YouTube Legal

Understanding And Adhering To Copyright Laws

Fair Use Guidelines

  1. Applying fair use in creating YouTube content

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Applying fair use in creating YouTube content

  • Introduction to fair use

    • Definition of fair use
    • Principles of fair use
    • Importance of fair use in content creation
  • Understanding YouTube's fair use policies

    • YouTube's fair use guidelines
    • How to avoid copyright strikes and claims
    • Resolving copyright disputes
  • Stats, facts, and figures

    • Percentage of content affected by fair use

    • Most common fair use cases

    • Commentary and critique

    • Parodies and transformative content

    • Educational content and news reporting

  • Do's and don'ts of applying fair use

    • Ensure transformative work
    • Give credit and proper attribution
    • Avoid using copyrighted content without permission
    • Follow the four factors of fair use
    • Be cautious with commercial use
  • Tools and resources for fair use compliance

Fair Use Guidelines


Fair use is an essential aspect of copyright law that allows creators to use copyrighted material without obtaining permission in specific situations. This concept applies to various types of content, including music, movies, and television shows. Understanding fair use is crucial for YouTube creators as it can help protect their content from copyright claims and strikes.

Fair Use Factors

When determining whether a use of copyrighted material falls under fair use, courts generally consider four main factors:

  1. The purpose and character of the use
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used
  4. The effect of the use on the potential market for the copyrighted work

Each factor requires detailed analysis, which often makes fair use decisions subjective and situational.

Many YouTube creators produce videos analyzing and criticizing copyrighted content, such as movie reviews and reactions to music videos. These videos typically qualify as fair use because they provide commentary, education, or criticism of the copyrighted material. However, it's essential to use only the necessary portions of the copyrighted work and not to copy the entire work.

Parodies are a popular category of content on YouTube, often providing humor or satire by imitating copyrighted works. Parodies are generally protected as fair use because they transform the original work into something new and amusing.

Educational content is often allowed under fair use, especially when copyrighted material is used to support teaching or instructional purposes. However, even with educational intentions, it is crucial to use only the necessary portions of copyrighted content.

  • Use copyrighted material to support commentary, criticism, education, or parody
  • Attribute the original creator or source when possible
  • Use only the necessary portions of copyrighted content
  • Seek legal advice if unsure of your usage
  • Rely on copyrighted material as the primary focus of your content
  • Claim fair use when the primary purpose is for entertainment or commercial gain
  • Use copyrighted material without any transformative purpose
  • Assume that a certain percentage or length of copyrighted material automatically qualifies as fair use

Navigating the complex world of fair use can be challenging, but understanding its concept and limitations is essential for any YouTube creator. By carefully considering how you use copyrighted material in your videos and adhering to the fair use principles, you can avoid copyright issues and create content that is both engaging and legally compliant.

To further enhance your skills as a YouTube creator, be sure to check out our article on how to make YouTube videos for tips, equipment, and inspiration.

Fair Use Guidelines

Table of Contents

  1. Definition of Fair Use
  2. Factors to Consider in Fair Use
  3. Best Practices for Using Content with Fair Use
    • Do's
    • Don'ts
  4. Fair Use Exceptions
  5. How to Avoid Copyright Strikes
  6. Additional Resources
Definition of Fair Use

Fair use is a legal doctrine that allows for the use of copyrighted material without obtaining permission from the copyright owner. It is intended to promote creativity and innovation by permitting limited use of copyrighted materials for purposes, such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.

Factors to Consider in Fair Use

When determining whether your use of copyrighted material falls under fair use, you should consider the following four factors:

  1. Purpose and character of use (whether the use is transformative, commercial, or non-profit)
  2. Nature of the copyrighted work
  3. Amount and substantiality of the portion used concerning the entire copyrighted work
  4. Effect of the use on the potential market or value of the copyrighted work
  • Parody
  • News reporting
  • Educational use (teaching and research)
  • Critique and review of copyrighted material
  • Transformed content (such as memes, remixes, and mashups)
Best Practices for Using Content with Fair Use
  • Always provide credit to the original creator and source
  • Use only the smallest portion necessary for your purpose
  • Ensure that your use does not negatively impact the market or value of the copyrighted work
  • Clearly state that your use is intended under fair use guidelines
  • Use copyrighted materials in a way that is substantially similar to the original work
  • Use copyrighted materials without adding value or commentary
  • Profit from the use of copyrighted materials without permission
  • Assume that any use of copyrighted materials is automatically considered fair use
Fair Use Exceptions

Some types of content are not protected by copyright and can be used freely, including:

  • Works in the public domain
  • Works created by the U.S. government
  • Creative Commons licensed works
How to Avoid Copyright Strikes

To avoid receiving a YouTube copyright strike, always review and understand fair use principles before using copyrighted material. If you're concerned that your content may not meet fair use guidelines, consider alternatives, such as using stock footage or royalty-free music, seeking permission from the copyright owner, or creating your own original content.

Additional Resources

For a deeper understanding of fair use principles and how they apply to YouTube, consider the following resources:

To learn more about creating content for YouTube, including how to make YouTube videos, check out our additional resources on content creation, video production, and more.

Identifying Copyrighted Content

  1. Determining if content is under public domain
  2. Identifying Creative Commons Licensed Materials

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Determining if content is under public domain

Identifying public domain content

Before using content in your YouTube video, it is important to determine if it is under the public domain. This section provides a thorough analysis of guidelines, pointers, and resources for verifying public domain content.

Guidelines for determining public domain content
  1. Date of publication: One of the significant factors contributing to public domain status is the age of the material. Generally, works published before 1924 are in the public domain in the United States. However, this may vary according to the country where the work originated.
  2. Creator's death: In many jurisdictions, a work enters the public domain 70 years after the creator's death. It is essential to investigate the creator's death date to verify if the content is under public domain.
  3. Proper notification and renewal of copyrights: In some cases, copyrighted works may enter the public domain if the copyright holder failed to place proper notifications or failed to renew their copyrights in the required time frame.
  4. Government works: In the United States and many other countries, materials created by the government are often in the public domain, but this may vary depending on the specific jurisdiction.
Resources for verifying public domain content
  1. Library of Congress: The Library of Congress has a comprehensive list of resources to help users determine if a work is under public domain.

  2. Project Gutenberg: Project Gutenberg is a digital library with over 60,000 eBooks in the public domain.

  3. Internet Archive: The Internet Archive has a large collection of public domain materials, including videos, audios, books, and software.

  4. Many classical music compositions, such as Beethoven's symphonies and Mozart's operas, are in the public domain.

  5. Paintings and artwork created in the 19th century or earlier, such as Van Gogh's Starry Night and Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa.

  6. Silent films and early talkies, like Charlie Chaplin's The Tramp (1914) and Buster Keaton's Sherlock Jr. (1924), are also often in the public domain.


  • Verify the public domain status of the content you wish to use through credible resources and databases.
  • Attribute the creator properly, even if the content is in the public domain, as it is an ethical practice to do so.
  • Understand the public domain laws specific to your jurisdiction and adhere to them while using public domain content.


Do not assume that content is in the public domain just because it is old or does not have a copyright symbol. Verify it through proper research.

Chart Public Domain Timeline
Year of Publication Public Domain Status
Before 1924 In the public domain
1924-1963 Check the copyright status
1964-1977 Depending on the notice and renewal status
1978 and later Generally still under copyright

Identifying Creative Commons Licensed Materials

Creative Commons (CC) licensing enables creators to specify different levels of copyright permissions for their content, allowing others to share, adapt, or remixed the material as per the licensing terms. In this section, we'll discuss how to identify Creative Commons licensed materials on YouTube.

Locating Creative Commons licensed content

To find CC licensed videos on YouTube, you can either:

  1. Use the YouTube search filter to show only CC licensed content OR
  2. Look for the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) description provided below a video

Please note that only about 4 million videos on YouTube (around 0.1% of all uploaded content) use Creative Commons licenses, according to a 2018 analysis.

Different types of Creative Commons licenses

There are several types of CC licenses to be aware of, each with their own set of permissions and restrictions. These licenses are:

  1. CC BY (Attribution): You may use the material in any way, as long as you give proper credit to the creator.
  2. CC BY-SA (Share-Alike): You may use the material in any way, as long as you give proper credit to the creator, and any derivatives must be shared with the same license.
  3. CC BY-ND (No Derivatives): You may use the material in any way, as long as you give proper credit to the creator and do not create derivatives.
  4. CC BY-NC (Non-Commercial): You may use the material in any way, as long as you give proper credit to the creator and do not use it for commercial purposes.

When using CC licensed material in your videos, always:

  • DO give proper attribution to the original creator(s)
  • DO comply with any license stipulations (such as not using the material for commercial purposes or sharing with the same license type)
  • DO inform the original creator about your usage of the material, if required
  • DON'T monetize any materials with a Non-Commercial (CC BY-NC) license
Relicensing your content with Creative Commons

If you want to apply a Creative Commons license to your YouTube videos, follow these steps:

  1. Open YouTube Studio and navigate to the video settings
  2. Under the Video Details tab, go to the License section and change it from "Standard YouTube License" to the desired Creative Commons license type
  3. Make sure to include a clear CC attribution statement in your video description
External resources for finding Creative Commons materials

Apart from YouTube, other sources for finding CC licensed materials include:

  1. Vimeo
  2. Flickr
  3. Wikimedia Commons
  4. Creative Commons Search

Remember to follow all Creative Commons guidelines and provide proper attribution whenever you use CC licensed materials in your videos. Doing so will not only help support other creators, but also ensure that you avoid YouTube copyright strikes.

Recognizing copyrighted material

  • Videos, movies, and television shows

  • Music and audio recordings

  • Images and photographs

  • Artwork and illustrations

  • Books, articles, and written content

  • 98% of copyright issues on YouTube involve music. (source

  • Over 180 million videos on YouTube have been copyright claimed. (source

  • In 2020, YouTube removed over 2.8 million videos due to copyright infringement. (source


  1. Use original content as much as possible.
  2. Make use of royalty-free music, free sound effects YouTube, and stock footage sites.
  3. Properly attribute and credit the creator of third-party content when required.
  4. Familiarize yourself with fair use laws and guidelines.


  1. Avoid uploading content featuring copyrighted music, videos, or images without permission.
  2. Don't monetize videos that contain copyrighted material, even if it's unintentional.
  3. Avoid using copyrighted content without understanding the rules and terms of use.

Obtaining Permissions for Copyrighted Content

  1. Approaching Rights Holders
  2. Do's
  3. Don'ts

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Obtaining Permissions for Copyrighted Content

Approaching Rights Holders

As a YouTube creator, using copyrighted content in your videos requires obtaining permission from the rights holders. This section covers the essentials of approaching rights holders for permission, complete with statistics, images, tables, and practical tips:

  • Approximately 25.4% of the top 1000 YouTube channels are owned by copyright owners such as music labels and media companies.^^
  • In 2019, around 60 million hours of copyrighted content was removed from YouTube due to copyright infringement issues.^^
Top 5 Music Labels on YouTube Number of Subscribers (in millions)
T-Series 187.9
Cocomelon – Nursery Rhymes 117.2
SET India 112.9
Zee Music Company 77
5-Minute Crafts 72.4
  • ✔️ Identify the rights holders: Research the person or organization that owns the copyright before reaching out.
  • ✔️ Be specific: Clearly describe the portion of the copyrighted material you want to use.
  • ✔️ Make an offer: Suggest a fair-use agreement or request a specific usage fee.
  • ✔️ Be professional: Approach rights holders politely and professionally.
  • ✔️ Document everything: Keep track of your correspondence with the rights holders and maintain records of permissions granted.
  • Assume permission: Never use copyrighted content without explicit permission from the rights holder.
  • Ignore requirements: Don't bypass or disregard any specific requirements or conditions set by the rights holder.
  • Delay in making contact: Proactively approach rights holders well ahead of your video's planned release date.
  • Limit yourself to one channel: Seek alternative avenues (such as royalty-free music on YouTube or creative commons licenses) if you cannot obtain permission from a specific rights holder.

A common scenario is requesting copyright permission for a popular song to use in your YouTube video. In this case, you would need to:

  1. Identify the record label that owns the rights to the song.
  2. Locate the label's contact information, usually found on their website.
  3. Prepare a request, specifying the song, duration, and purpose of your usage, along with any compensation details.
  4. Send your request and follow up as needed.
  5. Ensure you receive written permission before using the song in your video.
  • Content ID Match: 60%
  • Copyright Takedown Notice: 26%
  • Duplicate Video: 6%
  • Inappropriate Content: 4%
  • Other: 4%

Understanding YouTube's copyright system is crucial for creators. To further improve your video production knowledge and skills, explore our resources on how to make YouTube videos.

: Social Blade. (2021). Top 1000 Most Subscribed YouTube Channels (sorted by Subscribers Count). Retrieved from : Google. (2019). How Google Fights Piracy: 2019 Update. Retrieved from

Negotiating licenses and agreements

When using copyrighted content in your YouTube videos, it's essential to obtain the necessary permissions and negotiate licenses and agreements with the copyright holder. This section will discuss various aspects of the negotiation process, from understanding different types of licenses to knowing the right approach to secure the best deals.

5.2.1. Types of licenses

Understanding the different types of licenses is fundamental when negotiating with copyright holders. Here are some of the common types of licenses you may encounter:

  • Non-exclusive license: This allows you to use the copyrighted content without excluding others from using it.
  • Exclusive license: This grants you exclusive rights to use the copyrighted content, preventing others from doing so during the license period.
  • Synchronization license: This license permits you to use copyrighted music in a video, synchronizing it with your content.
  • Master use license: This is specifically for using pre-recorded music and is often negotiated along with a synchronization license.

5.2.2. Factors to consider when negotiating

When negotiating a license or agreement, it's important to consider factors such as:

  • The duration of your license.
  • Potential territorial restrictions.
  • The intended use of the copyrighted content.
  • Fees associated with the license.
  • Credit requirements for the copyright holder.

5.2.3. Knowing your worth

It's crucial to have a clear understanding of the value you bring to the table when negotiating a license or agreement. Consider factors such as your audience size, engagement metrics, and conversion rates to help you determine your worth.

5.2.4. Researching competitive rates

Prior to negotiating, you should research competitive rates for licenses in your industry. This will help you have a better understanding of what to expect when negotiating and give you points of reference during the discussion.

5.2.5. Presenting a fair offer

When presenting your initial offer, it's crucial to strike a balance between targeting your desired terms and respecting the copyright holder's interest. Be prepared to make concessions, but aim to maintain a win-win outcome for both parties involved.

5.2.6. Keeping documentation

Ensure that all agreements and licenses are documented in writing. This will provide legal protection and serve as a clear reference for both parties on the agreed-upon terms.

5.2.7. Understanding YouTube's copyright policies

Familiarize yourself with YouTube's stance on copyright and its implications for your content. Knowing how YouTube enforces copyright policies will help you make informed decisions when negotiating licenses and agreements.

Obtaining Permissions for Copyrighted Content
Royalty-free and licensed music options

When it comes to selecting music for your YouTube videos, you have several options at your disposal to avoid running into copyright disputes. These include royalty-free music and using licensed music from trusted sources.

Top Royalty-Free Music Websites:

  1. Incompetech
  2. Bensound
  3. Audionautix
  4. SoundCloud
  5. Free Music Archive

Trusted Licensed Music Sources for YouTube videos:

  1. YouTube Audio Library
  2. Epidemic Sound
  3. Artlist
  4. Musicbed
  5. Thematic


  • Always verify the license details and conditions for each music track or source
  • Credit the composer or music track in your video description (if required)
  • Keep a copy of the license agreement for your records


  • Assume that all music labeled as "free" is truly free to use without restrictions
  • Use music with "Creative Commons" licenses without understanding the specific conditions attached to the license
  • Ignore the potential consequences of receiving a YouTube copyright strike for using unauthorized music

The chart above shows the average pricing of popular licensed music subscriptions, giving you an idea of the costs involved in obtaining legal music for your YouTube content.

For more information on how to create and edit videos, visit our guide on how to make YouTube videos.

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  • Platform to Manage Brand Deals
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  • Channel/Thumbnail Optimization

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