In a nutshell

  • Copyright is a legal right that allows businesses and creators to control how their original works are reproduced, distributed and performed; when these works are used without permission on platforms like YouTube, copyright claims can be made.
  • YouTube’s Content ID system can automatically detect and match content to protect copyright owners, but it can also mistakenly flag content that falls under fair use, leading to issues like demonetization.
  • If you receive a copyright claim, assess if it’s legitimate, consider counterclaiming if it falls under fair use or negotiate rights if you’ve used copyrighted material.

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. However, the journey to becoming a successful YouTuber will likely be riddled with copyright claims.

We’re here to help you understand what it is, why it happens, and what to do if it happens to you.

Copyright is a legal protection granted to the creators of original works. Copyrights are sometimes held by a single creator, by an agency, or by multiple people (i.e., writer, singer, and producer). Regardless, it gives the creator(s) exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, and publicly perform their creations. When a creator uploads a video to YouTube, they implicitly grant the platform a license to display and distribute the content. They still have the right to their work on YouTube.

When a copyright holder believes their work has been used without permission by another creator on YouTube, they can file a copyright claim manually. YouTube considers this a manual content ID claim. Copyright holders need to use the Manual Claiming tool to file a manual content ID claim. YouTube intends for the Manual Claiming tool to give copyright owners a way to manually claim videos not matched by Content ID — more on that later. To try to discourage false claims, YouTube requires copyright holders to provide a timestamp where their content is in the video they are claiming. Unfortunately, many companies and creators have abused the system for their own benefit. For example, in 2021, PewDiePie received a copyright claim for using his own song “B!tch Lasagna” after a company named RepostNetwork claimed ownership of the song, claiming to be acting on behalf of PewDiePie. Thankfully, YouTube removed the claim after it was brought to light.

What about Content ID claims?

A Content ID claim is automatically generated when an uploaded video matches another video (or segment of a video) in YouTube’s Content ID system.

Depending on the copyright owner’s Content ID settings, Content ID claims can:

  • Block a video from being viewed.
  • Monetize the video by running ads on it, sometimes sharing revenue with the uploader.
  • Track the video’s viewership statistics.

Issues with false positives

The Content ID system can mistakenly flag content as copyright-infringing even when it’s used legally. Creators who do movie reviews with clips from the film, parodies, or educational music courses with song snippets can all face false positives, which leads to video demonetization. While creators can appeal, the time it takes for YouTube to review the claim leads to massive profit loss since the majority of a video’s views come in during the first few days since its upload.

If you’ve received a copyright claim, start by considering if the claim is legitimate. Did you violate copyright, or do you think the claim is uncalled for? Your answer will determine what you do next.

If you believe the copyright claim is incorrect:


If your use of copyrighted material falls under fair use or you have acquired the rights to use it and were flagged by YouTube’s content ID, you can file a counterclaim. This challenges the copyright holder’s claim and, if successful, allows you to remonetize your video.

If you did violate copyright, you can:

If you want to keep the copyrighted content in your video, you can try contacting the copyright holder and requesting permission to use the content. Sometimes, the Content ID system flags your content on its own without the copyright holder knowing. If they’re fine with you using the content, then you can clear it up with YouTube. If the copyright holder manually claimed your video, that will be a bit trickier. They may be open to coming to a compromise with you on the sharing rights. You can try to find the true owner by checking these sites:

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.

Ultimately, respect the copyright holder’s decision. If they don’t want you to use their content in your video, abide by it if it doesn’t fall under fair use. It’s important to understand that copyright protection exists to preserve the integrity of original works. This protection is a safeguard for intellectual property and preserving revenue streams. When content is used without permission, it may cause damages such as financial loss and a loss of control over the work.

In extreme cases, where the copyright claim is erroneous or abusive, creators may need to consider legal action. However, this is a costly and time-consuming process that requires legal counsel and should be a last resort.

Edit or remove the content

If only a portion of your video is being claimed, YouTube allows you to use its built-in video editor to remove the section in question. However, this approach can’t work for everyone. For instance, if you’re doing an educational analysis of Taylor Swift’s song “Lover,” it would be hard to cut all instances of the song. Also, while YouTube’s editor is helpful, it’s quite limited. So, you may have to edit the video using your own video editing software and re-upload it.

Copyright claims can be extremely stressful, but YouTubers, no matter how careful they are, often face them at some point. Keep calm and consider the next best course of action using the steps above.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Contributing authors to this article include: Landon Dyksterhouse and Tiffany Harness