Here's what our rules state about copyright.
"Video must not contain any copyrighted works, including music…"
This spurred these four questions from someone preparing their entry:
Q: Is it within the guideline if the music to be used in the video is purchased?
No. You can't use a song that you have purchased to play on your computer or iPod. Putting it within a video that is uploaded is considered performance and is not allowed unless you have written consent from the artist or the record company and are going to pay them royalties.
Here is a copyright tips page on YouTube. Copyright law is very cut and dried. You cannot use anything that you did not create or have the rights to use.
Q: is it within guidelines if a karaoke version of the original song was used?
No. Same rules apply. Here is a good blog post on the subject from Dineane from HubPages.
Q: Is it considered within copyright guidelines for us to use any song we’ve purchased, as long as we acknowledge the singer, record label, etc.?
No. However, we can recommend a great source for you. The Free Music Archive. Here's some info from The Free Music Archive website.
The Free Music Archive is an interactive library of high-quality, legal audio downloads. The Free Music Archive is directed by WFMU, the most renowned freeform radio station in America. Radio has always offered the public free access to new music. The Free Music Archive is a continuation of that purpose, designed for the age of the internet.
Every mp3 you discover on The Free Music Archive is pre-cleared for certain types of uses that would otherwise be prohibited by copyright laws that were not designed for the digital era. Are you a podcaster looking for pod-safe audio? A radio or video producer searching for instrumental bed music that won’t put your audience to sleep? A remix artist looking for pre-cleared samples? Or are you simply looking for some new sounds to add to your next playlist? The Free Music Archive is a resource for all that and more, and unlike other websites, all of the audio has been hand-picked by established audio curators
Q: Is it within the guidelines if we reference well-known cultural icons such as a movie character or pop star?
This should be OK. It's considered parody and parody is considered fair use in the United States. It gets a little tricky in Canada, because there is no fair use laws in Canada.
Bottomline, if you are unsure, don't include it. It's really up to YouTube. If you post a video with any copyright works, the owner of the copyright may send a take down notice and the audio will then be stripped from your video. It will be hard to communicate your fantastic project or idea if we can't hear you!
The CUES Team