Copyright on YouTube can play a big role in your creations. Keep on reading to find out what’s what.

copyrightCopyright is a hot topic on YouTube and for a good reason: Millions of videos are being uploaded every day on YouTube, and that’s why it is crucial to secure your content from other users through copyright protection! But what exactly is copyright? And what is fair use? And how are you, as a creator, affected by it? We gathered all the answers for you! Let’s check it out!

First, let’s have a look at what copyright actually is: It is the exclusive right of ownership of material. In other words, if your original content has copyright protection, it means that it is secure from other parties to use your content without your agreement. There are various types of work that can be subject to copyright on YouTube; such as audiovisual works (movies, TV series etc.), recordings and compositions (sounds and music), written works (books, articles etc.), visual works (paintings, posters, advertisement), video games and computer software, and finally dramatic works (plays, musicals). It is important to note, that if you are producing this type of work and you want to qualify it for copyright protection, it has to meet two criteria: the work has to be creative and has to be fixed in a tangible medium.  Beware that ideas, facts, processes, names and titles by themselves, are not considered as a subject to copyright.

However, sometimes retrieving copyrighted content is essential for you to create a certain type of video, such as a parody or even a short documentary. This is when the fair use doctrine comes into play. The fair use doctrine is a legislation that implies the permission of reusing copyright-protected work without the permission of the content owner, under some strict circumstances. In other words, you have the right to use a certain amount of copyright-protected work, as long as you are using just the necessary amount of it, the purpose of your work differs from the original, and lastly, the work you created is very transformative and creative. For example, in the USA, content that involves commentary, criticism, research, teaching or news reporting can be considered as fair use, however, in some other countries the rules differ and the term fair use can also be found under the term fair dealing. For this reason, it is important to inform yourself about the legislations in your own country. For more information regarding the fair use doctrine, have a look at the YouTube Fair Use Guidelines

To ensure that your content falls under the fair use doctrine, you can ask yourself these four questions:

  • What are you doing with the copyrighted content?

The more you derive from the storyline and purpose of the original content, the more likely your content is going to be covered by fair use.

  • What is the nature of the copyrighted content you are using?

The less fictional or creative the original content is, the more likely your content is going to be covered under the fair use doctrine.

  • How much of the original content are you using?

Try to use just enough of the original content to carry your point across; make sure to use just the necessary amount of the original content.

  • Will your work serve as a substitute for the original?

Make sure that your video does not take views or sales from the original content.

Bear in mind that even if you give credits to the owner, or refrain your video from monetization, noticed similar content on other videos, purchased or recorded the content yourself or even stated that “no copyright infringement is intended, does not mean that your video cannot be claimed by a copyright owner.  The most secure way to use copyright-protected content from a content owner still remains to ask directly the owner for the permission to use his material.


Famous cases

As a creator, you also have to be aware how the use of copyright-protected work can affect you and your channel. There have been many cases over the past couples of years, regarding the misuse of the fair use doctrine and copyright infringement. For you to have a better idea, we gathered two of the most famous cases of copyright infringement in the YouTube world:

phanThe tragedy of YouTube star Michelle Phan:

Loved YouTube beauty guru Michelle Phan, who’s fanbase reach approximately 8.6 million subscribers, has been sued a few years ago (2014), for copyright infringement, by the famous music label, Ultra Records. According to the music label, Michelle has used more than 50 songs as background music for her videos without their authorization. However, Michelle claims that she did have the authorization via email, but not the license. Ultra Records includes artists such as Calvin Harris, Deadmau5 and Kaskade, who himself did not support the claims his label is throwing on Michelle. As a result, the music label has asked for 150K $ for each proven copyright infringement, but the final outcome remains unknown for the public.

If you want to know more about Michelle’s case, click here!

What you can learn from it: Make sure that your video really falls under the fair use doctrine, and if you want to use a copyright protected work, then make sure you have the license for it or a written permission from the content owner.


h3h3H3h3 Productions: Fair use battle

H3H3 Productions, a well-known YouTube channel founded and hosted by the Klein couple have been sued for a parody video they created in 2016. Their video consisted of a critical commentary review regarding a video the YouTuber Matt Hoss uploaded, named “Bold Guy vs Parkour Girl”. The couple received many letters from Matt’s lawyer and then they decided to take action and the case ended up in court. The whole lawsuit took a year long, and the outcome turned out well for the Kleins. The video that H3H3 produced has been analyzed and the judge’s final opinion was, that indeed the video, without any doubt, falls under the fair use doctrine.

For more info about the H3H3 Productions case, click here!


What you can learn from it: Since copyright is a complex topic, you have to really pay attention to the content you are uploading. Furthermore, it is not usual, for big corporations or other similar businesses to take advantage of creators, so do not hesitate to consult a lawyer to see where you stand. 


We hope that this article will help you carry on producing amazing content without getting into troubles! If you have any questions, do not hesitate to write them in the comment sections, and if you want to have more information on this topic click HERE