What is copyright?

In many countries, when a person creates an original work that is fixed in a physical medium, they automatically own 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 permissions 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 copyright-protected content without infringing, such as in cases of copyright exceptions, like fair use and fair dealing, or by getting permission to use someone else's content.

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


Also, some content creators choose to make their work available for reuse with certain requirements called a Creative Commons license.

Can YouTube determine copyright ownership?

No. YouTube isn’t able to mediate rights ownership disputes. When we receive a complete and valid copyright removal request, 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 trademark?

No. 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. Copyright is also different from patent law, which protects inventions.

YouTube offers a separate removal process for videos that 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 you own the copyright to it. For example, if your friend filmed a conversation between the two of you, they would own the copyright to that video recording. The words 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, uploaded a video, image, or recording of you without your permission and you feel it violates your privacy or safety, you may look into filing a privacy complaint.

Common copyright myths

Below are some common misconceptions about copyright and how it works on YouTube. Keep in mind that doing any of the following will not protect your content from copyright removal requests or Content ID claims:

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

Giving credit to the copyright owner doesn’t automatically give you the rights to use their copyrighted work. You need to make sure you've secured all the necessary rights to all copyright-protected elements in your video before you upload it to YouTube.

If you believe your use of copyright-protected content qualifies as a copyright exception, such as fair use or fair dealing, keep in mind that, even if you add original material to someone’s copyrighted work, your video may not qualify for a copyright exception. Be sure to carefully assess your content, and get legal advice if needed, before you upload.

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

Not trying to make money off copyright-protected work doesn’t prevent 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 copyright exceptions, such as fair use or fair dealing, Courts will look carefully at the purpose of your use in evaluating whether it qualifies as a copyright exception. For example, “non-profit” uses are favored in the fair use analysis, but it’s not an automatic defense by itself.

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

Even if there remain videos on the site that appear similar to what you’ve uploaded, that doesn’t necessarily mean you also have the rights to post the content.

Sometimes, a copyright owner authorizes some, but not all, of its works to appear on our site. Other times, very similar videos are owned by different copyright owners and one may grant permission while another doesn't.

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

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.

Myth 5: Content you recorded yourself from TV, a movie theater, or the radio is ok

Just because you recorded something yourself doesn't always mean you own all rights to upload it to YouTube. If what you recorded includes someone else's copyright-protected content, such as copyrighted music playing in the background, then you'd still need to get permission from the copyright 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 you have the copyright owner’s permission to post the content, nor do they automatically mean the use of the content qualifies as a copyright exception, such as fair use or fair dealing.

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

Any amount of copyright-protected content used without permission from the copyright owner(s), even if it’s just a few seconds, may result in your video getting a copyright claim. If you believe your use of the content qualifies as a copyright exception, such as fair use or fair dealing, keep in mind that only Courts can make that determination.

Was this helpful?

How can we improve it?
Clear search
Close search
Google apps
Main menu