What is copyright?

In many countries, when a person creates an original piece of work that is fixed in a physical medium, they automatically own the copyright to the work. As the copyright owner, they have the exclusive right to use the work. Most of the time, only the copyright owner can say whether someone else has permission to use the work.

Which types of work are subject to copyright?
  • Audiovisual works, such as TV shows, movies and online videos
  • Sound recordings and musical compositions
  • Written works, such as lectures, articles, books and musical compositions
  • Visual works, such as paintings, posters and advertisements
  • Video games and computer software
  • Dramatic works, such as plays and musicals

Ideas, facts and processes are not subject to copyright. According to copyright law, in order to be eligible for copyright protection, a work must be creative and it must be fixed in a tangible medium. Names and titles are not, by themselves, subject to copyright.

Can I use a copyright-protected work without infringing?

It's possible to use a copyright-protected work without infringing the owner's copyright, either through fair use or getting permission to use someone else's content in your video.

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

 

Some content creators choose to make their work available for reuse with certain requirements, called a Creative Commons licence.

Can YouTube determine copyright ownership?

No. YouTube isn't able to mediate rights ownership disputes. When we receive a complete and valid takedown notice, we remove the content as the law requires. When we receive a valid counter notification, we forward it to the person who requested the removal. After this, it's up to the parties involved to resolve the issue in court.

Is copyright the same as a trademark?

Copyright is just one form of intellectual property. It's not the same as trademark, which protects brand names, mottos, logos and other source identifiers from being used by others for certain purposes. It is also different from patent law, which protects inventions.

YouTube offers a separate removal process for videos which violate trademark or other laws.

What is the difference between copyright and privacy?

Just because you appear in a video, image or audio recording does not mean that you own the copyright to it. For example, if your friend filmed a conversation between the two of you, she would own the copyright to that video recording. The words that the two of you are speaking are not subject to copyright separately from the video itself, unless they were fixed in advance.

If your friend, or someone else, has uploaded a video, image or recording of you without your permission and you feel that it violates your privacy or safety, you may wish to file a privacy complaint.

Common copyright myths

Below are some common misconceptions about copyright and how it works on YouTube. Keep in mind, doing the following won't prevent a copyright claim against your content.

Myth 1: Giving credit to the copyright owner means that you can use their content

Giving credit to the copyright owner doesn't automatically give you the rights to use their copyrighted work. Make sure that you secure the rights to all unlicensed elements in your video before you upload it to YouTube. If you're relying on fair use, even if you add original material to someone's copyrighted work, your video may not qualify, so make sure that you carefully consider all four factors and get legal advice if needed.

Myth 2: Claiming 'non-profit' means you can use any content

Not trying to make money off copyright-protected work doesn't stop copyright claims. Declaring your upload to be 'for entertainment purposes only' or 'non-profit', for example, is not enough by itself. When it comes to fair use, courts will look carefully at the purpose of your use in evaluating whether it is fair. 'Non-profit' uses are favoured in the fair-use analysis, but it's not an automatic defence by itself.

Myth 3: Other creators do it, so you can too

Even if videos remain on the site that appear similar to the one(s) you've uploaded, that doesn't necessarily mean you have the rights to post the content as well. Sometimes a copyright owner authorises some, but not all, of its works to appear on our site. Sometimes, very similar videos are owned by different copyright owners, and one may grant permission while another does not.

Myth 4: You can use content that you purchased on iTunes, a CD or a DVD

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.

Myth 5: Content that you recorded yourself from TV, a cinema or the radio is OK

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.

Myth 6: Saying 'no copyright infringement was intended'

Phrases and disclaimers such as 'all rights go to the author', 'no infringement intended' or 'I do not own' don't mean that you have the copyright owner's permission to post the content – nor do they automatically mean that you are making fair use of that material.

Myth 7: It's fine to have just a few seconds of copyrighted content

Any amount of unlicensed copyrighted content used – even if it's just for a few seconds – may result in your video getting claimed by Content ID or taken down by the copyright owner. You can argue fair use, but you should understand that the only place where a fair use determination can be made is a courtroom.

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