YouTube, please give me an iTunes link!

On: September 9, 2010
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About Janice Wong
Janice Wong is an Australian-born cellist and digital media fanatic living the life in Amsterdam (The Netherlands). She graduated from the Masters of New Media programme at the University of Amsterdam in 2011 and worked at adidas as a Global Social Media Manager until 2017. She is now a Music Producer & Cellist based in Amsterdam. Contact: janice[at]


YouTube does not endorse infringement of copyright. But with so many newly uploaded videos per day, YouTube has had to come up with alternatives to terminating the accounts of every poor 14 year old who decides to make a slideshow to their favourite Lady Gaga song. Now on certain videos, there are advertising links to iTunes if you use an available song.

This raises many questions: is it or is it not an infringement of copyright if YouTube allows advertising on your video? How does one get a link from iTunes? Is it automated? If the link does not appear, does this mean my video infringes copyright more than a video that has a link? Does a user upload copyrighted material in ‘hope’ that their video gets a link rather than their account terminated?

In May this year, Nuffic held a video contest on their YouTube channel Study in Holland,  to promote Holland as a destination for higher education. The winning prize was a 13″ Apple MacBook Pro.

The task was simple. To create a video/ slideshow/ animation between 1-5 minutes of what the ultimate student experience in Holland is. And the following rules:

  • All entries must be the original work of the entrant and must not infringe copyright or contravene the rights of third parties.
  • Entries that do not meet the requirements (length, deadline, etc.) cannot be accepted.

No problem. Right? Until I sent a link of one of the entries [Video Contest entry by Jeanette Calder] to a friend living in Germany, but it was unavailable* due to Sony music content – Jordin Sparks – This Is My Now. [note: *YouTube blocks certain videos in Germany because “GEMA” (the German collecting society) is asking too much for their broadcasting licences. A similar restriction exists in UK.]

This got me thinking. This entrant had used copyrighted content that belongs to Sony, and unless the entrant was Sony, the composer of the song or even Jordin Sparks herself, the video did not contain all original content.

A few days later, the winner was announced: Claudia Jarufe Montagne from Peru with DISCOVER HOLLAND 2009. It was a brilliant video, which well captured the student life in Holland in a creative way, and one that deserved to take the cake.

But what did I see there?

Phoenix – Lisztomania              Download This Song: iTunes

Just like the video with Jordin Sparks, this was also not a video with original content; original video footage yes, but the audio is owned by WMG, performed by the French band Phoenix, not Claudia Jarufe Montagne from Peru.

YouTube allowed the video to stay, in exchange for iTunes advertising link for the song.

As a musician with interests in Copyright, IP and now a student of New Media, even before the winner was announced, I decided to flag the issue with Nuffic, to advise them that not all entrants were using ‘original’ music (is anyone paying attention to the rules?), and students in Germany for example were unable to view videos with copyrighted material [in other words: entrants with copyrighted material are not eligible to win].

This is the response I received:

from Study in Holland <————–>
to Janice Wong <——–>
date 28 June 2010 13:10
subject RE: Study in Holland video contest

Hi Janice,

Thanks for the warning. We got an email from YouTube stating that we did not have to take any action. When I open the link here, I can see the video, and its linked to iTunes for downloading the music. But it’s a good thing to keep in mind when we publish all the entries!

Best wishes,
Study in Holland

I am no expert in copyright, but I do believe Nuffic, as an official body representing Holland worldwide in higher education should have taken more responsibility with copyright. The issue is, even though YouTube allowed advertising for using copyrighted music, the Nuffic contest rule stated “All entries must be the original work of the entrant and must not infringe copyright,” and should have been judged fairly and accordingly.

Perhaps if I knew in advance that an entry would not be disqualified with copyrighted music I would have made a video with a soundtrack from the likes of Ms. Gaga and asked Youtube, to please give an iTunes link!

9 Responses to “YouTube, please give me an iTunes link!”
  • December 13, 2010 at 5:20 am

    Hey… thats my vid… just found this…and to be honest… by reading this… i just realized about the “copyright” issue… not only for phoenix.. but also for the first song: pencil full of lead from paolo nutini.
    But as I am no song writer or singer or whatever… and I bought those songs (in a cd) .. i thought i could use them… :s I wanna apologize if someone got affected or anything.

    best wishes

  • December 13, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Hey Claudia, your video was great!
    I don’t think you need to worry, the article was just an example of the broader issues in digital music and video streaming content, which I find an interesting topic to research.
    Regards, Janice

  • May 14, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    Hi Janice
    I know the post is a bit dated but I am just someone coming across it. Like Claudia, it really regrettable to find that we might have done something wrong and to find out via this way rather than Nuffic itself.

    The question of Jordin Spark’s song is one I had myself when I read the rules but in checking out past contest entries I figured that it was okay as others had clearly been “allowed” both my youtube and also Nuffic to use it providing that the artist was given credit and then I saw that Nuffic added her name and posted a reference to itunes for purchase. I just assumed that this was how the law required it be dealt with in order for the copyright issues to be covered.

    I thought of it like the thesis I was writing. I can quote any author in my work, as long as they are properly referenced and credit it given. Nuffic/Youtube’s treatment of it seemed to be the very same principle at work so I was pretty cool with it.

    Now based on your post I am uncertain and I would truly appreciate your help in understanding it. Let me tell you why. I have a fundraiser and I am doing it via the internet and again I have overlaid a song on the video to support the cause. Based on your work in New Media would you be able to guide me as to whether i need the artists permission to use it. OR as with written work, is just crediting the artiste and advertising where his work can be purchased, be enough. Thanks much

    • May 14, 2011 at 1:40 pm

      Hi Jeanette

      Thanks for your comment and for your concerns.

      YouTube has agreements with record labels to stream certain songs. Nuffic had a rule that said the entries must contain “original work of the entrant” and “must not infringe copyright”. Well, both your entry and the winning entry did not infringe copyright, however it wasn’t 100% original work – according to my interpretation of the rule. What you did was not wrong; I just found it an interesting grey issue that Nuffic chose not to respond to.

      Copyright and IP law is a very tricky business and different in each country, and I believe if copyright tracks are used reasonably and not for commercial use then you do not need the artist’s permission to use it. If you need more clarification there are many music industry bodies who can help you. All the best with the fundraiser!

      Kind regards


  • May 23, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    Thanks much, will take the advice. Time and response is appreciated.

  • May 25, 2011 at 1:04 am

    i just ran across your article, while in search of an answer as to how one can place an iTunes, or Amazon, etc., button on a youtube video page. i’m having no luck, tho’ i’ve searched itunes and youtube for answers. my video on youtube is a “Arnold, Maria and Her Lawyer”, and the song is my own copywritten original work. yet, i’m at a loss as to how one directs traffic to purchase the mp3 from the various retailers. any guidance would be greatly appreciated.

  • May 26, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Great question Mary. I have been trying to find out the same thing but to no avail. How hard can that be huh? Any help possible Janice?

  • June 5, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    Hi Mary

    Thanks for your comment. I think YouTube automates this process by music detection but only for MP3s in their database i.e. probably only tracks under big labels like Sony and Universal who they have agreements with. So it seems unlikely you could get a link for your track. You cannot ‘request’ it, from my knowledge.

    That’s why my post is called “YouTube please give an iTunes link”, it’s a way of saying these processes are not publicly known or understood.

    For now I recommend placing your own link in the description of the video: “please buy this track at http://www…..”.

    All the best. Janice

  • June 6, 2011 at 11:54 am

    Thank you very much

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