YouTube is a convenient way to host videos. Many of our clients use it to embed videos on their websites. The biggest downside is that you have to contend with YouTube’s sometimes vexing copyright policy. If your video contains copyrighted music, for example, you may be subject to a copyright claim even though the music was properly licensed.

YouTube has two types of copyright claims. A manual claim means a copyright owner identified that their copyrighted content has been used without their permission and used the Manual Claiming tool to claim your video. On the other hand, an automated Content ID claim is generated when a video uploaded to YouTube is scanned against a database of files that have been submitted by content owners and the system finds a match between the audio or visual reference files and the video.

In July, YouTube announced some changes to its policy regarding manual copyright claims. To reduce the headaches that creators experience when addressing claims, YouTube now requires that anyone submitting a manual copyright claim must identify the exact place in the video where the copyrighted content appears. The company also provides some tools for creators to edit out or replace that content quickly, should they not wish to dispute the claim.

Before this update, there was a good deal of guesswork that went into addressing manual claims. Creators had to scan their video to locate the content in question and sometimes wouldn’t be sure what piece of content was being claimed. So, in theory, this policy update puts more responsibility on the claimant and makes the process more fair to the creator.

It is a good step, but YouTube is effectively fixing the most absurd policy on the internet — that anyone can place a claim, and they won’t direct you to the piece of the offending content. They now at least provide a map. But it doesn’t do much to address the issue of bogus claims.

Preventing Copyright Claims

When creating videos for commercial purposes, make sure you are correctly licensing any footage, music, or imagery incorporated. It may be obvious to most, but it’s worth reiterating that you can’t download a song from iTunes and use it as the soundtrack to your video. You do not hold the rights to use that piece of music. With visual content, pay attention to details such as whether the content you are using is model-released or if the license specifies it is for editorial use only. You even want to notice your surroundings when recording. If there is a popular song playing in the background of your video, that will likely be a claim. There are, of course, instances when you can use copyrighted content as fair use, like as a parody. Know the guidelines to make sure fair use applies to your work.


Here’s an example of a video that contains properly licensed music and visuals.

Keep it legal!

Bill Haley

P.S. Have a topic you’d like to see discussed? Let me know and I’ll try to get to it in a future post.

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