YouTube can seem like a gift that keeps on giving. Other times, it can leave legos all over the floor when you don’t have shoes on. It’s monetarily free-to-use and videos made with nothing but time and effort can see great success with millions of views. At the same time, videos can have large budgets and receive no views whatsoever. YouTube can feel like it has no rules, but as many content creators know, there are YouTube copyright laws to watch out for.

YouTube copyright laws will get a video blocked, demonetized, or not pushed by YouTube’s search algorithm. Whether it’s footage, music, or iconography, YouTube’s copyright law may kill your video before it’s even released.

This affects everyone big and small because everything is owned by someone. The weird thing is that not everyone who owns the footage, music, or images used in someone else’s video wants people to stop using them. Yet companies may still find themselves blocking someone else’s video. That sounds crazy, let us explain before you start trying to use YouTube and get into trouble.

What Is Copyright Law?

Copyright law exists outside of YouTube. It’s a system where a person or entity can declare ownership over an idea, creative work, or similar intellectual property (IP). Many countries around the world, including the United States, have their own laws that dictate how long someone can hold ownership over their IP, how they need to document and register it, and how they can enforce their ownership.

Copyrights are not all-encompassing and don’t give a person or entity complete control over an IP. People mentioning an IP in their creative works or reviewing them is not an infraction on the IP. An IP holder cannot take legal action against someone for doing so. When it comes to footage, music, and other visual creatives that are commonly repurposed into a video, there is still some confusion about what people can and can’t do. To clear this up, we have Fair Use laws that now serve as the basis of YouTube copyright policy.

Fair Use Laws

Fair Use is a legal doctrine that gives people the right to use copyrighted works without a license in specific circumstances. These circumstances include:

  • Criticism
  • Comment
  • News reporting
  • Teaching
  • Scholarship
  • Research

This protects things such as reviews, news articles, classroom usage, dissertations, and scholarly and financial reports.

This means that the majority of YouTube videos where people use footage and images to make a comment about a creative work should be protected as long as they aren’t distributing the content in excess. But, who defines what is showing too much content, and who defines whether a video is Fair Use? Not U.S. copyright law as you may think, but YouTube.

How Does YouTube Copyright Law Work?

When someone posts a video on YouTube and it has five to ten minutes of footage from the most recent Marvel movie, Marvel should be understandably upset. That’s the footage they own that was released illegally, but who do they hold responsible? Not only the person who uploaded it but YouTube, who made it possible.

Whenever someone posts a video on YouTube with footage or music they didn’t get permission to use, YouTube runs the risk of getting legally attacked for it. To avoid this, YouTube began scanning every video that gets uploaded to YouTube a long time ago. During this scan, they make sure that a video either has permission from the IP holder, or tracks how much they use the IP in their video.

Then, if they don’t have permission, YouTube measures how long each clip of footage or music is. This way, they can see if it would be considered copyright infringement. Fair Use laws never specify how much a person can use a copyrighted work, so YouTube decided clips longer than 30 seconds were copyright infringement. In practice, it’s more like 20 seconds for film and movies and nothing at all for music. Even if you follow the rules of having only a series of short clips, you may still see YouTube demonetize your video. Do you see the problem?

The Problem With YouTube Copyright Law

Since the government never set any standards, YouTube made some of its own. This has led to 10-minute or 1-hour long videos being demonetized for a 30-second clip.

Often, if you use several 30-second clips, they’ll just block your video and keep it from posting. That’s potentially hours of work down the drain, and your only recourse is to either edit the video with little knowledge of what you did wrong, or file an appeal. The copyright appeal doesn’t go to YouTube, though, the ones who made the rules. Instead, it goes to the IP holder, which isn’t always correct. This leads to several problems:

  • Your copyright appeal often goes to holding companies who claim your videos and the content in them, rather than the creators themselves. These are people who typically have little knowledge of the IP itself, what you’re doing, and what the actual IP holding would want.
    • They can arbitrarily decide that your video violated their copyright without having to give a reason why. It’s not unheard of for this to lead to your channel getting a copyright strike. If you have too many strikes, your channel can be shut down.
  • In the age of influencer marketing, YouTube channels that make content about your stuff will often drive sales. When IP holders don’t see the video that their company is claiming, they miss out on the potential marketing opportunities being offered to them.
  • Companies and/or their representatives will unilaterally block all videos that use their content in any way to save them time from having to investigate a video. The video never gets a good shake, and the content creator doesn’t know how they can change the video so it can be posted.
  • Content creators live in fear of their video being blocked and never learning why. Then, they live in fear of their videos being randomly taken down without notice or warning after it’s posted. Hours, maybe weeks, of work can go up in flames at any moment.

Partner With Someone Who Understands YouTube Copyright Policy

YouTube doesn’t make it easy to be successful on its platform. To succeed, you need to understand the intricacies of the platform’s policies, gain experience from seeing your video get blocked, and create content that’s as wholly original as possible. YouTube is a free tool used to connect to billions of different people every day, so you shouldn’t just skip it.

If you can’t maintain your own YouTube channel and abide by YouTube’s rigid copyright policies, team up with a marketing firm that can. The team at ENX2 Marketing has the experience, ability, and creativity to make quality content that gets past YouTube. Contact us today to work with our expert social media marketing team.