What kind of content can I monetize?

The best way to ensure you’ll be able to monetize your YouTube videos is to create all elements of the video yourself. Use your imagination to create something completely original. Examples of videos that have been successful on YouTube include daily vlogs and home videos, do-it-yourself videos and tutorials, original music videos and short films.

You’re also expected to follow YouTube Community Guidelines, and doing so may increase the visibility of your content on YouTube, leading to more views and higher watch time, more user engagement, and ultimately more revenue.

Obtain commercial use rights for specific types of content 

For your videos to be eligible for monetization, you must own all the necessary rights to commercially use all visuals and audio elements, whether they belong to you or to a third party. These elements include (but are not limited to) logos, thumbnails, intro/outro/background music, software interfaces, and video games. If you decide to incorporate third-party content in a video, you must clear the rights to use and monetize this content on YouTube. Often, this clearance takes the form of explicit written permission from the rights holders. To ensure that you’re not infringing on anyone else’s copyright, take a moment to learn from Russell and Lumpy at our Copyright School.

At times, YouTube may ask you to submit additional documentation to claim rights of your video. Please ensure that you obtain commercial use rights for all elements in your video before submitting for monetization.

Here are some details about the types of content that are monetizable and types of information that may be helpful to prove commercial use rights. Keep in mind that submitting incomplete information may lead to a prolonged review time.

Can I monetize my video …

… if I created all the audio and visual content?

You can monetize content that you created as long as you still hold the rights to the video. However, if you are signed with a music label, you may or may not be able to monetize your video depending on the terms and/or limitations of that agreement. You may need to consult an attorney.

If you are asked by YouTube to provide more information about content you created yourself, it may be helpful to provide the following:

For original audio:

  • Artist name
  • Song name
  • Music composer/lyricist
  • Music label (if any)
  • Describe the relationship between the label and the artist (Please note that documentation proving that you retain all commercial use rights for the content may be necessary)
  • Rights owner’s name and contact information
  • Your name (first/last)
  • If you used an audio-editing software: name of software, URL link to terms of use granting commercial use rights, and whether any samples or music loops were used
  • If third-party audio (music originally created by someone else) was used in your own creation (e.g. remixes or mashups), please provide written permission from the original rights holder to commercially use the content.

For original visuals:

  • Brief statement explaining how you created the visuals yourself
  • If any stock visuals were used, please provide the name of the source and URL link to its licensing terms granting commercial use rights
  • If third-party visuals were used in your own creation, provide written permission from the original rights holder to commercially use the content. Simply providing the licensing agreement for the editing software used may not always be sufficient.
… if I use an audio and/or visual editing software to create my own content?

You may be able to use audio and visual editing software to create monetizable content, but this depends on the scope, limitations and commercial permissions of the license. If you have used samples or loops, make sure that the license specifically allows for their commercial use.

 

If you are asked by YouTube to provide more information about content you created using an editing software, it may be helpful to provide the following:

  • Name of software
  • URL link to its licensing terms granting commercial use rights
  • State whether or not you used any loops, music samples, or stock images
... if I use royalty-free or Creative Commons content?

You can monetize royalty-free or Creative Commons content if the license agreement grants you rights to use it commercially. Sometimes rights owners require you to credit the creator of the content or provide proof of purchase in order to use it in your video for commercial purposes. For more information, please review how to read licenses to understand your rights.

If you are asked by YouTube to provide more information about using royalty-free or Creative Commons content, it may be helpful to provide the following:

  • Name of the artist
  • Name of the track
  • Direct URL link to the song
  • Direct URL link to the licensing terms granting commercial use rights
  • In some licenses set forth by the creator, attribution (or credit) to the original creator may be required for commercial use. If applicable, please include attribution in the description box or within the video itself
Please note that some music may be royalty free but not eligible for commercial use (e.g. situations where licensees are not permitted to make money from the use of the music). Any videos with this type of restricted audio incorporated into the video will not be approved for revenue sharing on YouTube. If the royalty-free or Creative Commons license is issued by an aggregator of third-party content, written permission from the original rights owner may be required to commercially use the content.
... if I have permission to use audio and/or visuals created by someone else?

You can monetize such content, but you must be able to provide explicit written permission granting you commercial use rights to that content by the rights holder at any time.
... if I am playing or doing a walkthrough of a video game?
 

Whether you can use video game content for monetization depends on the commercial use rights granted to you by the license from the applicable video game publisher. Some video game publishers may allow you to use all video game content for commercial use and confirm such permission in their licensing agreements.

In other licensing agreements, publishers may not grant commercial rights for videos that simply show game play for extended periods of time. For these licensing terms, the use of video games must be minimal unless the associated step-by-step commentary provides instructional and/or educational value and is strictly tied to the live action being shown. For more information, please review Video game and software content.
If you are asked by YouTube to provide more information about your video game content, it may be helpful to provide the following:
  • Name of the game
  • Direct URL link to any applicable licensing terms for that software
  • If the license doesn’t grant commercial use rights, you may be be required to provide written permission from the publisher
  • If there are any third-party images or audio embedded in the video that is not directly associated with the video game, please include proof of explicit permission granting commercial use rights for such third-party audio and/or visual elements
... if I am doing a tutorial demonstrating use of a software?
 

Whether you can show software user interfaces in a video submitted for monetization depends on the commercial use rights granted to you by the license of the software. In some cases, you may need a contract with the publisher or proof that you have paid a licensing fee. Otherwise, the use of software user interfaces must be minimal unless the associated step-by-step commentary provides instructional and/or educational value and is strictly tied to the action being shown. For more information, please review Video game and software content.

If you are asked by YouTube to provide more information about the use of software in your content, it may be helpful to provide the following:
  • Name of the software
  • Direct URL link to any applicable licensing terms for that software
  • If there are any third-party images or audio embedded in the user interface that is not directly associated with the software, please include proof of explicit permission granting commercial use rights for the third-party audio and/or visual elements
... if I use content that is in the public domain?
 

In order for content to be in the public domain, the copyright of the work has either expired, been forfeited, or is no longer applicable. If you can prove that the content in your video is in the public domain, you may be able monetize it on YouTube (depending on the scope, limitations, and commercial permissions of the license).

The criterion to qualify as public domain may vary depending on many factors. For more information, we encourage you to read this public domain resource.
If you are asked by YouTube to provide more information about your content that you believe is in the public domain, it may be helpful to provide the following:
  • Type of work
  • Date and location of publication
  • Death date of the author
  • Name of audio and/or visual from public domain
  • Direct link to the appropriate primary (scholarly) online source
… if it contains my original recording of a cover song?
 

Some cover songs may be eligible for monetization. In order to be eligible, the music publisher must claim the song through the Content ID system and elect to monetize it. If the song has not been claimed, you may not be able to monetize your video unless you have explicit written permission from the rights owner of the song. The use of any commercial sound recording, such as an instrumental, karaoke recording, or live concert performance by the artist will not be eligible for monetization. For more information, please review Monetizing eligible cover videos.

… if I use my personal recording of public concerts, events, shows, etc?

Although you may have recorded something yourself, usually the original creator or author of the underlying content being recorded (e.g. composer/lyricist of the song being performed at a concert) holds many of the rights needed to commercially exploit this content. If you want to monetize your recording of a performance at a concert or show, you would have to get explicit written permission from the original rights owner of that performance.
… if I made a recording from TV, DVD, or CD?

Although you may have recorded something yourself, the actual creator or author of the underlying content being recorded (e.g. producer of the TV show being displayed on the TV) may hold many of the rights needed to commercially exploit this content. If you want to monetize your recording of a TV show, DVD or CD, you would need to get explicit written permission from the applicable rights owner of the audio and/or visual elements you recorded.
… if I upload content that I purchased?

Although you may have purchased something yourself, usually its actual creator or author holds many of the rights needed to commercially exploit this content. This means you cannot monetize third party content that you have purchased unless its rights owner grants you commercial use rights.
… if I upload content that I found online?

Although you may have found the content online for free, in most cases its actual creator holds many of the rights needed to commercially exploit the content. If you want to monetize such content, please ensure that you have all the necessary commercial use rights for it.
… if it contains music from the YouTube Audio Library?

Yes, you can monetize music from the YouTube Audio Library
If you are asked by YouTube to provide more information, it may be helpful to provide the following for each audio element used:
  • Name of the song used from YouTube Audio Library
...if I used third-party content under Fair Use?
Commercial uses are less likely to be considered "fair use", though it’s possible to monetize a video and still take advantage of the fair use defense in some cases. For more information, please review What is Fair Use?

Please note that simply stating that you own the rights to the content may not be sufficient. You must be as specific as possible whenever asked to make a claim on a video. Written permission from the appropriate rights owner may be required. Please note that partners who repeatedly submit ineligible videos may lose the ability to monetize.

If you are still unsure what kind of content you can or can’t monetize, please review our video monetization criteria. For more information about copyright, copyright infringement and fair use, please visit our Copyright Center.

Please note, the above material is being provided solely for educational purposes and is not legal advice. You should only seek legal advice from a lawyer or legal representative.