An introduction to YouTube Copyright

Copyright is a highly topical issue for those active within the YouTube community. Whether you’re a business, self-employed or an amateur video blogger, it’s important to be aware of YouTube’s copyright enforcement policies and respect the rights of other creators within the YouTube community.

Let’s take a look at some of the key issues when creating, uploading and sharing video content on YouTube:

Can you use copyright work without infringing the law?

In some instances, it may be possible to utilise copyright-protected video content without infringing the owner’s copyright. This relates to fair use copyright, also known as fair dealing, which is a framework to allow the lawful use or reproduction of work without having to seek permission from the copyright owner.

However, your video can still be claimed by a copyright owner despite the fact you may have credited the copyright owner, not monetised the infringing video, purchased the content legitimately or even stated that no copyright infringement is intended.

What does a YouTube copyright strike mean?

If you receive a copyright strike from YouTube for one of your videos this means that it has been removed from the community following a complete and valid legal request from the copyright owner asking YouTube to do so in compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

A copyright strike will be permanently logged against your business’ YouTube account, resulting in a loss of certain YouTube features. In the event that you infringe copyright on three occasions your account will be terminated outright, with no ability to create new accounts in the future.

If you wish to resolve a YouTube copyright strike you have two options: contact the copyright owner to retract their infringement claim or submit a counter notification if you believe your video was mistakenly taken down as it qualifies for fair use or was simply misidentified as infringing copyright.

What is a Content ID claim?

If a video is uploaded containing copyright protected material the YouTube account holder could end up with a Content ID claim. These are issued by companies that own the copyright to music, movies, television shows, video games and any other copyright protected material.

Content ID is a system that enables copyright owners to quickly and efficiently identify their content on YouTube. New video content uploaded to YouTube is scanned against a database of existing content submitted by content owners.

Depending on the company’s own policy, some YouTube Content ID claims will thwart specific material from being made available anywhere on the YouTube community e.g. live music performances, live sport highlights. However, other Content ID claims may permit the video to remain live, but will insist on directing any advertising revenue to the copyright owners.

Content ID claims against your YouTube account can be found in the copyright notices section of your Video Manager. In some cases, you’ll also be notified of a Content ID claim via email.

The difference between a copyright removal and a Content ID claim

A copyright removal or ‘takedown’ on YouTube requires the submission of a formal notice from the copyright owner, with all the necessary legal requirements completed. You’ll know if a video has been removed via takedown as the video will display a phrase: “Video taken down: Copyright strike”.

A Content ID block is not defined in law like a copyright takedown. You’ll know if your video is affected by a Content ID claim as the video will display a phrase: “Includes copyrighted content”. In most cases, the claim is merely to track or monetise the video and not entirely block it, with no negative impact on your YouTube account standing.

Creative Commons on YouTube

A Creative Commons license gives content owners the ability to grant permission for other YouTube accounts to use their work. YouTube videos can be marked with a Creative Commons CC BY license, enabling the content to even be used commercially on other business accounts through the Video Editor.

Only YouTube accounts that are in good standing order may mark uploaded videos with a Creative Commons license. Once an original video is marked with a Creative Commons license the entire YouTube community is given the right to reuse and/or edit the video for their own purposes.


Whatever your line of work may be, it’s vital that you understand how to use copyrighted material fairly. The consequences of a copyright infringement can be costly. If you want a clearer understanding of how issues surrounding copyright can impact on starting and running a business, make sure you sign up to our ‘Copyright for Business’ Mini Masterclass.

See also

Protecting your ideas

Plan to grow your business

Plan to start your business