We’ve Heard Of YouTube Copyright Policies, But How Exactly Does It Work?

Venturing into YouTube means not only showcasing creativity but also respecting the intricate rules of copyright. This article provides an essential overview of these guidelines, ensuring content creators act responsibly and confidently.

What is Copyright on YouTube?

Every YouTube video uploaded weaves through the intricate maze of copyright laws. Crafting content goes beyond mere creation; it mandates respect for the intellectual property of others. Overlooking these rules or being naive can result in video takedowns or harsh channel sanctions.

YouTube’s Stance on Copyright

YouTube values the rights of content creators. When someone produces an original work, they automatically own certain rights to that piece. YouTube has systems in place to protect these rights. For instance, when a valid copyright removal request is received, YouTube acts as per the law’s requirements. They can’t determine ownership disagreements, so they depend on the involved parties and sometimes the legal systems to resolve these matters.

The Biggest Myths and Misunderstandings

Several myths circulate about what one can and cannot do concerning copyrighted material. Some believe giving credit or claiming non-profit intent frees them from copyright restrictions. Others think a mere few seconds of copyrighted material is permissible. These misconceptions can lead to unintentional breaches of copyright, emphasising the need for clear knowledge on the topic. What exactly constitute as restricted and permitted content?

Defining Fair Use and Limitations

Fair use allows people to use copyrighted content in certain situations without asking the copyright owner’s permission. On platforms like YouTube, many videos might appear to breach copyright. Still, some of these might fall under the fair use exceptions, preventing their removal.

In the United States judges look at four main factors when assessing fair use. They look at the purpose and nature of the use, especially if it serves commercial or educational goals; the character of the copyrighted content; how much of the copyrighted material gets used compared to the entire work; and how the use affects the value or market of the copyrighted work.

Fair use varies significantly by country, with each having distinct rules and applications. For instance, while the U.S. considers works of commentary, criticism, research, teaching, or news reporting as potential fair use, the EU has narrower exceptions. It’s essential for content creators to be aware of these variations and seek expert legal advice when uncertain about their content’s legal standing.

The Concept of Public Domain, Copyright Duration and Public Domain Status

The public domain contains works that no longer have copyright protection or never had it. When a work’s copyright expires, it enters the public domain, free for anyone to use or adapt. Some creators willingly place their works into the public domain.

The duration of copyright protection depends on several elements. These include the location and time of the work’s publication and if it was commissioned as a work for hire. In the States, creations by some federal government agencies automatically become part of the public domain upon their release. But remember, each country has distinct rules about the public domain.

Determining a work’s public domain status can be difficult. There isn’t a comprehensive list of all public domain works. Cornell University offers information about potential public domain works. Before sharing or using a work on platforms like YouTube, you should confirm its public domain status.

Defining Derivative Works

Derivative works modify or build upon another creator’s content. They can be fanfiction, sequels, translations, spin-offs, or adaptations.

If you want to make derivative works, you need permission from the copyright owner of the original content. Seeking advice from a legal expert before using characters, storylines, or other elements from copyrighted material is important. Ignoring this can lead to legal disputes.

International Views on Copyright

Copyright laws can differ widely across countries, making it essential for creators to familiarise themselves with rules outside their home territory.

For those interested in copyright within European Union countries, the Your Europe website offers valuable insights. On a broader scale, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) provides a directory of international intellectual property and copyright offices. This resource can guide individuals keen on understanding copyright laws specific to various regions.

Getting Permissions and Using Content

Before you upload content to YouTube, confirm you have all required permissions. This is especially true for copyrighted music or visuals. Obtaining permission from the original creator can prevent legal issues and shows respect for their rights.

YouTube and Third-Party Content

YouTube has strict guidelines when it comes to third-party content. If they find that you’ve used copyrighted material without the necessary permissions, your content might be taken down. If you receive three copyright strikes within 90 days, your YouTube account could be terminated.

To legally use copyrighted music or visuals, you might need a license. One way to get this is to directly contact the musician or content creator. Alternatively, for commercial music, reaching out to the record label or management can be a good approach.

When obtaining a license, it will have specific terms. It’s important to read and fully understand these terms. Some licenses may let you use content but not monetise it, while others set different conditions.

Cover Songs and Their Permissions


For those thinking of uploading cover songs, it’s not just the original song that might be copyrighted. The particular arrangement or rendition you’re covering could have its rights too. Before uploading, ensure you have permissions not only from the original artist but also from any other involved parties. Also, remember the following:

Before using any content, though, research its copyright status. If in doubt, it’s better to choose another piece or get clarity on its legal status.

Even after obtaining permissions, always give credit to the original creators in your video description. It’s not just respectful but also transparent to your audience.

Always be honest in your uploads. Whether it’s visuals, music, or other content forms, don’t claim another’s work as your own.

Be mindful of copyright laws when uploading content to YouTube. Make sure you either own the rights or have secured permissions for any content you use. Familiarising yourself with YouTube’s copyright guidelines can prevent accidental violations and penalties.

Steps If Your Content Is Removed

YouTube actively checks uploaded content for copyright violations. If they remove a video because of perceived infringement, they’ll notify the uploader. If this occurs, you should act quickly. If you think they wrongly removed your video, steps exist to contest the decision.

Understanding the Content ID System


About Content ID:

YouTube has developed the Content ID system as a proactive measure to monitor copyright infringement. Every video that’s uploaded is compared to a vast database of copyrighted files. If there’s a match, the copyright owner is alerted.

Disputing Content ID Claims and Verifying Rights:

The Content ID system can sometimes make mistakes. If you believe your content doesn’t violate any copyrights, dispute the claim. Be prepared with evidence to support your claim, showing you can legally use the content.

Before raising a dispute, it’s important to be sure of your stance. Double-check all licenses and permissions tied to your content. Being certain of your rights and having the proper documentation can prevent future issues and make the dispute process smoother.

Purchased Content Misunderstandings

Owning content doesn’t always mean its suitable for upload on YouTube. It often only means you have rights for personal use, not for redistribution or re-uploading. Always verify licensing terms before uploading anything you’ve bought.

Recording an event or show personally doesn’t automatically grant redistribution rights. Even if you’re the one who recorded it, the actual content might be copyrighted, necessitating proper permissions before uploading.

YouTube’s Position on Copyright Tool Abuse

YouTube prioritises the accuracy and fairness of its copyright system. They’re dedicated to preventing and addressing the misuse of copyright tools, ensuring that the system remains trustworthy for all users.

Misuse, especially repeated violations, can lead to significant penalties. This could range from losing access to certain features on YouTube to having a channel terminated. Abiding by the platform’s guidelines and acting in good faith is the best way to avoid such consequences.

YouTube serves as a beacon for creators worldwide, but with this creative freedom comes the responsibility of adhering to copyright laws. Respecting intellectual property remains central to maintaining the platform’s integrity.

From understanding the nuances of fair use to seeking necessary permissions, every video creator bears the onus to inform themselves and act responsibly. Through meticulous research, clear communication, and respect for original works, one can thrive on YouTube while upholding the rights of fellow creators.