During the past few months a lot of YouTube channels are have been demonetized recently do to something YouTube calls ‘duplication’ or (more recently) reused content. The main message to be taken from YouTube’s monetization review process is that in order for your channel to enjoy the benefits of monetization (which is a privilege not a right), you need to:
Produce content that advertisers would like to be associated with.
Upload videos in which you used enough of your own content that you deserve to earn money from it.
The issue of reused content (and duplication) is mainly related to this last point—whether you are creating enough content of your own.
1. Types of Reused Content
There are several kinds of reused content:
1.1 Duplication or reused content not involving copyright issues, but involving third-party content
The important thing to note is all of these cases, you would have the right to use content commercially. However, that right does not mean that YouTube has the the obligation to assist you in making money from those videos by allowing them to be monetized. YouTube states:
In most cases, even if you have licenses to use the content or your videos are protected by copyright laws, such as fair use, if the main purpose of your channel is to monetize other channels’ or sources’ content, then you won’t be eligible for YPP. You still need to be contributing to the value of that content in some way. Note: some of these videos may still be fine to remain up on YouTube! (Partner Program Reviews and Removals (including Duplication)
YouTube has stated that using third party content can be OK, but the key thing is what you do with it—specifically, what value you are adding to it. For example, there is some value in searching for the funniest videos involving falls. However merely finding them and stitching them together into one video would not be ENOUGH added value. You would simply not be bringing enough of your own content to the table.
Channels with the following characteristics may find it very difficult to have their channels approved for monetization:
1.1.1 Videos consisting solely or mainly of public domain work created by other people (e.g., public domain movie channels)
1.1.2 Uploads of copies (or minimally edited versions) of material previously published by other people under a Creative Commons license (this would apply to even the standard CC BY licence). For example, if you use a Creative Commons song from Incompetech (incompetech.com) or a song from YouTube’s music library (www.youtube.com/audiolibrary/music) as a small part of a video about something else, it would be no problem. However, if your videos were merely that same song and a still picture, that would be considered duplication
1.1.3 Videos over-reliant on things like stock photos and stock video (even though the channel owner may have licensed them for commercial use)
1.1.4 Compilations of viewer submissions or compilations of videos used with permission.
1.1.5 Music promotion channels (e.g., channels based on sourcing songs online, getting permission to use them and then using them to create videos, usually with a photo and/or music visualizer for the visuals.). However, there is a recent case of a large music promotion channel—alexrainbirdMusic—getting demonetized for reused content. They mobilized their subscribers to fight for their monetization privileges to be reinstated and were successful. YouTube switched their monetization back on without any explanation. Other channels have not been so fortunate.
1.2 Duplication or reused content involving original content
The following may cause problems with monetization:
1.2.1 Different versions of the same video on the same channel (e.g., a ten-minute version and a twelve-minute version).
1.2.2 Many very similar videos on the same channel (e.g., Twenty slightly different videos of the same Finger Family song, a hundred videos of someone drinking water, etc.).
1.2.3 Videos that have been done to death already. A good example of that would be ‘learn color’ and ‘baby shark song’ animations. There are tens of thousands of these videos on YouTube already. They do get a lot of views, but children really need to learn more than what the videos are offering. Channels specializing in these kinds of videos are not getting monetized. Another problem affecting these kinds of animated kids videos is that they are targeting toddlers while YouTube (and its advertisers) are targeting people 13 and over.
1.2.4 Videos that are simply too basic (e.g., if your videos are basically just text on a still image, the channel is very unlikely to get monetization approved)
1.2.5 Videos generated automatically (e.g., using text-to-speech programmes to convert Wikipedia articles into the audio for a video or using a music visualizer to create the visuals).
1.3 Duplication and reused content involving copyright and trademark issues
These are more straightforward as the copyright issues mean the videos should not have been monetized in the first place as the uploader would not have the necessary commercial rights. In this list.
1.3.1 Channels that have received a lot of copyright claims (the one exemption would be for cover version channels in which the performers supply their own background music)
1.3.2 Uploads of obviously copyright-infringing content that has not been claimed, including videos that attempt to evade YouTube’s Content ID system (e.g., mirroring and videos so that copyright infringement is more difficult to detect)
1.3.3 Mashup videos, DJ mix and music remix videos
1.3.4 Compilations without commentary (or with only minimal commentary) of other people’s videos (even if those videos have not been claimed by the copyright owners)
1.3.5 Gameplay video without commentary. According to YouTube’s policy on Video game and software content, “Videos simply showing a user playing a video game or the use of software for extended periods of time may not be accepted for monetization.”
1.3.6 Reaction videos with minimal commentary
1.3.7 Narration of texts (e.g., stories, articles, news reports) written by other people (this would include an actual person narrating as well as the use of text-to-speech programs)
1.3.8 Live concert footage (and you are not the performer and/or do not own the copyright to the video)
1.3.9 Lyrics videos of other people’s songs (with or without the actual song in the video)
1.3.10 Fan-fiction or children’s videos featuring trademarked and/or copyrighted characters (e.g., Harry Potter, Thomas the Tank Engine).
1.4 Possible other categories
Other channels have also reported having ‘duplication’ issues. These include:
1.4.1 Audio podcasts. The issue is likely that the videos are mainly to be listened to (not watched), so if ads were placed on the video, they would go unnoticed by most viewers. I have heard of many audio podcast channels encountering problems with monetization. I have heard on one such demonetized channel—Southern Cannibal—getting monetization returned.
1.4.2 Channels with a lot of very long ambient content (e.g., a ten-hour fireplace video, an hour-long audio tone). These have the problem mentioned in 4.2 (focusing too much on the audio). In addition, the visuals often have the problem mentioned in 1.3 (an over-reliance on stock assets).
1.4.3 Channels aimed at toddlers. YouTube is intended for people aged 13 and above and the advertisements would reflect this demographic. If you are aiming for a really young audience, your content and YouTube’s advertisers may simply not be compatible. For this one, it seems that if you are aiming to monetize a channel aimed at little kids, you would need highly original, varied, creative and professional-looking content.
1.4.4 Narration of public domain works (e.g., audio books). There are two main issues. One would be that the videos are mainly to be listened to (not watched), so if ads were placed on the video, they would go unnoticed by most viewers. The other issue would be related to point 1.4 (an over-reliance on public domain work).
There may very well be other kinds of channels affected. I will update the list if I notice any more kinds of channels reporting duplication issues. Let me know if you think any other kinds of channels should be added.
1.5 Issues related to Community Guidelines and advertiser-friendly content
YouTube appears to be using ‘reused content’ as a kind of blanket reason for denying monetization, so it is possible the ‘reused content’ notification your receive is entirely unrelated.
1.5.1 Community Guidelines violations. As mentioned at the beginning of the article, one of the purposes of the review is to check to see if the channel is complying with YouTube’s Terms of Service and Community Guidelines. If a channel is breaking any of YouTube’s many rules (there are a LOT of them ranging from putting tags in the description to requiring people to subscribe to your channel in order to enter a giveaway to showing people how to modify ammunition), that channel is unlikely to pass the monetization review process. I have a list of possible violations in my article on YouTube suspensions: Was Your YouTube Channel Suspended for No Reason? (A Guide to Community Guidelines-related Suspensions)
1.5.2 Non-advertiser friendly content. If YouTube decides the content is not advertiser friendly, the channel may be denied monetization for ‘reused content’. Here are YouTube’s advertiser friendly guidelines: support.google.com/youtube/answer/6162278
2. What about other channels that have the same content but are monetized?
There are three main things to consider here:
2.1 When the new monetization system started in late 2017, channels that (1) were already monetized and (2) met the minimum requirements for watch hours and subscribers simply kept their monetization privileges. For several months, YouTube only reviewed new applications. They only started to turn their attention to the already-monetized channels in late 2018. It will take a long time before all channels are reviewed. Therefore, just because you see a successfully monetized channel with the same content as your channel has, this does not mean the channels is OK. It may simply have not been reviewed yet.
2.2 It is unclear if YouTube is going to be consistent. There are some massive channels that would appear to be unmonetizable. These include channels like NoCopyrightSounds (a music promotion channel using music visualizers and third-party songs). Is YouTube going to be consistent and demonetize these channels.
2.3 Quality may be consideration. I have noticed a lot of top-ten style channels having their monetization applications fail. They are quite similar to the channel WatchMojo in that they have commentary going on throughout the video, but the commentary never gets very deep or insightful. The only difference I could see (apart from the channels being relatively new), was that the production quality of the videos on these channels (e.g., narration, selection and editing of source material, etc.) wasn’t that good. YouTube definitely hasn’t mentioned anything about video quality, but it seems that it might be one of the the things considered in a monetization review.
3. The elephant in the room: Gameplay videos
That would be gaming videos with very shallow commentary. In this case, all the visuals and most of the audio would be owned by the game developer (and, if commercially-released music is used, the copyright owners of the music compositions and recording). This is probably one of YouTube’s biggest genre in terms of uploads. It is unclear how such channels will be treated under the new policy. I suspect new gaming channels who don’t do much commentary will find it difficult to get monetization approved.
The problem that is easiest to fix is when the channel is in line with everything that YouTube is looking for but the video descriptions don’t contain information about the actual production. For example, who shot the video? When? What model of camera was used? Where is the music from? What rights do you have for the music? Who are the other people in the video? If there is any third party content, where is that from and what rights do you have to it? If this information is in the description, the YouTube reviewer than can get a much better idea of what you have created, and what you own, what you have exclusive rights to and what you have some rights to.
4.2 Mobilize your supporters
I know of three channels—Southern Cannibal (audio podcasts of user horror story submissions), alexrainbirdMusic (user music submissions) and VJ4rawr2 (movie parodies) that launched viewer campaigns to get their channels reinstated—and were successful, while smaller channels with similar kinds of videos remained demonetized. Importantly, in all three cases, the monetization was switched on without any kind of notice coming from YouTube. In the latter two cases (I don’t know about the first one), the channel owners did not have to wait for the 30-day monetization re-application period. Monetization was simply switched back on. This seems to indicate that some YouTube staff members have the power to help channels out at their own discretion.
4.3 Rethink the content and rebuild the channel
For many channels, the content simply isn’t going to be monetizable because of issues with the content of the video. If you have a channel like that, you need to change the format or accept that the channel is not going to be monetized. For specific kinds of channels, here is some advice:
4.3.1 Fair-use-style channels: You can minimize the use of clips and provide in-depth analysis throughout the videos. Good examples of fair-use-style channels are Vox, Nerdwriter and Wisecrack. it is important to accept that monetizing a video weakens any fair use claim, so there is no guarantee that your fair-use-style videos will be approved.
4. 3.2 Music promotion channels: You can choose to (1) do it for fun and not get monetized, (2) actually become a record label and sign artists, (3) really work on the videos (e.g., invite the artists in for recording sessions like the channel Paste NYC or Wood & Wires or 4. Do music reviews in which only short snippets of songs are used.
4.3.3 Kids channels: It might be better to use adult actors, be sure to include a lot of variety and make the content educational. You can consider shows like Sesame Street, Barney, Blues Clues or the Wiggles as example of children’s programming. To be monetizable, a kids channel would have to be very professional and original.
Obviously, if there are videos that are causing problems, you will need to get rid of them if you want to get the channel monetized. However, you cannot just delete everything, upload a new video and get monetization approved. You will need to establish a strong track record with the new videos (in terms of number of videos uploaded, the watch hours for those videos the and subscribers gained from those videos). Also bear in mind that if you delete videos, the watch hours of those videos will still show up in analytics and you will still be able to apply for a review, but it is the watch hours of the non-deleted videos that will be examined during the monetization review. Similarly if almost all of your subscribers came from your deleted content, you will need to establish that your new content is also attracting subscribers.
4.4 Start another channel
In a lot of a cases I have seen, channels with a lot of views and subscribers would basically have to delete everything and start from scratch. There is no guarantee that if you delete everything and reload new content that your new content will be successful. You may simply end up sacrificing your popular videos for nothing. It might make more sense to leave that successful channel alone and start a new one. Who knows? Perhaps in future, YouTube will relax its monetization rules and the old channel will be monetizable again.
4.5 Simply forget about monetization
That is one option. If my channel gets demonetized I will consider this one.
Two of the most common questions on YouTube’s help forum are
How do I get it back?
The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of some of the more common situations that lead to YouTube channel suspensions and terminations, especially those that come as a surprise. Suspensions are not done for ‘no reason’, basically there are three reasons
There really was something wrong.
There was a misunderstanding and the suspension was incorrect (e.g., YouTube reviewers mistook a list of supplies in the video description for a list of tags).
The videos (or other channel content) are in a grey area where a judgement call needed to be made (e.g., Is a thumbnail sexy or obscene? Is this really harassment?) and that decision, rightly or wrongly, went against you.
1. Suspension Basics
This is information about channel suspensions in general.
1.1 Duration of the suspension
Unless YouTube notifies you that the channel will come go back online within a specific period (e.g,. after three months), the suspension is permanent (so it is a ‘termination’ really).
1.2 Effects on other YouTube channels
Not only is that channel terminated, but all other channels associated with a particular user are also permanently suspended. This is one common reason for a channel suspension—once you have one channel suspended any other channel or account you have (or open after) that will be terminated once YouTube establishes that both channels or accounts are owned by the same user. These other accounts may be terminated immediately, after a short time, after long time or (if they are never linked together by YouTube) never. The main point would be that if you have more than one channel, when one channel gets terminated, all the other channels turn into unexploded bombs. At any moment they could go off.
1.3 Types of Suspension
There are two different kinds of account suspension:
Community Guidelines Strikes, Terms of Service Violations and Other Issues (e.g., trademarks, privacy)
Repeated Copyright Violations
The rules for these are very different and you need to take different actions in order to recover your channel (for suspensions related to copyright infringement, you would need to get the number of copyright strikes down to less than three, either by contesting the claim and strike via a DMCA counter-notification or by having the claimant retract the claim). This article focus on the first kind of suspension; I will discuss copyright-related violations in another article.
1.4 Private vs Public Videos
It doesn’t matter whether your videos were public, unlisted or private. The same guidelines and restrictions apply.
1.5 Community Guidelines & Terms of Service: Strike System
Unlike copyright-related suspensions, which strictly follow a three strike system, suspensions related to Community Guidelines and Terms of Service violations can occur after three strikes or can be given without warning after a single violation.
Update March 2019: YouTube has revamped its system of Community Guidelines suspensions. These new guidelines came into effect on 25 February 2019. There are two main differences:
There is now supposed to be a warning before the first strike is given.
There are increased restrictions placed on the channel as strikes accumulate.
More information is given to the channel owner about the actual alleged violation.
These should be welcome changes. What is not clear, however, is whether channels can still be suspended after a single violation (e.g., for very serious violations). I have asked YouTube for clarification, but I have not received a reply.
The appeal usually takes a few days, but you should receive a response within a week. If the suspension occurred during or after a holiday, the waiting time can be longer.
If the appeal fails, you will get a boilerplate reply. Of course, that is not good news, but you can try appealing again. You will have a much better chance of winning an appeal if you can directly address the problem you are suspected of having. Unfortunately, the notifications either sent to your email or posted on your channel page are usually very vague and could relate to any number of possible suspected problems. That can make it very difficult to guess what you are alleged to have done.
2.2 Backdoor Methods
These methods are additional ways to get your case heard.
Several YouTubers have stated that they have gotten their channels reinstated because of interventions on their behalf from YouTube Trusted Flaggers on Reddit or Twitter. These include the Reddit/Twitter users known as TrustedFlagger Ben (now inactive), @Contributors_YT (now inactive) and LightCodeGaming. These people generally prefer to remain anonymous, but seem to have some influence over video strikes and channel terminations. The influencers I mentioned never actually explain how they can affect the review process and it is unknown how much influence they have, but many of them are quite happy to take credit for getting people’s channels restored. It seems they will become inactive after becoming well-known, so I suspect that whatever they are doing is not approved by YouTube. Still, if such backdoor methods exist, you can try to take advantage of them.
You can try reaching out to YouTube via social media. For example, one YouTuber has claimed she was only able to get her channel reinstated by bringing her suspension up on YouTube’s Twitter account in India.
If you are partnered with an MCN (multi-channel network), they may be able to contact YouTube on your behalf. As far as I know, however, MCNs won’t provide much assistance unless they consider your channel to be important.
If someone asks for your log-in information (or other personal details) or asks you to pay a fee for help in getting your channel reinstated, that would be a scam.
3. The Most Common Reasons for Channel Suspensions
Aside from copyright infringement, channel suspensions mainly involve five areas:
Going too far in attempts to attract views. This is generally related to the metadata (e.g., titles, descriptions, tags, comments, links and thumbnails).
Going too far in attempts to influence metrics such as subscriptions, views, comments and likes. This often involves contests and promotions.
Going too far in attempts to profit from the videos. This is often related to things like unrelated affiliate links, requests for money, trying to sign up YouTube viewers and pyramid schemes)
Encouraging people to violate YouTube’s terms of service (e.g. linking to a YouTube downloader) or the terms of service of other social media platforms (e.g., demonstrating how to hack a Facebook account), software companies (e.g., providing links to cracked versions) or game publishers (e.g., posting videos showing game cheats or exploits) or to commit a crime, terrorist act or dangerous activity.
Going into areas that YouTube wants to keep its site free from (e.g., pornography, fetishism, harrassment, hate speech, pedophila, etc.).
The first three areas are where most problems seem to occur. This is because YouTube encourages uploaders to make their videos search-engine friendly, build up a strong subscriber base and make money via their YouTube videos. When suspensions occur, it is often just a matter of the YouTuber going too far.
4. The Spam, Scams, Misleading Content Suspension
This particular suspension encompasses a lot of possible areas that are discussed at different points in the article. Such a suspension could be related to anything under points 6. 7, 8, 9, 11, 16. 18 and 20 as well as many of the issues under point 10,
5. Your Content
One common misunderstanding is that suspensions are only related to the actual video. However, suspensions may be related to:
The video content
Metadata (titles, tags, video descriptions)
Comments and messages
Video features like captions, annotations and cards
Channel descriptions, channel art and profile pictures
The majority of suspensions would be for inappropriate video content or problems with the metadata. Suspensions related to other kinds of content, though not as common, still do occur
You may be wondering how a channel with only a playlist and no videos may have problems. Let’s look at one possible example. If someone assembles a playlist of young girls doing stretching exercises and names it “nubile cuties in leotards”, it is a kind of fetishistic content and can lead to a channel suspension even though the playlist itself is comprised of videos that are uploaded by other people and are perfectly in line with the community guidelines.
6. Attracting Views: Issues with the Metadata (Title, Tags, Descriptions)
YouTube is the 2nd most popular search engine and is owned by Google, which runs the most popular one. Therefore, YouTube is very aggressive in dealing with attempts to unfairly manipulate search results. Most of the problems in this area are referred to by YouTube as ‘spam’ or “deceptive practices” and fall under this policy: support.google.com/youtube/answer/2801973
6.1 Misleading titles
If the video doesn’t contain what the title says it should, that will cause problems. For example, if a video is entitled ‘five steps to happiness’ and it only contains someone saying “to find out the five steps to happiness, visit my website”, that would be considered a misleading title.
6.2 Click-bait titles
Some YouTubers find themselves in a Catch 22 when they use click-bait titles like ‘Free Cracked Gears of War’ or ‘Leaked Sex Tape of Hollywood Star’ . If the video has what the title suggests, it will likely be a community guidelines violation (due to inappropriate content). If the video doesn’t have that and the title is “just a joke”, that is a community guidelines violation, too (because of the misleading metadata.
6.3 Parodies and pranks: Titles and description
If you are doing a parody, it should be labeled as such in the title. Similarly if you are doing a kind of prank ‘advice’ video, there should be an indication somewhere in the description or video itself.
6.4. Unrelated or only marginally related tags (new policy: this should no longer lead to suspensions)
The tags should represent what the video is about. Having unrelated tags can result in a strike or channel take down. A more common problem occurs with people using tags that are only tangentially related to the video. If you include ‘Jennifer Lopez’ as a tag, she should be one of the main points of focus of your video, not just someone who was briefly mentioned in one sentence.It doesn’t matter if tags are related to others videos on your channel. Tags should refer only to what is in that specific video. A good rule of thumb is: if someone searching for that tag word or phrase will NOT consider your video to be what they are looking for, the tag is likely inappropriate.
Update: On 15 February 2017, YouTube initiated a new policy at the video level. Now videos with unrelated tags, will be set automatically to private and channel owners will have the opportunity to edit their tags and then appeal to have the videos made public again (without a loss of views). Only one appeal is allowed. If that is unsuccessful, channel owners would have to reupload the video to a new URL. No strikes will be given. Although channel suspensions were not mentioned, it would appear that the use of misleading tags will no longer result in such suspensions. However, this has not been confirmed by YouTube.
6.5 Tags in the description
Stuffing a description with list of tags is simply not allowed.
6.6 Lists in the description: Possible misunderstanding
There is nothing inherently wrong with lists, but sometimes lists of things—e.g., songs in a medley, art supplies needed to create a project—are mistaken for tags; therefore, it is better to avoid long lists. If you think this sort of misunderstanding may have caused a community guidelines strike, you can explain the situation in your appeal.
6.7 Irrelevant descriptions
The description should be related to the video content, channel and/or the production of the video (including information about the participants).
6.8 Same description in multiple videos: Possible misunderstanding
As the video description should describe the video, having the same description in multiple videos can lead YouTube to conclude that you are spammily uploading near identical videos. This sometimes happens when people use the same description for a long series of videos in order to save time.
6.9 No or minimal description: Possible misunderstanding
One of the purposes of the description is to put your video in context–to tell someone reviewing your video what it is about. If the description field is left empty, someone reviewing your video doesn’t have that context. For example, a video of you trying on shoes as part of a haul video could be be reported as a foot fetish video. When the YouTube reviewers take a look, and there is nothing in the description to provide any context, they may decide the report is correct and take the video down.
6.10 Overly-sensational title, descriptions or tags
This problem can occur if you are trying too hard to attract views. For example, if you make an educational video about breastfeeding and include things like “hot moms”, “sexy” and “big t***” in the description and tags, you are clearly presenting the video as a kind of fetish video and not at all as an educational video. As previously mentioned, one purpose of the metadata is to put the video into context for anyone reviewing.
6.11 Unrelated links in the description
Links are fine, provided they relate in some way to the video (and are not referral links or affiliate links).
If you are using misleading thumbnails as a kind of clickbait, that can be a violation as it would be viewed as an attempt to unfairly gain views.
7.2 Overly provocative thumbnails
The thumbnail should not only represent what is in the video, but should steer clear of nudity, fetishism and overly sexually provocative thumbnails. I came across a case recently in which the YouTuber had uploaded videos of females interacting with animals but had titled them and used thumbnails in such a way as to suggest the videos were really about bestiality. Clearly that would not be acceptable.
Also, together with titles and descriptions, thumbnails are another way in which you are telling viewers (and in the case of channel suspensions, YouTube reviewers) how they should interpret your video. Therefore, if your video contains sex or violence and you choose the sexiest or most violent shot to represent your video, you are in essence telling the viewer/reviewer what to expect and what your video is about. Therefore, if you video gets flagged for violence or nudity, an overly provocative thumbnail will harm your chances of getting a favorable decision.
8. Invalid Attempts to Influence Metrics
This would refer to schemes to boost thing like views, likes, comments and subscriptions. YouTube wants these metrics to reflect the viewer’s true wants. For example, YouTube wants people to subscribe to your channel because they are interested enough in your content to do so, and so that they can enter a giveaway
8.1 Giveaways and contests
If you force people to subscribe or comment on a video in order to be eligible to win, that would go against the guidelines on contests. A lot of channels do this, but that does not mean it is OK. Similarly, if it is found that you don’t follow any of the other guidelines on YouTube’s Policy on Contests (support.google.com/youtube/answer/1620498), that can also lead to suspensions.
8.2 Buying views, clicks or subscribers
It is against YouTube’s policy for channel owners to buy views (support.google.com/youtube/answer/3470104). This generally doesn’t lead to channel suspensions because it is next to impossible to prove. Usually, the only consequence are that bought views are rolled off, paid subscribers are cut away and monetization privileges are suspended. However, buying views, ad clicks or subscribers may still possibly lead to channel terminations.
8.3 Using viewbots, uploading bots or clickbots
The use of bots against YouTube’s terms of service. Of course, almost all third-party view providers will claim that they use real humans and not bots. However, if you use these services you are placing your trust in people running an unethical enterprise as well as they people they have contracted out to actually view the videos.
9. Money-related Issues
A lot of people look at the top YouTubers, who are able to bring in millions of dollars in every year, and want to use YouTube as major income stream. There is nothing wrong with that, but earning anything substantial from a YouTube channel is actually very rare, so sometimes people try too hard to squeeze whatever they can from their channels. This can lead to the following problems:
9.1 Affiliate links, referral links and ad.fly links in the description
Affiliate links are a grey area and Youtube has no clear official policy. According to YouTube’s terms of service, advertisements, which affiliate links are, are not allowed in YouTube content without permission. However, the general consensus is that one or two links are acceptable if:
They are directly related to the content of the video. For example, if you are reviewing a book, an affiliate link to the Amazon page for that book would be “related”. An affiliate link to the Amazon page for the shirt you were wearing in the video or the camera you shot the video with would not.
They are identified as affiliate links.
They are not shortened.
They are not at the very beginning of the description.
Adfly links and other kinds of commercial links are not used.
YouTube doesn’t like it if you are profiting by sending people off its site (which is why ad.fly links are frowned upon). If it feels the main reason for your video to exist is to earn money off of the links, your video may be taken down. For this reason, it is better not to start your description with an affiliate link (even if it is related) as it is sending a message to YouTube that this is the main thing you want people to see.
9.2 Links to non-approved fan funding and merchandise sites in the description (or video)
Don’t ask people to send you money in exchange for a callout in a video. You are free to give call-outs to people who donate to your channel, but you are not allowed to state: give me a dollar and I will give your channel a call-out.
9.4 Videos that serve only as ads
Advertising is permitted on Youtube, but there should be some entertainment or informational value to the ad.
9.5 Videos that promote pyramid schemes and other kinds of scams
You should steer clear of any kind of scammy financial scheme as a video subject.
9.6 Links that send viewers to a sign-up or registration page
If you send viewers to your website, that is fine, but if the first thing the viewer sees is a pop-up window requesting them to sign up and leave their personal information, that may be construed as using YouTube as a means to harvest its users’ personal information.
9.7 Monetization without commercial rights
If you habitually monetize videos you don’t have the right to monetize, this can lead to a suspension of monetization abilities. Usually that is all that will happen, but there is the potential for a channel takedown of YouTube feels you are habitually abusing its monetization policies. Recently I have noticed several takedowns affecting channels with no obvious problems by all with the same profile: recent rapid growth, a large number of copyright infringing videos being uploaded and monetization of these videos.
9.8 Ad campaigns on your own monetized videos
This is kind of like paying YouTube to pay you. If you are going to run a campaign through YouTube to promote your videos, you should demonetize them first.
10. Encouragement to Violate YouTube’s Terms of Service, Violate the Terms of Service of Other Companies, Commit Crimes or Perform Dangerous Acts
10.1 YouTube Downloader links (or encouragement to use a downloader)
It is against YouTube’s terms of service to download videos without authorization. Therefore inviting viewers to download your video from YouTube (in the description, comments or video itself) via a third-party service would be encouraging viewers to violate YouTube’s terms of service. This falls under the policy on encouraging terms of service violations: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/2801981
10.2 Videos showing and links leading to software or game cracks, hacks, mods, cheats or exploits
YouTube does not want its services used to undermine other products. Videos involving cracks, cheats and hacks are never a good idea. Whether a video with mods is OK mainly depends on the policy of the game or software developer.
10.3 Hacking videos
YouTube is especially sensitive to hacking videos. Some people will argue that by posting the videos, they can help a company eliminate vulnerabilities. This is a disingenuous excuse. The best way to do that would be to reach out to the company directly and not disseminate hacking techniques on a worldwide video platform. Similarly, if you are showing people how to protect themselves from being hacked, is it really necessary to show in detail how to do the hack in the first place?
The word ‘hack’ alone simply being enough to raise a red flag even when used innocuously (e.g., top 10 life hacks) or in an educational context (How to keep your Facebook account safe from hacks). If you had the word ‘hack’ in your title or description in such contexts, you can explain your innocent use of the word in your appeal.
10.5 Dangerous activities: Challenge videos
People like watching dangerous things. In the past, however, TV shows and videos tended to include disclaimers like “These stunts were performed by trained professions. Do not try this at home.“ However, since the ice-bucket challenge proved popular, a lot of things that carry some minor risk are now being presented as a “Yeah, try this at home!” challenge The problem comes with challenge videos that by their nature encourage viewers (some of whom are young children) to do similar stunts. Some things look harmless, but have the potential to do harm, especially if done by young children. These include:
Cinnamon challenge (choking, asphyxiation, inflammation and scarring of the lungs)
Duct tape challenge could lead to suffocation if done by really young kids, could lead to head injuries if the ‘victim’ falls over (as they have no means to protect themselves from the falls)
If you make a bomb-making video, don’t be surprised if it gets pulled. If you are teaching people how to make meth, that would also not be wise,Of course a lot of things are in a grey area. What about smoking marijuana and getting high on screen? Marijuana is legal in some places but not in others. How would that be handled? Is your video promoting illegal drug use or is simply educating people about the effects of a drug? Or what if the whole thing is an act and you aren’t really high at all? What if is just part of a short drama in which one of the characters gets high?
In any case, if you are shown to be getting high in your video, you may be forcing YouTube to make a judgement call. Scenes of drug use would be more acceptable in dramatic and educational contexts.
10.7 Links to inappropriate sites (e.g., pornography)
If you were to link to a pornography site, that could cause problems
10.8 Links to sites selling federally-regulated goods
It is advisable not to link to things like firearms retailers or websites selling pharmaceuticals, tobaccos or alcohol.
10.9 Counterfeit and knock-off products
You should not promote counterfeit products. Even videos in which you are educating people about the differences between an authentic product and a counterfeit are risky as the trademark/patent owner of the existing product may not want a worldwide audience being informed that counterfeits of its products are available. The policy regarding counterfeits is here: support.google.com/youtube/answer/6154227
10.10 Dupes and alternative products: Possible misunderstanding
Another problem arises with YouTubers who make videos about legitimate products that can act as cheaper alternative to more expensive products. The problem occurs when the YouTubers themselves use ambiguous language (e.g., Dupes, which is a word derived from duplicate) or incorrect words (e.g., Knock-off, which implies a kind of patent infringement) to describe the products in their video. If you are presenting a cheaper alternative, just call it that.
10.12 Firearms and ammunition (certain restrictions apply
YouTube policies regarding firearms and ammunition are here. You are not allowed to upload videos showing things like how to modify and/or manufacture firearms, ammunition or peripheral equipment. You can’t link to sites selling firearms, ammunition or peripheral equipment. The policy page is here: Policies on content featuring firearms
11. Large Amounts of Repetitive, Unsolicited, Untargeted Content
One thing this policy would definitely refer to is copy-pasting comments and shamelessly promoting one’s own channel in comments sections, but this is usually dealt with by issuing a commenting ban.
Some channels simply upload things like photos of a product and an automated voice reading from a promotional brochure. Such a video would not offer any kind of value whatsoever and a channel full of them could be suspended.
Uploading different language versions of the same video would not be a problem. Uploading exactly the same video on another account would also not be a problem. Uploading the exact same video in several accounts, however, could be interpreted as spam.
12. Sexual Content, Nudity and Predatory Behaviour
Three is a lot of misunderstanding about this. Of course, being a family-oriented site, YouTube does not allow porn. When reviewing videos flagged for nudity or sexual content YouTube is not only looking at how explicit the video is, but it is also considering the purpose. As the guidelines state: “If a video is intended to be sexually provocative, it is less likely to be acceptable for YouTube.”
There are allowances for nudity and sexual material for artistic and educational purposes, but simply slapping an artistic or educational label on something doesn’t make it so.
Obviously, it is not allowed.
It is allowed to a certain extent depending on the purpose, though the video may be age restricted. For example, it may be allowed for educational or artistic purposes, but if the main reason for the video is sexually provocative for the sake of being sexually provocative, it may be removed and the channel associated with it punished
12.3 Fetish videos
A lot of people have turned to YouTube to explore their own fetishes or to earn money by exploiting the fetishes of others. Fetishes range from foot fetishes to emetophilia (sexual arousement via vomiting) to breastfeeding to beastiality. If the main purpose of the video appears to be to turn people on (sexually), it may violate the community guidelines related to sexual content though no nudity or sexual activity is shown. Some fetish videos are, such as foot fetish videos are not graphic at all, but would still be considered inappropriate.
12.4 Inadvertent fetish videos
These are videos that start off innocently enough, but attract a fetishistic audience. This becomes apparent in the content. For example, a guy may start of doing workout videos wearing only a pair of tight shorts in order to better show off his body. However, if the comments start becoming lewd (e.g. I love your package) and suggestive (e.g., “”Can you wear wet white cotton briefs next time?”), it can turn the video into a fetish video. The channel owner would have a choice: try to cool things off by disabling comments and wearing less provocative clothes or leave things be and and risk losing the channel.
Similar to the above, a young teen running a channel may begin to pander to suggestive comments and requests not knowing they are sexual or fetishistic in nature and inadvertently create content that appeals to pedophiles.
12.7 Fetishistic playlists and playlists that sexualize minors
As mentioned earlier, it is possible for a channel to suspended based solely on playlists. If a girl uploads a video of her doing gymnastics in a leotard, that is just a gymnastics video.If someone comes along and then makes a playlist of such videos entitled “young girls stretching in leotards”, that is a lot creepier and a lot less innocent.
12.8 Predatory behaviour
This refers to adults trying to strike up relationships with minors online. This would be done via comments or messages. This would fall under YouTube’s policy on child endangerment (support.google.com/youtube/answer/2801999)
This only rarely results in channel suspensions. YouTube has a high tolerance for violence provided there is some kind of context (e.g., you are reporting on people being attacked during a riot), though it is likely violent and graphic videos will be age-restricted and made ineligible for monetization. If the main purpose of the video however, is to shock people that could cause problems unless your video was clearly fictional
It is actually quite difficult to get a channel suspension for this. You have to be actively promoting violence against or hatred for a specific group based on their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, sexual orientation/gender identity.
YouTube’s policy regarding hate speech lies somewhere between the American legal system’s anything-goes free speech laws and the hate speech laws of countries like England. Thus, some American find YouTube too controlling while people in other countries may be surprised at what is allowed.
YouTube is notorious for rude and ill-informed commenting. To a large extent this is allowed. There is a policy intended to protect users from harassment, but the action needs to be quite obvious and serious. If you upload a video of yourself, to a certain extent, you are pushing yourself into the public sphere and are open to the same kind of abusive comments that celebrities get. According you YouTube’s policy harassment MAY include:
Revealing someone’s personal information, such as their address, private email addresses, private phone numbers, passport number, or bank account information (Note: This does not include posting widely available public information, such as a public official’s office phone number)
Content that is deliberately posted in order to humiliate someone
Content that makes hurtful and negative personal comments/videos about another person
Content that incites others to harass or threaten individuals on or off YouTube
Content featuring non-consensual sex acts or unwanted sexualization
Content threatening specific individuals with physical harm or destruction of property
Content featuring abusive or threatening behavior directed at a minor
Sexualizing or degrading an individual who is engaged or present in an otherwise non-sexual context
Content claiming that specific victims of public violent incidents or their next of kin are actors, or that their experiences are false
Some of the points in the above list are meant to deter Doxxing and other forms of online attacks. It is OK to negatively comment on another channel, but if you instruct your own fans to interfere with someone else’s life and/or YouTube channel,that would be going too far.
If you impersonate another channel or user, YouTube may consider this a form of harassment and your channel may be suspended. Individuals can report impersonation to YouTube directly while businesses and organizations would need to submit a legal complaint.
If you receive a privacy complaint, this usually will not lead to an immediate taken down. Usually, you would be given the option to blur the faces of people in your video. For a privacy complaint to be accepted YouTube looks at how identifiable the person is as well as how public they are. For example, if someone uploads a video clip of themselves to YouTube and you use a screenshot of that video, they wouldn’t get very far making a privacy complaint.
Privacy complaints would generally only lead to a takedown if there was malicious intent as well as an invasion of privacy (and this would fall under the policy on harassment (“Maliciously recording someone without their consent.)
Generally speaking, if you are doing a product review, you do have the right to show that product in the video (it is a kind of trademark-related fair use). The two main things to avoid would be:
Making your video appear to be an official or officially endorsed release. For example, ‘’Revlon’s New Lipstick Line” is potentially misleading, whereas “My Review of Revlon’s New Lipstick Line” would be a lot clearer. Also, you should avoid using trademarked logos and slogans more than necessary (e.g., don’t use the logo in the thumbnail).
Showing the trademarked item or logo in ways that could bring the brand into disrepute.
Trademark infringement problems are generally resolved by removing or asking you to remove problematic videos. If the trademark problem is compounded by problems related to counterfeiting (see Section 9.10), that can lead to channel suspensions.. YouTube’s trademark policy is here: support.google.com/youtube/answer/6154218
19. TOS Section 4 Part H
This is the part of the Terms of Service that deals with bots (used for mass uploading,viewing and/or subscribing) and also with harvesting user data. However, it used to be relatively common for YouTube to send this notification of violations unrelated to anything in that section.
20. Ineligible Channels
As mentioned earlier, channel suspensions are:
given to the user
affect all channels managed by that user
Thus, if you don’t resolve a channel suspension and instead keep making new channels, the very existence of the channels would be Community Guidelines/Terms of Service violations and could result in their termination.
22. Buying & Selling Channels
This would violate the terms of service.
22. Mass Flagging
By itself, a mass flagging campaign against your channel, will not work. This is because reports are reviewed before strikes and suspensions are dished out. The problem is that many channels have one or more of the many problems listed above and it only takes a few “correct” reports to bring a channel down.
23. Avoiding Channel Suspensions
Basically you just need to to do two things. The first is to ensure your channel has none of the problems listed on this page and that you closely adhere to YouTube’s terms of service and community guidelines. The second thing to do is to use the titles, description and thumbnails wisely so that if any videos of yours are flagged, the reviewer knows exactly what they are looking at and exactly what you intended.
The short answer is this: Buying YouTube views is a questionable and risky strategy that can work but that can also backfire. If you are thinking about buying views, do check out the article so that you can make an informed decision. The article covers four questions:
What is the purpose for buying views?
Is the practice of buying views allowed according to YouTube’s Terms of Service?
Can YouTube detect whether or not you are buying views?
It it an effective way to build up your channel’s popularity?
1. Why do people buy YouTube views?
The purpose of buying views is to help hasten the natural, organic growth of your channel. Inflating your view count would make your videos appear more attractive. For example, if you see thumbnail links for two cover versions of the same song and one has 100,000 views while the other has 100 views, which link would you be more likely to click? Similarly, if you come across a channel with ten of thousands of subscribers, wouldn’t you be more likely to subscribe as well? Basically, buying views and subscribers is meant to attract more real viewers and subscribers in future.
2. Is buying views allowed under YouTube’s Terms of Service?
YouTube doesn’t allow anything that artificially increases the number of views, likes, comments, or other metric either through the use of automatic systems or by serving up videos to unsuspecting viewers. Additionally, content that solely exists to incentivize viewers for engagement (views, likes, comments, etc) is prohibited.
Content and channels that don’t follow this policy may be terminated and removed from YouTube.
Important: If you hire someone to promote your channel, their decisions may impact your channel. Any method that violates our policies may result in content removal or a channel takedown, whether it’s an action taken by you or someone you’ve hired.
We consider engagement to be legitimate when a human user’s primary intent is to interact with content free of coercion or deception, or where the sole purpose of the engagement is financial gain.
If it is detected that you are buying views and/or subscribers, your account may be terminated. Additionally, the if the views are automated (i.e. from a bot), that would go against the Terms of Service (www.youtube.com/t/terms)
3. Can YouTube detect bought views and subscribers?
A view-selling service CAN operate undetected, but channels buying views can often be easy to spot either through viewbot-generated activity or through anomalous viewership statistics (e.g., a huge and sudden spike in the number of subscribers).
Most view-selling services state that all bought views, comments and subscribers come from real people and are spread out over a period of time to avoid detection and will therefore be impossible to detect. However, this kind of business is already kind of shady—the business model is, after all, based on deception—so it is difficult to trust such statements 100%. Can you really guarantee that the human viewers the services hire always follow their instructions to the letter and will never take shortcuts? Can you guarantee that YouTube will not update it’s monitoring methods to catch behaviors that now go unseen?
Accounts do get terminated; it is not an empty threat.
It’s kind of like steroid use. Does it work? Yes. Can it be detected? Yes, if you are not careful. Can one evade detection? Yes, until the detection methods catch up with the doping methods. Is it worth the risk?
4. Is buying views an effective way to build up a channel?
To a certain extent, it does work. You will get those bought views, but will it lead to more views down the road?
It definitely did work in the past, especially if you were buying the hundreds of thousands of views that would propel your video to YouTube’s front page and the top of relevant search results. If you ask, you will find people who say, “Yeah, I bought views from Company X and everything was great. It really helped a lot.”
YouTube, however, operates differently now. It is now placing a lot more emphasis on things like watch time and viewer engagement when ranking search results and selecting recommended videos. If real views are being bought, it is likely these viewers will only watch a few seconds of each video. Under YouTube’s algorithms, this would be interpreted as either ‘this video is rubbish’ or ‘the title or thumbnail is misleading’ with the consequence being your videos disappearing from search results or recommendations. If this happens, you would be hurting your ability to attract new viewers and organically grow your view count, thereby defeating the purpose of buying the views in the first place.
You also need to bear a certain amount of risk. If YouTube detects suspicious activity on you videos it may simply reset the views of those videos to zero or it may terminate the account. I was just reading an interesting post on Google’s YouTube forum. The original poster had hired someone to get real views, but it was found that the freelance ‘promoter’ had used viewbots instead. It seems that the dispute has escalated to the point where the promoter is now trying to blackmail the original poster. Do you really need such trouble?
I would recommend against buying views, especially if you are in the partner program. For non-partners, you can consider the following question: “It is OK for me if the existence of my channel depends on the ability of a third party service (and the people it hires) to fulfill their promises?” For me personally, the risks would outweigh the benefits.
Postscript: Can YouTube’s rules be used against you?
Would it be possible for an enemy or rival to hire a service provider to send fake views to your channel and get your account terminated? Yes, it would. I guess the only thing to do is to be vigilant and if you see a sudden and unexplainable surge in views, report the matter on the Google YouTube forums immediately. You can consider taking the following protections to prevent your video from being removed. This advice comes from XXLRay on the YouTube Products Forum:
Set the video to private to prevent additional false views.
Use the feedback button on the bottom of your video editor menu to inform YouTube about your observations and counter actions. Tell them you are going to search pro-actively for the source and that you are going to make sure it will not happen again.
If your video is monetized inform AdSense as well by using their Invalid Clicks Contact Form. Users had their AdSense Account permanently terminated for invalid clicks in the past.
Once you took these “first aid” actions try to find out the source website for these views from your Youtube Analytics. Search the web for the depending contact data and tell the responsible [parties] to stop directing views to your channel. If they repeat their behaviour take legal action.
Note that this is no guarantee that YouTube won’t delete your videos. It’s just the best way to tackle the problem I can think of.