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Answers to your questions about Copyright claims on YouTube 8 Recommended Answers 57 Replies 4096 Upvotes
Last edited 1/26/19
Copyright claims are top of mind for many of you right now. We’re writing this post to let you know that we hear your concerns about how our tools are being used and we’re actively looking into how to make it better. This involves balancing the rights of all creators, including YouTubers and others such as songwriters and musicians. We have teams talking to these groups, as well as thinking about what may need to change in the product.
We also want to make sure that everyone has answers to common questions we’ve been seeing, so we’ve rounded up a bunch of them below, as well as best practices for creators.
Q: What is YouTube doing to deal with companies abusing the system and making bad claims?
Content ID is a powerful tool and is only given to claimants after careful review and training. In addition, we have teams monitoring both copyright takedown requests and Content ID claims for abuse. Important distinction: these are different things! Read more here.
Out of the millions of Content ID claims created each week, actual abuse is very rare, and when it’s found we take strong action – including terminating channels and kicking companies out of Content ID. Just last month, international DJ TheFatRat had a song, The Calling, that was inappropriately claimed. After investigating, we terminated this claimant's Content ID partnership.
Q: Companies are claiming just a few seconds of a video, how is that not abuse?
Despite what some people may think, there is no duration which you can use someone else’s content that is automatically protected under Fair Use. In fact, courts have rejected Fair Use arguments for songs that only sample a few seconds of content. So if you’re using any amount of content that you don't own – even a few seconds – you are taking a risk of receiving a claim or takedown. You have the right to argue Fair Use, but only courts (not YouTube) can ultimately decide whether the use of someone else’s content is protected under Fair Use. Here’s a great video where you can learn more about this.
Because of the above, our approach has been to empower creators to remove claimed content whenever possible, if they feel that it isn’t adding significant value to their video. That’s why we’ve built tools to easily remove or swap out claimed music with copyright-safe tracks from the free YouTube Audio Library. In the worst case, there’s also the option of uploading an entirely new edit of the video without the claimed content at a new URL.
Q: I’m seeing more manual claims on my videos, how can I deal with them?
One new challenge that we’re facing is an increased amount of manual Content ID claims on very short matches. This can be especially frustrating because we are not always able to provide timestamps for manual claims, which makes the claimed content hard to find and impossible to remove. We’re working on addressing this as quickly as possible – in the next few weeks, we have a first step that will address about a third of these claims (more to come on that soon). Still, the best way to avoid these issues is to refrain from using unlicensed content unless absolutely necessary for your video.
Q: But these companies are getting all of the creator’s revenue for a few seconds of a video, this is unfair!
Content ID was designed to allow videos that used content without permission to stay up in exchange for the opportunity for the claimant to run ads. For casual creators, this allows videos with music or clips of video content to be broadcast to the world on YouTube. But for monetizing creators, it’s clearly not ideal. The best bet is for monetizing creators to avoid using unlicensed copyrighted content whenever possible. If you feel that your use may fall into a copyright exception, like Fair Use, be sure you fully understand how that process works.
Q: I played (or sang, or whistled) the song entirely by myself – I didn’t use a single second of the recording.
There are 2 distinct copyrights in music. Most people are familiar with the one for the artist or band who recorded the song. But there is a second set of copyrights for the lyrics and melody (also known as the composition or publishing rights). When you sing, hum, or play all or some of the song on an instrument, even if you do it in an entirely original way, you are using the copyrighted melody and/or words and may receive a claim. On YouTube, most composition claims are eligible for revenue sharing for creators in the partner program.
Q: I don't recognize the name of this claimant, but I know they aren’t the real owner. Who is this scammer?
Copyrights are bought and sold and administered by all sorts of third parties around the world. In some cases, there are collection societies that are set up to administer all music rights in a particular country. In order to make content available as broadly as possible, YouTube works with dozens of these regional collection societies If you haven’t heard of the organization (or organizations) making the claim, it doesn’t necessarily indicate abuse or make the claim invalid. We’ve even seen instances where the artists themselves aren’t aware of the service providers their record label or publisher uses to manage their content on YouTube.
Q: Content with legitimate fair use keeps getting claimed by content ID, is fair use content not allowed? For example, companies claiming react videos, edu videos, etc
Fair Use allows transformative reuse of copyrighted content without authorization from the rightsholder. It’s an essential part of copyright law, but, despite its name, it isn’t based on what just anyone might consider “fair”.
Instead, it’s a case by case legal analysis, often focused around criticism or commentary on the material used. Even experts often disagree on the outcome of this analysis. The ultimate resolution usually needs to be worked out between the uploader and claimant, sometimes in court.
While YouTube can not arbitrate Fair Use disputes and automated systems like Content ID can not account for Fair Use, this doesn’t mean that Fair Use can’t exist on YouTube, as this pretty well known example shows. Creators should avoid relying on Fair Use unless they understand how the rules work and are prepared to defend their position through the Content ID dispute process and potentially the DMCA counter notification process. This forces the claimant withdraw or to file a lawsuit. This isn’t a decision that should be taken lightly or without legal advice. But it is the most powerful step a creator can take if they want to pursue a Fair Use defense and will force the most thoughtful review from the claimant.
Q: I keep hearing about Content ID claims where the song isn’t even there - what are you doing about that?
At its heart, Content ID is a matching system, and it faces all the challenges and limitations that all matching systems face. Sometimes, the system can make a totally incorrect match, like claiming someone doing a simple microphone test or even white noise. In these cases, engineers immediately went to work to diagnose and fix the problem. In other cases, we’ve found entirely different original songs can match parts of each other because they use the same beat track.
We’re constantly working to find solutions to avoid problems like these in the first place. But we also understand that no automated system will ever be perfect. This is why the dispute process is an essential part of Content ID. Creators will always be the most knowledgeable of the content in their videos and how it was used, so we built the dispute process to empower you to escalate problems to the claimant, and even as far as the courts if you choose. If both the uploader and claimant are attempting to monetize a video under dispute, we will continue to monetize the video until the dispute is resolved and will release the accrued earnings to the appropriate party.
Q: What are the best practices for creators who have to deal with all of this?
- Don't use copyrighted material if you can avoid it – look for other sources like the YouTube Audio Library or other licensing services.
- Always upload your video as private or unlisted first. This allows you to address copyright issues found by Content ID before posting to your subscribers. However, copyright claims can happen at any time.
- If you get a claim for content that isn't essential to your video, consider removing the claimed content, either with our tools or reposting an edited video.
- If you get a copyright claim that looks invalid, don’t be afraid to dispute. This is the best way to alert the claimant that a mistake may have been made. Content ID disputes do not risk strikes or other consequences to your channel as long as they are done in good faith.
- The appeal and counter notice steps of the dispute flow are powerful tools, but they can have consequences for the creator. Understand how they work and use them when appropriate.
- If you find problems, you can reach out to Creator Support, post here in the Help Community or keep tweeting @teamyoutube. We take these very seriously and investigate as many as we can.
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