Frequently asked questions about copyright

In this video, we answer some common questions about copyright:

Copyright Permissions - Copyright on YouTube

General copyright questions

What is fair use?

Fair use is a legal doctrine that says you can reuse copyright-protected material under certain circumstances without the copyright owner's permission.

In the United States, only a court can decide what qualifies as fair use.

Courts rely on four factors to decide fair use on a case-by-case basis, including:

  • The purpose and character of the use
  • The nature of the copyrighted work
  • The amount and substantiality of the copyrighted work used
  • The effect on the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work

Learn more in our Fair use FAQ.

What is the public domain?

Works eventually lose their copyright protection and are said to fall into the “public domain,” making them free of charge for everyone to use. It typically takes many years for works to fall into the public domain.

The length of a term of copyright protection varies depending on factors like:

  • Where and when the work was published
  • Whether the work was commissioned as a work for hire

Certain works created by U.S. federal government agencies fall into the public domain immediately upon publication. Keep in mind that the rules for public domain differ between countries.

It's your responsibility to verify that a work is in the public domain before you upload it to YouTube. There's no official list of works in the public domain. However, there are useful resources online that might help you. For example, the Cornell University offers a guide to works that may fall in the public domain. Keep in mind that none of these entities, including YouTube, can guarantee that all the works linked to are free from copyright protection.

What is a derivative work?

You need a copyright owner’s permission to create works based on their original content. Derivative works may include fanfiction, sequels, translations, spin-offs, adaptations, and so on. Try to get legal advice from an expert before uploading videos that are based on the characters, storylines, and other elements of copyright-protected material.

Where can I find more information on copyright outside the U.S.?

The Your Europe website has some helpful information and links about copyright in European Union countries/territories.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has a list of international intellectual property and copyright offices where you can learn about your area’s copyright laws.

The above sites are referred to for educational purposes only and are not endorsed by YouTube.

Questions about uploading to YouTube

How do I get permission to use someone else's content in my video?

If you plan to include copyright-protected material in your video, you’ll generally need to seek permission to do so first. YouTube can’t grant you these rights and we can’t help you find the parties who can grant them to you. You’ll have to research and handle this process on your own or with a lawyer’s help.

For example, YouTube cannot grant you the rights to use content that has already been uploaded to the site. If you wish to use someone else’s YouTube video, you may want to reach out to them directly. Some creators list ways they can be contacted in their channel.

An easy way to find background music or sound effects for your YouTube videos is in YouTube’s Audio Library. You can search for music that’s free of charge for you to use.

If you're thinking of using someone else's music in your video, learn more about your options for using music:

Options for using music in your videos

How do I license third party content?

Before you upload a video to YouTube, you must get the rights to all elements in your video. These elements include any music (even if it’s just playing in the background), video clips, photos, and so on.

First, reach out to the copyright owners or rightsholders directly and negotiate the appropriate licenses for your use.

Then, check the license. Licenses have explicit permission for using the content and often include limitations for how the content is used. Seek legal advice for any licensing agreement to be certain which rights are granted and which rights the owner reserves.

You can also use YouTube’s library of free of charge music and sound effects, which can be used in videos according to the terms specified.

Note: If you perform a cover song, make sure you have permission from the copyright owners (i.e., songwriter or music publisher). You may need extra licenses to reproduce the original sound recording, include the song in a video, or display the lyrics.

Why was content I have permission to use removed or blocked?

If you have the rights to use copyright-protected material in your video, give your video’s title and URL to the original copyright owner. This action can help you avoid a mistaken removal or block.

If your video was removed by a copyright removal request in error, you can:

If a Content ID claim that you feel is mistaken blocked your video:

However, before you submit a dispute or send a counter notification, ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Are you the copyright owner of the material in your video?
  2. Do you have permission to all third-party material in your video from the appropriate copyright owner?
  3. Is your video covered by fair use, fair dealing, or a similar exception under the appropriate copyright law?

If one of the conditions above applies to your video, you may want to research the most appropriate dispute process or consult an attorney. If not, you may be in violation of copyright laws.

Why was content I recorded or purchased myself removed?

Just because you purchased content doesn't mean that you own the rights to upload it to YouTube. Even if you give the copyright owner credit, posting videos that include content you purchased may still violate copyright law.

Also, just because you recorded something yourself does not always mean you own all rights to upload it to YouTube. If your recording includes someone else's copyrighted content, like copyrighted music playing in the background, you’ll still need permission from the appropriate rights owners.

Why did YouTube let an abusive claimant remove my video?
YouTube takes action to address cases of abuse and misuse in our copyright takedown processes. While we can’t comment on specific cases or our processes, we do investigate abuse of our copyright tools and processes. We also have a zero-tolerance policy for claimants we've deemed abusive. Misuse of the copyright process (for both removal requests and counter notifications) can result in termination of an account.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is not legal advice. We provide it for informational purposes. If you're seeking legal advice, you may want to get in touch with an attorney.

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