Even the most upstanding YouTubers have anxieties about receiving a copyright claim. In an instant, hours of work can disappear. At best, the claim may result in losing video revenue. At worst, it could mean the video gets taken down.
Today we’ve got some advice on how to avoid a copyright claim, whether your channel is a hobby or a job.
More Than Just Copyright Law
If you’re trying to avoid a copyright violation on YouTube, it makes sense to start with the applicable copyright laws. One might assume breaking those laws will land you in hot water, and you’d be right, but that isn’t the only way to have an issue on YouTube.
The basics of copyright are that it grants the holder of that copyright certain privileges over a work. These include:
- Right to reproduce the work
- Right to display a work
- Right to perform a work
- Right to distribute a work (or copies of that work)
- Right to make derivative works
This covers many of the copyright claims on YouTube but not all. It’s easy to see a copywritten song posted without permission is a problem, but what about when a review uses clips from a movie? What about Let’s Plays?
There are a few factors that are going to decide the issue on YouTube. The first is whether a video is fair use, the second is whether a company is aggressive with their claims, and the third is whether YouTube decides to genuinely investigate the claim being made.
Fair Use (and Why It Doesn’t Always Matter)
Fair use is a legal blanket term that refers to when works that indeed use copywritten material but do so in a legally permissible way. Fair use law is complex and worth researching on one’s own but we will discuss the basics for clarity.
Copyright does not protect a person’s work from all use. For example, educational and highly transformative works often protect often qualify as fair use.
As a rule, works that use small amounts of another work or that will have little effect on the original’s place in the market are much less likely to result in copyright issues.
One might assume this means content like video reviews is at least often protected from the companies that produced the works they’re reviewing. Unfortunately, the law doesn’t always matter where YouTube’s tools allow companies to take advantage regardless.
YouTube and Its Controversies
As we touched on, YouTube and its copyright system have had their share of controversies. Many companies have used YouTube’s copyright tools to suppress legitimate reviews or even works they simply have no legal right to.
While it is critical to follow fair use rules if you want to use any kind of copywritten work on the platform, that won’t always be enough. While YouTube has made steps to try and stop false copyright claims, they’re still a regular occurrence for some users.
YouTube has some tools to remove copyrighted content from videos but these tools aren’t very robust. If a video is a review, these tools can often leave the video in a state where it simply needs to be taken down and reedited.
If you want to use copywritten content, even if in a fair-use context, research the companies involved in making that content. Some companies are known problem players while others may even be more liberal with their copyright than they need to be.
Tips for Copyright Safe Content
There are a few ways to help make your content safer against copyright violations. The first is simply to make original content. If the audio and visuals in your video are all made by you, you should be safe against copyright claims.
You can also take a look at a royalty-free music library, which has a bunch of songs you can use without risking copyright issues. There are also image libraries for the same purpose. Remember to read in what specific cases you’re permitted to use a given piece of content.
If you want to make content that is largely agreed to be legitimate fair use but riskier, like Let’s Plays, there is more you need to watch out for. The biggest problem is when games contain copywritten songs from major labels.
Companies that produce music are well-known for making copyright claims at almost any opportunity (although YouTube recently made it harder for them to make mass claims). Even if a game has the rights to use a song, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can play that song in the game.
This may not seem fair but, at least at present, that is how copyright laws function in the United States. If you want to avoid a copyright violation or even a copyright lawsuit, you’ll want to mute most third-party music present in video games (or any other work).
Can You Fight Copyright Claims?
The final question that needs to be addressed is whether a creator can fight copyright claims. Unfortunately, that isn’t easy to answer.
While you can dispute YouTube Content ID claims, the system is known to be somewhat weighted in the copyright owner’s favor. It’s not unheard of for legitimate videos to stay down after a false ID claim.
Worse, disputing a claim has the potential to lead to a copyright strike on your channel. Enough of these strikes could cause you to lose your channel entirely.
If you face continuous issues on YouTube with copyright claims you feel are illegitimate, it is best to consult a copyright attorney. They can guide you on the best course of action and may even be able to get you financial damages for false claims.
More Content Like This
At the end of the day, copyright claims can be a nuisance that’s difficult to predict but tends to be avoidable if you follow U.S. copyright law. At the very least, it helps protect against legitimate claims.
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