Getting a copyright claim or strike on your YouTube channel can be confusing and frustrating, especially if you don’t have a firm understanding of why it happens or what you can do about it. It’s important (and responsible) to avoid copyright claims. We’re here to help you understand what it is, why it happens, what to do if it happens to you.
What is a copyright claim?
Practically every piece of music is protected by a copyright license. Copyrights are sometimes be held by a single creator, by an agency or by multiple people (i.e., writer, singer and producer). There are copyrights on most written works, films and videos as well. If you’re posting or using pieces of any of these without explicit written permission from copyright owners, you’re infringing on a copyright. There, however, are exceptions for Fair Use, allowing copyrighted content to be shared for reasons such as education, reaction, analysis and reporting.
YouTube, Facebook, Twitch and Instagram allow some users to use sophisticated monitoring systems like Content ID and Identifyy to automatically scan content to seek out potentially copyrighted materials being used. If an infringement is found, it will cause a system-generated copyright claim. It also alerts the copyright owners so that they can decide what to do about it.
How does it differ from a copyright strike?
Once a copyright owner discovers your infringement they can choose to do nothing and your content remains unaffected (seems unlikely). If they want to take action, they can choose to monetize your video with ads, track your video (preventing you from monetizing) so that they can decide to monetize it later, or they can request to have your video taken down entirely. If they choose to take action, it will cause a copyright strike on your YouTube channel. Removing the offending video won’t make a strike disappear. Plus, on sites that use strikes, collecting three strikes will get you permanently banned.
What to do when you receive a copyright claim
If you’ve received a copyright claim, consider whether the claim is legit. If you’ve used content without following the proper channels, this may turn into a strike. Learn how to deal with a copyright strike here. However, if there’s a possibility that the claim is valid, there are a few ways to avoid the strike. You can edit the video to trim out the segment with the infringement, mute or change the audio (for music infringements), or agree to revenue sharing with the copyright owners.
Each platform will have details on submitting your dispute if you believe that you have the right to use the content.
In some cases, a claim might be invalid and you’ll want to dispute it. The Content ID (or whichever system) will occasionally identify a piece incorrectly. Also, it has no way to know if you have a copyright license to use the piece. Beware of fraudulent copyright claims that require disputes, as well. Each platform will have details on submitting your dispute if you believe that you have the right to use the content. Be sure to include any supporting documents such as a copyright license or letter granting permission (see below).
When a copyright claim is not a copyright claim
The point of copyright claims and strikes is to ensure people are getting paid. It’s not surprising to learn that several scams exist. There are phishing messages disguised as claims that seek to collect your personal information and passwords. Others try to get creators to agree to terms for revenue sharing even though they don’t own the copyrights. This happened to YouTuber Aram Pan (20.6k subscribers) of South Korea in 2016. He had used original music licensed from Digital Juice in his videos. He received an infringement notice from a K-Pop media group claiming that song was theirs under a different title. You can read his first-hand story, How I Turned a BS YouTube Copyright Claim Back on the Real Infringer.
How to get permission from the copyright holder
Obviously, the best thing for a creator to do is to uphold the rights of other creators. Do this by always getting permission to use their works. If you’re trying to gain approval to use high-profile content, it’s important to know that the original author/creator might not be the owner. You can try to find the true owner by checking these sites:
- Records from the US Copyright Office
- Copyright Clearance Center
- The WATCH (Writers, Artists, and Their Copyright Holders) database
- Copyright Advisory Office of Columbia University
Once you’ve identified the copyright owner, you can contact them to negotiate terms for licensing. Be prepared to discuss the exact content you wish to use, why and for how long. Then, discuss the terms of payment or exchange that will benefit the copyright owner fairly. Once everything is decided, it’s critical to get it in writing. Follow up with an email that specifically outlines your conversation and request a reply granting permission. If you receive any copyright claims during the timeframe of your license, this documentation is the proof you’ll need.