What is Copyright?
When a person creates an original work that is fixed in a physical medium, he or she automatically owns copyright to the work. The owner has the exclusive right to use the work in certain, specific ways.
- Audiovisual works, such as TV shows, movies, and online videos
- Sound recordings and musical compositions
- Written works, such as lectures, articles, books, and musical compositions
- Visual works, such as paintings, posters, and advertisements
- Video games and computer software
- Dramatic works, such as plays and musicals
Ideas, facts, and processes are not subject to copyright. In order to be eligible for copyright protection, a work must be both creative and fixed in a tangible medium. Names and titles are not, by themselves, subject to copyright.
In some circumstances, it is possible to use a copyright-protected work without infringing the owner’s copyright. For more about this, you may want to learn about fair use.
Your video can still be claimed by a copyright owner, even if you have…
- Given credit to the copyright owner
- Refrained from monetizing the infringing video
- Noticed similar videos that appear on YouTube
- Purchased the content on iTunes, a CD, or DVD
- Recorded the content yourself from TV, a movie theater, or the radio
- Stated that “no copyright infringement is intended”
Some content creators choose to make their work available for reuse with certain requirements. For more about this, you may wish to learn about the Creative Commons license.
Learn more about how to get permission to use someone else’s content in your video.
No. YouTube isn’t able to mediate rights ownership disputes. When we receive a complete takedown notice, we remove the content as the law requires. When we receive a valid counter notification we forward it to the person who requested the removal. After this, it’s up to the parties involved to resolve the issue in court.
Copyright is just one form of intellectual property. It’s not the same as trademark, which protects brand names, mottos, logos, and other source identifiers from being used by others for certain purposes. It is also different from patent law, which protects inventions.
YouTube offers a separate removal process for videos which violate trademark, trade secret, or other laws.
Just because you appear in a video, image, or audio recording does not mean you own the copyright to it. For example, if your friend filmed a conversation between the two of you, she would own the copyright to that video recording. The words the two of you are speaking are not subject to copyright separately from the video itself, unless they were fixed in advance.
If your friend, or someone else, uploaded a video, image, or recording of you without your permission, and you feel it violates your privacy or safety, you may wish to file a privacy complaint.
Frequently Asked Questions
General copyright questions
Copyrightable works eventually lose their copyright protection and are said to fall into the “public domain,” making them free for everyone to use. It typically takes many years for works to fall into the public domain. The length of a term of copyright protection varies depending on where and when the work was published, whether the work was commissioned as a work for hire, and other factors. Certain works created by US federal government agencies fall into the public domain immediately upon publication. Keep in mind that the rules for public domain differ in other countries.
It is your responsibility to verify that a work is indeed in the public domain before you upload it to YouTube. There is no official list of works in the public domain. However, there are some useful resources online that might help you. Columbia University Libraries and the Copyright Information Center at Cornell University both offer helpful guides to works that may fall in the public domain. Neither YouTube, nor either university, can guarantee that all the works linked to are free from copyright protection.
The above sites are referred to for educational purposes only and are not endorsed by YouTube.
You need the copyright owner’s permission to create new works based on their original content. Derivative works may include sequels, translations, spin-offs, adaptations, etc. You’ll probably want to get legal advice from an expert before uploading videos that are based on the characters, storylines, and other elements of copyright-protected material.
The European Commission’s website has some helpful information and links about copyright in European Union countries.
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has a list of international intellectual property and copyright offices where you may find information about copyright laws applicable for your country.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation provides a database of copyright laws around the world.
The above sites are referred to for educational purposes only and are not endorsed by YouTube.
Questions for YouTube uploaders
If you plan to include copyright-protected material in your video, you’ll generally need to seek permission to do so first. YouTube cannot grant you these rights and we are unable to assist you in finding and contacting the parties who may be able to grant them to you. This is something you’ll have to research and handle on your own or with the assistance of a lawyer.
For example, YouTube cannot grant you the rights to use content that has already been uploaded to the site. If you wish to use someone else’s YouTube video, you may want to reach out to them via our messaging feature.
However, we do offer features aimed at helping you find material you can incorporate into your video without encountering copyright issues:
- An easy way to find background music or sound effects for your YouTube videos is in YouTube’s Audio Library. You can search for music that’s free for you to use.
- The Audio Library also helps you discover music that will usually be monetized by copyright owners, so your video will remain live on YouTube with ads, and the revenue will be paid to the owners of the music. Learn more about the difference between royalty-free and ad-supported music in the Audio Library.
- In the YouTube Video Editor, you can remix videos that other members of the YouTube community have uploaded under the Creative Commons license.
If you have cleared the rights to use certain copyright-protected material in your video, you may want to alert the original copyright owner of your video’s title and URL on YouTube, to avoid a mistaken removal.
Before you issue a dispute, you may want to ask yourself a few questions to make sure it’s a valid dispute:
- Are you the copyright owner of the material in your video?
- Do you have permission to all third-party material in your video from the appropriate copyright owner(s)?
- Is your use of copyrighted material covered by fair use, fair dealing, or a similar exception under the applicable copyright law?
If one of the conditions above applies to your video, you may want to research the most appropriate dispute process or consult an attorney. If not, you may be in violation of copyright laws.
Just because you purchased content doesn’t mean that you own the rights to upload it to YouTube. Even if you give the copyright owner credit, posting videos that include content you purchased may still violate copyright law.
Additionally, recording a television show, video game, concert or other performance with your phone, camera or microphone doesn’t mean that you own all rights to upload it to YouTube. This is true even if the event or show you recorded was open to the public. For example, recording a concert of your favorite band does not necessarily give you the right to upload the video without permission from the appropriate rights owners.
Questions for copyright owners
No, you cannot. You are required to identify any allegedly infringing content by its video URL.
Below are instructions on how to obtain a video URL:
- Find the video in question on YouTube.
- In the address bar at the top, you’ll see the video URL. It should look like this: www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxxxxxxxxxx
Copyright takedowns are formal, legal requests that require specific elements in order to be complete and actionable.
When we receive an incomplete or otherwise invalid copyright request — be it a takedown notification or a counter notification — we respond with information that will help the sender complete their request.
If you received a response like this following your submission of a copyright request, it is important to review it carefully and respond accordingly. In most cases, we won’t be able to take action on your request until you do so.
In accordance with copyright law, we require complete copyright notifications for each removal request.
The easiest way to submit another complaint is to sign into your Google or YouTube account and use ourcopyright complaint webform.
We have likely received a counter notification regarding your removal request. The video will be reinstated unless you submit evidence that you’ve filed a court action against the user seeking to restrain the allegedly infringing activity. If we don’t receive that notice from you within 10 days, we may reinstate the material to YouTube.
If a video includes information allowing people to bypass access restrictions to your software, such as passwords, key generators, or cracks, the appropriate and most efficient way to notify YouTube of these issues is through ourOther Legal Issues form.
Disclaimer: We are not your attorneys and the information presented here is not legal advice. We provide it for informational purposes.
What is fair use?
Creative Commons licenses provide a standard way for content creators to grant someone else permission to use their work. YouTube allows users to mark their videos with a Creative Commons CC BY license. These videos are then accessible to YouTube users for use, even commercially, in their own videos via the YouTube Video Editor.
Attribution is automatic under the CC BY license, meaning that any video you create using Creative Commons content will automatically show the source videos’ titles underneath the video player. You retain your copyright and other users get to reuse your work subject to the terms of the license.
Who’s eligible to use Creative Commons on YouTube
The ability to mark uploaded videos with a Creative Commons license is only available to users whose accounts are ingood standing. You may check the status of your account on the Features page, under your Channel Settings.
The standard YouTube license remains the default setting for all uploads. To review the terms of the standard YouTube license, please refer to our Terms of Service.
You cannot mark your video with the Creative Commons license if there is a Content ID claim on it.
By marking your original video with a Creative Commons license, you are granting the entire YouTube community the right to reuse and edit that video.
What’s eligible for a Creative Commons license
Please understand that you may only mark your uploaded video with a Creative Commons license if it consists entirely of content licensable by you under the CC BY license. Some examples of such licensable content are:
- Your originally created content
- Other videos marked with a CC BY license
- Videos in the public domain