It was forecasted not that long ago that content curation would become the new trend on YouTube and other such platforms. Indeed, reposting and reacting to other people’s content draws in viewers and keeps your channel relevant within the YouTube community. Over the years, creators have developed ways to share content without receiving that dreaded copyright strike notification.

Avoiding a copyright strike from YouTube can be complicated. With so much ambiguity, how can the trend of content curation continue, and what are these creators doing now to avoid copyright strikes? 

Fair use and its limits

When thinking about fair use on YouTube, H3H3’s fair use lawsuit, Hosseinzadeh v. Klein, immediately comes to mind. This case from 2017 still resonates today, strengthing fair use as a viable defense against copyright claims.

The best way to start is to understand the topic of fair use. Basically, the clause protects the use of copyrighted material for criticism, commentary, or parody. Determining whether or not your video is protected by fair use requires answering a series of questions: Does the clip you use illustrate a point? Is the point clear to average viewer? Also, did you use only the amount that was reasonably appropriate to make your point? There’s more to it than that, but with this as a foundation, we can better understand what YouTube looks for when identifying copyright infringement versus a legitimate case of fair use. 

Screenshot from YouTube's copyright claim tool
YouTube can automatically identify some copyrighted content, while content not in their Copyright Match database can be manually flagged.

The terms set by fair use create a path that creators and curators can follow. It’s how some channels get away with using clips from the media, films and music to create eloquent and thoughtful video essays and critiques.

Other ways to clear copyrighted content

But what about when your curated content doesn’t fall under the umbrella of fair use? How do content curators avoid copyright strikes in these situations? At first glance, it is hard to say. Most of the process of clearing copyright takes place behind the scenes.

But what about when your curated content doesn’t fall under the umbrella of fair use?

It may be true that some curators use copyrighted content blatantly and don’t incur copyrighted strikes out of pure luck. Not all copyrighted material is in the YouTube database, meaning it won’t be flagged automatically. Therefore, the owner of the content would have to manually claim the video. It may also help if the curator doesn’t monetize the video. However, the try-it-and-see approach is not recommended.

A definite route to the safe use of copyrighted material is to ask for permission to gain cleared access to the clip or video. But this means you’ll need to find the person or entity that holds the rights.

Another option for content curators is to ask for submissions from subscribers. Curators ask the public for content and their audience delivers. The process of submitting the content releases the rights to that content. That means the curator could use it without fear of getting flagged. Daily Dose of Internet uses the tactic to curate engaging content around shared human experiences. 

Screenshot from Daily Dose of  Internet
Daily Dose of Internet creates compilation videos from viewer submissions, which also makes the curation process more efficient.

Best practices for curating content

No matter your style, keep in mind that the best approach is always to choose only clips that you know you are allowed to use. So to further help in this process, here are four best practices to follow when curating content:

  • Check the copyright status of the material. You can search for Creative Commons licenses or other licenses on the content. Also, check out privacy statements and terms and conditions, especially if your use is commercial.
  • Ask for permission from the original content owner. To avoid copyright claims, it is an excellent strategy to get in touch with people and say you want to link or use a portion of their content. Independent channels are usually delighted. Studios probably won’t get back to you, but it’s worth a shot.
  • Credit the author/creator and source where you can. Always shout out where you got the content, even if it’s just a link. Everyone loves getting credit where credit is due. 
  • Don’t over-use a single source. You don’t want it to look like you just copied or used snippets of one person’s work. Curation is finding the best from multiple sources.

The best approach is to choose only clips you know you are allowed to use.

Now there you have it — a quick look at what fair use is and how to decipher it, plus some strategies for curating content when your channel isn’t in line with the fair use guidelines. Sure, some curators are just getting away with it, but the ones asking for permission or those who ask for submissions can share the content they love knowing they won’t be shut down for copyright infringement. By following the four best practices outlined above, you can streamline the process of searching out content while avoiding copyright strikes.


  1. Nice summary, Marc! Question: I have a subscription to services like Depositphotos and Bigstock. I also use Unsplash. So most of the images I use I’ve paid for or have been released for public use. Do I need to state something to that effect at the bottom of my YouTube video’s description as a pre-emptive measure? I’d assumed it would be a waste of time given that people contracted by YouTube probably wouldn’t bother to read the video’s description. Thanks.

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