Frequently asked copyright questions
Get answers to top questions about copyright issues.
General copyright questionsWhat is fair use?
Fair use is a legal doctrine that says you can reuse copyright-protected material under certain circumstances without getting permission from the copyright owner.
In the United States, fair use can only be determined by a court. Courts rely on four factors to analyse 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, and the effect of the use on the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
Learn more in our Fair use FAQ.
Works eventually lose their copyright protection and are said to fall into the 'public domain', making them free 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 where and when the work was published, whether the work was commissioned as a work for hire and other factors. Certain works created by US federal government agencies fall into the public domain immediately upon publication. Bear in mind that the rules for public domain differ from country to country.
It is your responsibility to verify that a work is in the public domain before you upload it to YouTube. There is no official list of works in the public domain. However, there are some useful resources online that might help you. Columbia University Libraries and the Copyright Information Center at Cornell University both offer helpful guides to works that may fall in the public domain. Neither YouTube, nor either university, can guarantee that all the works linked to are free from copyright protection.
You need a copyright owner's permission to create new works based on their original content. Derivative works may include fan fiction, sequels, translations, spin-offs, adaptations etc. You should probably seek legal advice from an expert before uploading videos that are based on the characters, storylines and other elements of copyright-protected material.
The European Commission's website has some helpful information and links relating to copyright in European Union countries.
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has a list of international intellectual property and copyright offices where you may find information about copyright laws applicable for your country.
The above sites are referred to for educational purposes only and are not endorsed by YouTube.
Questions about uploading to YouTubeHow 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 cannot grant you these rights and we are unable to assist you in finding and contacting the parties who may be able to grant them to you. This is something you'll have to research and handle on your own or with the assistance of a lawyer.
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 in which they can be contacted in their channel. Learn more about how to get in touch with others here.
However, we do offer features aimed at helping you discover what material you can incorporate into your video:
- 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 for you to use.
- The Music Policy Directory also helps you understand the Content ID policies that will be applied by music copyright owners. Depending on the policy, your video may remain live on YouTube with ads, and the revenue will be paid to the owners of the music. Learn more about Music Policies.
If you're thinking of using someone else's music in your video, learn more about your options for using music:
Before you upload a video to YouTube, you must get the rights to all elements in your video – including any music (even if it's just playing in the background), video clips, photos, etc.
First, reach out to the copyright owners or rightsholders directly and negotiate the appropriate licences for your use.
Then look at the licence. Licences have explicit permission for using the content and often include limitations for how the content is used. You should seek legal advice for any licensing agreement to be certain which rights are granted and which rights are reserved by the owner.
You can also use YouTube's library of free music and sound effects, which can be used in videos according to the terms specified.
Note: If you perform a cover song, make sure that you have permission from the copyright owners (i.e. the songwriter or music publisher). You may need additional licences to reproduce the original sound recording, include the song in a video or display the lyrics.
If you've cleared the rights to use copyright-protected material in your video, you might want to alert the original copyright owner of your video's title and URL on YouTube, to avoid a mistaken removal or block.
If your video was removed by a copyright takedown in error, you can:
If your video was blocked by a Content ID claim that you feel is mistaken:
- You can dispute it
However, before you submit a dispute on a Content ID claim or send a counter notification in response to a copyright takedown, you might want to ask yourself a few questions:
- Are you the copyright owner of the material in your video?
- Do you have permission to use all third-party material in your video from the appropriate copyright owner(s)?
- Is your use of copyrighted material covered by fair use, fair dealing or a similar exception under the applicable copyright law?
If one of the conditions above applies to your video, you may want to research the most appropriate dispute process or consult a lawyer. If not, you may be in violation of copyright laws.
Purchasing content doesn't automatically give you the rights to upload it to YouTube. Even if you give the copyright owner credit, posting videos that include content that you purchased may still violate copyright law.
Additionally, just because you recorded something yourself does not always mean that you own all rights to upload it to YouTube. If what you recorded includes someone else's copyrighted content, such as copyrighted music playing in the background, then you would still need to get permission from the appropriate rights owners.
Questions about copyright takedown requestsCan I request the removal of an entire channel or playlist?
No, you cannot. You are required to identify any allegedly infringing content by its video URL.
Here's how to find a video's URL:
- Find the video in question on YouTube.
- In the address bar at the top, you'll see the video URL. It should look like this: www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxxxxxxxxxx
You can submit a takedown request by signing in to YouTube and using our copyright removal webform.
Copyright takedowns are formal, legal requests that require specific elements in order to be complete and actionable.
When we receive an incomplete or otherwise invalid copyright request – be it a takedown notification or a counter notification – we respond to the sender, asking for more information that will help complete their request.
If you receive a response like this following your submission of a copyright request, it is important to review it carefully and respond accordingly. In most cases, we won't be able to take action on your request until you do so.
In accordance with copyright law, we require complete and valid copyright notifications for each removal request.
The easiest way to submit another complaint is to sign in to YouTube and use our copyright complaint webform.
We have likely received a counter notification regarding your removal request. The video will be reinstated unless you submit evidence that you've filed a court action against the user seeking to restrain the allegedly infringing activity. If we don't receive that notice from you within 10 days, we may reinstate the material to YouTube.
If a video includes information allowing people to bypass access restrictions to your software, such as passwords, key generators or cracks, the appropriate and most efficient way to notify YouTube of these issues is through our Other Legal Issues form.
If you find your YouTube video on another website without your permission, you'll have to follow their process for requesting the removal of the video. YouTube cannot do this for you.
Most sites that permit users to upload videos rely on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's (DMCA) Safe Harbor, which means that when they receive a complete and valid copyright takedown notice from a content owner, they should comply and remove the content. There are some exceptions to this, but if you are certain that the copy of your work isn't protected under fair use, you can request the removal of the copy.
Please take a look at the requirements of a DMCA takedown notice to understand what you'll need to include in your copyright takedown notice.
Most sites require a link to a specific video URL. If the video is in your feed or on a page with other videos, you may be able to right-click the video, or click the video's timestamp, to get the video's specific URL.
Sites that rely on the DMCA must have contact information for a designated DMCA agent listed with the Copyright Office and on their website. We've provided a short list of email addresses below where you could send your copyright takedown notice, if you find your video on one of these sites without your permission. If you don't see the site that you're looking for below, you should be able to locate appropriate contact information in the Copyright Office's database.
Disclaimer: The information presented here is not legal advice. We provide it for informational purposes. If you need legal advice, you should contact a lawyer.