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The Ultimate Guide to YouTube Copyright

Nov 01, 2022• Proven solutions

One of the trickiest terrains for new YouTubers to navigate is the land of copyright rules.

We get it, it’s confusing and stressful, especially when what you want to focus on is making videos, but instead, you are worried about getting your account terminated or being sued.

Can you or can’t you use that song or that clip from the movie? That’s all you want to know.

In this article, we are going to address the key areas that YouTubers need to understand when it comes to YouTube copyright. What is okay and what isn’t? What may be considered risky or what would be worth taking a chance?

Remember that everything discussed in this article is only best practices and shouldn’t be taken as definitive legal advice.

Now that we are set, let’s dive in:

Part 1: What is Fair Use?

When we talk about YouTube copyright, we have to talk about fair use.

Without fair use, there wouldn’t be any flexibility for creators. There wouldn’t be mashups, parodies, or lip dubs. Without fair use, any video with copyright content such as music in the background or a reference to a scene from a famous movie will require approval from the content owner and can be removed. Because of fair use, you can publish a video with copyrighted material in it and not have to ask anyone.

Think of fair use as exceptions to copyright rules.

Part 2: What YouTube Considers Fair Use

There are a few aspects YouTube looks at when it comes to determining whether creators are using copyrighted content that meets the fair use exceptions.

  1. Is the copyrighted content being creatively or purposefully used?
  2. Are there more original content used than copyrighted content in the video?
  3. Will your video benefit the original copyrighted content?

Part 3: Types of Content That Meet Fair Use

Some acceptable styles of videos that allow you to exercise fair use are:

Critiques and Reviews: You can use clips of a movie that you review or play a chorus from a song that you are analyzing in a video and it will be okay to use because it’s serving a purpose of educating the viewer.

Tutorials and Commentary: A YouTube gamer streaming the video games and making comments throughout, that is within fair use, because it can be said that it is giving the video game exposure. Additionally, anything that can be classified as tutorials can also fall under fair use. If you have a video teaching people how to play a famous song, like The Beatles’ Let It Be, on piano, that’s fine!

Mashups: Mashups tend to be built entirely out of copyrighted material, but when done well this style of videos are very creative and often serve to promote the original work as opposed to replacing it.

There couldn’t be two more different movies than Toy Story and Fight Club, but somehow thanks the the creativity of a YouTube creator, there is a now a mashup of it. Some might call it an abomination, but this type of recycled art takes skills and planning, and it wouldn’t exist without fair use.

Parody: Imitation for comedic or dramatic effect is an artistic pursuit as long as it is done in a transformative manner. What does transformative mean? It means in some way, the original is being examined.

In this example from The Hillywood Show, we see a parody of both BBC’s Sherlock Holmes and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s Thrift Shop. The nuisance of the show and song recreated are there, but nobody who enjoys the originals will sit down and appreciate it in the same way. A parody is in no way trying to replace the original, but rather using the subject, structure, and style of the original as a vessel to another creative work.

Part 4: What To Do When You Get a YouTube Copyright Strike

If you are reading this, you may have already gotten a YouTube copyright strike.

This may have surprised you. Don’t be too concerned. If it was a mistake, the copyright strike merely acts as a warning, letting you know that the content in your video is copyrighted material.

However, if you were to get 3 copyright strikes in 90 days, you may be penalized by:

- Having all your accounts and videos removed

- Not being able to create a new channel

So what should you do? Here are the steps to take after you receive a copyright strike:

  1. Review the copyright strike by going into Creator Studio > Video Manager > Copyright notice

YouTube Copyright notice

  1. Click on the “Copyright Strike” link beside the flagged video to see details
  2. Decide how to respond to the strike:
    1. Allow the strike to expire after 90 days and complete the YouTube’s copyright school
    2. Contact the person who reported your video and get the claim retracted
    3. Dispute the claim with a counter notification

Dispute YouTube Copyright Claims

Part 5: 5 Ways to Avoid Copyright Strike

It’s not always clear what YouTube deems fair use, but there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of meeting the qualification.

1. Use non-fictional copyright content instead of creative and fictional copyrighted content. You’ll have a better chance of meeting fair use if you use footages from a news broadcast than you would from a movie or television show.

The intent is clear when using non-fictional copyright content, such as in Bad Lip Reading. They aren’t trying to rebroadcast the Mark Zuckerberg integration, they are parodying it. The easier it is for the public to recognize that the content is from a source, and understand that the creator isn’t trying to take credit for it, the more likely it’ll pass the fair use qualification.

However, if Bad Lip Reading posted the content without lip dubbing, then one can argue that they are taking views away from the original news sources and that wouldn’t be fair use.

2. Make sure your video with copyrighted content isn’t replacing the original one. Only use enough of the source material to get your point across and ensure you are not negatively affecting the original through views and sales.

In this example from Screen Prism, we see scenes from Wes Anderson movies all through the video, however, it is not replacing any of the original films. In fact, you can say that because of this video, people will be motivated to go and watch a Wes Anderson movie, those benefiting the original creator.

3. The copyrighted material is essential to your video. Whether the copyrighted content is needed in order to illustrate a point or if that one moment from a well-recognized movie helps tie together the message, as long as the copyrighted material is serving the video in some significant way, then it will be consider fair use.

4. Give the original creator credit. Just because you give the original creator credit doesn’t mean you can rightfully use their content, however, it does give you a better chance at avoiding copyright strike. Most often, the original creators simply want credit for their work. If they see that you have noted that the content was made by them, it will only give them more exposure.

5. Keep it short. There is no precise number of seconds or ratio of copyrighted to original footage you should have in your video to qualify as fair use. But generally, if the copyrighted clip is short and/or broken up, then it stands a better chance at being approved by YouTube.

Part 6: What to Do When Other YouTubers Are Copying Your Content

As a new YouTuber, it’s a little freaky to think that someone is taking your content and republishing it or using your creations in their video without your permission.

If you ever notice that your content is being copied without your approval — if they have duplicated your video completely or is using your video without giving credit — and it is not benefiting your channel in any way, don’t worry, YouTube is designed to protect you.

Steps to Report Copyright Infringements on YouTube

  1. View the video that contains your copyrighted material.
  2. Click on “Report”

report copyright infringement

  1. Select “Infringes my rights” in the pop up window and click “infringes my copyright” in the dropdown options.

report copyright infringement

  1. Supply additional information to the report form, including the URL of the video infringing your copyrighted content and the URL of your own video.
  2. Submit report and wait for an email confirmation that the infringing content has been removed.

Part 7: YouTube Copyright Match

In 2018, YouTube launched a new feature called Copyright Match Tool, which automatically finds videos that are very similar or the same as the ones you’ve created. This gives you the power to determine what to do once you know the video exist.

- You can choose to do nothing.

- You can contact the publisher.

- You can report the video to YouTube for removal.

Key Takeaways

I hope this article has clarified what you can and cannot do with copyrighted content. Here is a quick summary of what we touched on in this post:

- Avoid having 3 copyright strikes on your channel at all costs.

- When using copyrighted material, ensure it is essential to the video and you are not overdoing it.

- Make sure that the copyrighted content does not take views and sales away from the original source.

- Strive to use the copyrighted content in a transformative way, as a parody or a commentary, to educate or inform.

- Give the original creator credit or have it benefit the original by giving more publicity.

- Report any creator that is infringing on your content.

Got any questions on YouTube copyright? Leave a comment below and we’ll help you answer it.

author avatar
Richard Bennett
Richard Bennett is a writer and a lover of all things video.
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