer images and music that is supposedly usable without paying any royalities (for youtube videos, placeholder images, and so on). The content is uploaded by third party (from my point of view) users to this site and the site is supposed to vet that it is indeed usable without having to pay royality.

Recently on one of those sites I have had the impression that there are some content producers that are pushing the limit especially in the music area. If you know the original song you can clearly connect the dots and it really sounds similar, yet they are listed on the webpage as usable without restriction. I am no expert in copyright law but several times I thought it is definitely at least in a gray area.

Am I as the user of this site in any way liable if the music turns out to violate copyright? For original music I know I can steer clear to avoid any issues, but I dont know every original piece of music.

/EDIT: I did not add a special location tag because I do believe the answer is probably quite similar in various jurisdictions.

1 Answer 1


Am I as the user of this site in any way liable if the music turns out to violate copyright?


In a similar way to if I give you “permission” to take my neighbour’s car. Only worse. Because stealing requires intent - you have to mean to do it - while copyright violation is strict liability - if you do it, you’re guilty.

If the user that uploaded the item did not have the authority to give the site permission then the site does not have permission and neither do you. If you take reasonable precautions such as performing a reverse image source and verifying that the item appears to be owned by the same person everywhere and, perhaps, reaching out to them then your violation will be an “innocent” infringement which mitigates but does not eliminate damages.

The only way to be sure with copyright is to know the provenance of the copyright/licences back to the original creator.

  • So in the end that effectively menas unless I have deep know how of every single piece of music ever created by any single person on the entire planet in all of human history and its current copyright protection state I have no way of being sure I am not commiting copyright infringement by using something? Commented Feb 10, 2023 at 7:31
  • 1
    Yes. Good summary.
    – Dale M
    Commented Feb 10, 2023 at 9:16

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