A YouTube Creator's Guide to Copyright and Fair Use

content creation copyright fair use youtube youtube policy Apr 19, 2023

Copyright is Confusing for Creators

Today, we're going to dive into the sometimes confusing world of YouTube copyright claims and learn how to avoid running into copyright problems as a creator. The world of copyright can be tricky, but don't worry—I've got you covered with 5 actionable takeaways to help you navigate these waters safely. We'll talk about fair use, YouTube's copyright strike system, ContentID, and some resources you can use to educate yourself on copyright.

Reference YouTube's own information on Copyright Policies Here:


Copyright Strikes vs Copyright Claims

Understanding the difference between copyright claims and copyright strikes is crucial for YouTube creators. Copyright claims arise when a rights holder identifies content in your video that they own the copyright to, typically through YouTube's Content ID system. In this case, the video remains live, but the rights holder may choose to monetize it, track its viewership statistics, or, in some cases, block it. A copyright claim generally does not result in penalties for your account. On the other hand, a copyright strike is a more severe consequence of uploading copyrighted material without permission. Strikes are typically issued when a rights holder submits a manual takedown request to YouTube, and your video is removed from the platform. Accumulating multiple copyright strikes can lead to severe consequences, such as losing your ability to monetize content, having your channel suspended, or even having your account terminated. It's essential to understand these distinctions and adhere to copyright guidelines to avoid potential issues on YouTube.

Protect Yourself From Copyright Strikes

  1. Understand and Respect Fair Use Fair use is a legal doctrine that allows creators to use copyrighted material without permission under certain circumstances. Examples of fair use include criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. To determine if something falls under fair use, courts consider:

    • The purpose and character of the use: Transformative uses that add new meaning or context are more likely to be considered fair use.
    • The nature of the copyrighted work: Factual works are more likely to be considered fair use than creative works.
    • The amount and substantiality of the portion used: Using a small portion of the copyrighted work is more likely to be considered fair use.
    • The effect on the market: If your use of the copyrighted work doesn't harm the market for the original, it's more likely to be considered fair use.

Remember that fair use is not a blanket protection—each case is evaluated individually. Be cautious when using copyrighted material, and when in doubt, seek legal advice.

  1. YouTube's Copyright Strike System Explained When a copyright owner formally notifies YouTube of an infringement, YouTube may issue a copyright strike against the creator. Three strikes within 90 days and your channel will be terminated. Here's a brief summary of the consequences for each strike:

    • First Strike: You'll need to complete YouTube's Copyright School and may lose access to some features, like monetization and live streaming.
    • Second Strike: Your channel will have a two-week freeze, meaning you won't be able to upload any new content during this time.
    • Third Strike: Your channel will be terminated, and you'll be barred from creating new channels.

Strikes may be removed after 90 days or after successfully completing a counter-notification.

  1. YouTube ContentID Explained ContentID is YouTube's automated system that helps copyright owners identify and manage their content on the platform. When a video is uploaded, ContentID scans it against a database of copyrighted material provided by copyright owners. If a match is found, the copyright owner can choose to monetize, track, or block the video.

  2. False Copyright Claims: A Problematic Reality, Unfortunately, false copyright claims are a real issue on YouTube. Sometimes, copyright owners mistakenly or maliciously claim content that doesn't infringe on their rights. If you believe a claim has been made in error, you can dispute it. YouTube provides resources on how to dispute a claim, but remember that disputes can lead to legal action, so only dispute if you're confident in your case.

  3. Know the Difference: Fair Use vs. Copyright Violation While it's essential to understand fair use, it's equally important to recognize when you might be violating copyright. Examples of copyright violations include:

    • Uploading full episodes of a TV show or movie without permission
    • Using copyrighted music without proper licensing or permission
    • Re-uploading someone else's content without their consent or without adding any new value

Educate Yourself: YouTube's Copyright Resources YouTube offers several resources to help creators learn about copyright and avoid issues. Here are some helpful links:

In conclusion, navigating YouTube copyright claims can be challenging, but with the right knowledge and resources, you can avoid most issues. To recap our 5 actionable takeaways:

  1. Understand and respect fair use, and be cautious when using copyrighted material.
  2. Familiarize yourself with YouTube's copyright strike system and the consequences of each strike.
  3. Learn about ContentID and how it works to protect copyright owners.
  4. Be aware of false copyright claims and know how to dispute them when necessary.
  5. Recognize the difference between fair use and copyright violation, and avoid infringing on others' rights.


There are three ways to resolve a copyright strike:

  1. Wait for it to expire: Copyright strikes expire after 90 days. If it's your first strike, you'll need to complete Copyright School.
  2. Get a retraction: You can get in touch with the person who claimed your video and ask them to retract their claim of copyright infringement.
  3. Submit a counter-notification: If you think your video was removed by mistake, or qualifies as fair use, you can submit a counter-notification.

Remember, it's crucial to educate yourself on copyright to protect your channel and your hard work. With the right knowledge and a proactive approach, you can continue to create amazing content without the fear of copyright issues. Keep creating, and stay awesome!

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