YouTube: Reused Content and Monetization

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:

The issue of reused content (and duplication) is mainly related to this last point—whether you are creating enough content of your own.

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))

Channels with the following characteristics may find it very difficult to have their channels approved for monetization:

1.1 Videos consisting solely or mainly of public domain work created by other people (e.g., public domain movie channels)

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 ( or a song from YouTube’s music library ( 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

1.3 Videos over-reliant on things like stock photos and stock video (even though the channel owner may have licensed them for commercial use)

1.4 Compilations of viewer submissions or compilations of videos used with permission.

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.

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.

2. Duplication or reused content involving original content

The following may cause problems with monetization:

2.1 Different versions of the same video on the same channel (e.g., a ten-minute version and a twelve-minute version).

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.).

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.

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)

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).

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.

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)

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)

3.2 Mashup videos, DJ mix and music remix videos

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)

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.”

3.5 Reaction videos with minimal commentary

3.6 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)

3.7 Live concert footage (and you are not the performer and/or do not own the copyright to the video)

3.8 Lyrics videos of other people’s songs (with or without the actual song in the video)

3.9 Fan-fiction or children’s videos featuring trademarked and/or copyrighted characters (e.g., Harry Potter, Thomas the Tank Engine).

3.10 AMVs

3.11 Lyrics videos (of other people’s songs)

4. Possible other categories

Other channels have also reported having ‘duplication’ issues. These include:

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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)

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:

6. What about other channels that have the same content but are monetized?

There are three main things to consider here:

6.1 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.

6.2 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. As mentioned elsewhere in this article some larger channels like Southern Cannibal (audio podcasts of user horror story  submissions) and alexrainbirdMusic (music promotion) were demonetized. The owners of both channels launched campaigns to get their channels reinstated and were successful, while smaller channels with similar kinds of videos remained demonetized. Similarly this lyrics video channel VJ4rawr was also demonetized and then remonetized, though the channel owner has another channel that includes less reused third-party content that has had monetization applications rejected.

6.3 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.

7. The elephant in the room

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.

8. What you can do

According to an official YouTube post (Partner Program Reviews and Removals (including Duplication),  you can do the following to improve your chances of getting monetization:

  • Add commentary or show your presence in your videos (voice or on screen)
  • Link back to your YouTube channel from your website
  • Provide more context about your work in your video and channel descriptions
  • Make sure the content on your channel aligns with [YouTube’s] policies. You can review: Community Guidelines, AdSense Policies, and YouTube Partner Program policies.

Here are my suggestions:

7.1 Beef up the descriptions
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.

7.2 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:

7.2.1 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.

7.2.2 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.

7.3.3 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.

7.3 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.

7.4 Simply forget about monetization
That is one option. If my channel gets demonetized I will consider this one.

~by longzijun


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Was Your YouTube Channel Suspended for No Reason? (A Guide to Community Guidelines-related Suspensions)

Two of the most common questions on YouTube’s help forum are

  • Why did my channel gets suspended for Community Guidelines or Terms of Use violations?
  • 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

1.1 Duration
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 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 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.

This video, from YouTube addresses some of the commonly asked question about the new system:

Update 2: Though I have not heard back from YouTube, multiple postings on the help forum indicate that channels may still be suspended without warning and for a single violation.

2.  Appealing a Suspension

There are several ways to appeal suspensions related to to community guidelines or terms of services violations.

2.1 Use the Appeal Form
The normal approach is to submit an online appeal: (click on the word ‘form’).

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.

Contrary to what many people believe the decision to suspend a channel for community guidelines violations or terms of use violations is not automated. At some point, YouTube staff approved of the decision to suspend the channel. Therefore, if a channel is suspended, there is either a reason for it or there has been a misunderstanding. If there really was a problem, the appeal will unlikely succeed unless you can persuade YouTube that the problem wasn’t serious enough to warrant a termination. If there was a misunderstanding, if you can figure out what may have caused the misunderstanding and explain that, the appeal will likely be successful. This article also covers possible areas in which misunderstandings may have occurred.

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 you are partnered with YouTube itself, you can try contacting partner support:

2.3 Scams
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:

  1. Going too far in attempts to attract views. This is generally related to the metadata (e.g., titles, descriptions, tags, comments, links and thumbnails).
  2. Going too far in attempts to influence metrics such as subscriptions, views and likes. This often involves contests and promotions.
  3. 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)
  4. 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.
  5. 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 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
  • Playlists
  • 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:

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 thw 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).

7. Attracting Views: Thumbnails

There are two common problems (these fall under YouTube’s policy on spam and deceptive content:

7.1 Unrelated thumbnails
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 (, 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 ( 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 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 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)
The list of approved sites, such as Patreon is here:
If you request funding through some other means (e.g., via a bitcoin account), that can pose problems.

9.3 Cash for call-outs
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, to Commit Crimes or to 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:

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?

Hacking would generally fall under YouTube’s policy on circumvention of technological

10.4 Hacking: possible misunderstanding
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)
  • Fire challenge (burns, obviously)
  • Alcohol challenge (alcohol poisoning)
  • Condom challenge (choking)
  • Cold water challenge (hypothermia and drowning)

Challenge videos are fall under YouTube’s policy on harmful or dangerous content (, though these guidelines do not specifically mention challenge videos.

10.6 Illegal activities and drug use
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.

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:

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 nfringement) to describe the products in their video. If you are presenting a cheaper alternative, just call it that.

10.11 Terrorism
Videos supporting and/or inciting terrorism are not allowed. This is covered in the polciy on dangerous or graphic content (

10.12 Firearms and ammunition are here
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

YouTube refers to this as spam and it is under the policy on spam, deceptive practices, and scams (

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

YouTube’s Guidelines on Nudity and Sexual Content:

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.

12.1 Pornography
Obviously, it is not allowed.

12.2 Nudity
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.

12.5 Sexualization of minors
Children and young teens should not be presented in a sexually suggestive context. This would fall under YouTube’s policy on child endangerment (

12.6 Inadvertent sexualization of minors
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 (

13. Violent or Graphic Content

YouTube’s Policy on Violent or Graphic Content:

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

14. Hate Speech

YouTube’s Policy on Hate Speech:

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.

15. Harassment

YouTube’s Policy on Harassment:

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.

Another form of harassment would include actual threats (YouTube’s Policy on Threats:

Blackmail is another kind of harassing behaviour and is included in YouTube’s policy on scams (

16. Impersonation

YouTube’s Policy on Impersonation:

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.

17. Privacy

YouTube’s Policy on Privacy:

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.)

18. Trademarks

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:

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:

  1. given to the user
  2. are permanent
  3. 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.

~by longzijun


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Gameplay Videos, YouTube and and Copyright: FAQ

Hopefully, this article can help you make sense of the copyright issues related to the uploading of gameplay videos of YouTube. Let me know if I’ve missed anything important.

1. Do I have the right to upload Let’s Play videos?

Except in cases where 1) the terms of service of the game allow for this OR 2) you have received permission from the game’s developers, you do not automatically have such a right. If you are wondering about the principle of Fair Use,  there is a section at the end about this.

2. Is video game content protected by copyright law?

Video games are protected by copyright law and, in many cases, patent law and trademark law. For example, in a Batman game like Arkham Asylum, not only is the game itself copyrighted, but the character, name and logo of Batman have been trademarked (even the name Gotham City is trademarked), and many aspects of the game and/or visual design may have been patented.

How dare you? Don't you know I'm trademarked?
How dare you? Don’t you know I’m trademarked?

Although your gameplay may be unique, your screen captures will likely contain a host of copyrighted, trademarked and/or patented elements. These include: the game itself, the game engine, the user interface, other visual elements, the script, dialogue recordings, music composition and recordings,  characters, character designs and logos. Importantly, different companies and individuals may own the rights to different things.  For example, an in-game song may only have been licensed by the game developer for use within the game, with the copyright still being held by the songwriters and performers.

In this article, I won’t spend time describing how many years the copyright lasts for in different jurisdictions or how games are classified in legal terms (e.g., as audio-visual works, computer software or literary works or as distributive in nature), so let’s just go with the simple statement that any game you are now playing is almost certainly protected under copyright law and will continue to be protected for several decades.


3. Isn’t it true that many game developers appreciate Let’s Play videos?

Absolutely. What better promotion is there than thousands of excited players sharing their experiences online? That kind of word-of-mouth promotion can’t be bought. For example, let’s look at Ubisoft’s stance:

At Ubisoft, we value the talented content creators on YouTube, and we want to empower all of you to produce Ubisoft-related videos…We consider ourselves fortunate to have so many passionate fans creating great content based on our brands, and we plan to work with as many of you as possible to help remove any incorrect claims. (Ubisoft, YouTube and Copyrights)

Many game developers are savvy enough to recognize that gameplay videos are a great form of promotion and therefore allow YouTubers to upload and monetize videos featuring extensive gameplay footage. Now, many of the 100 most popular channels on YouTube are Let’s Play channels.

Some developers give explicit permission in the terms of service for their games, with Mojang, the copyright owners of Minecraft, being a notable example. For Minecraft, you would just need to take care of a few easy-to-meet requirements regarding use of the Minecraft name and logo (these deal with trademark concerns) and you are free to use their videos AND monetize them on YouTube (Minecraft EULA)

Here is a useful list of game developers than support Let’s Play videos; the list also describes the conditions you would need to meet (e.g., no conditions, email them, include a copyright disclaimer, add commentary, etc) and indicates whether or not you can monetize the videos:  Let’s Play Friendly Developers

Some developers may not explicitly allow Let’s Play Videos or may not respond to permission requests but still allow Let’s Play videos to stay online. In this case, you should be aware that developers may suddenly switch their approach and may suddenly start taking down Let’s Play videos that feature their games.  It is always best to get some form of assurance in writing.

Update (February 2019): Do note that many developers have specific policies about what cannot be shown. For example, you may not be allowed to show things like:

  • Hacks. cheats, exploits or cracks
  • Cut scenes
  • Music
  • The entire game in one video

Therefore, you need to check the game developer’s policy.


4. So if a game developer is OK with my Let’s Play video, everything is fine, right?

Unfortunately, not always. In some cases, some of the elements in the game such as trademarked characters and logos or copyrighted songs may have been licensed for use only in the game itself and in official promotions. In these cases, the trademarks and copyrights are not owned by the developers, so they would not be able to give you permission. Music may be especially troublesome. For example, if a song is playing on the radio a scene from Grand Theft Auto and you include that in your video, you can get a Content ID notification or DMCA takedown notice from the copyright owners of the song. To avoid this kind of problem, you should see if your game has a No Music option and use it for your Let’s Play videos.

Here’s another example: although Ubisoft is explicitly welcoming Let’s Play Videos, if you use their Just Dance game (which features a lot of hit songs) for making Let’s Play videos, you would have the right to upload the visuals (this permission is granted by Ubisoft) but not the music. This problem has been mentioned on Ubisoft and YouTube forums and people have contacted Ubisoft directly, but the developer has not responded to queries about the use of in-game music in Let’s Play videos. In the following Just Dance Let’s Play video, for example, the music copyright (and therefore the monetization rights) have been claimed by the owners of the rights to the song YMCA.

(The video is now unavailable.)

Update (February 2019): For games in which mods, cheats and hacks are against the End User License Agreement (which would be most games), if you upload videos showing or promoting these, the game developer can report the video (for ‘circumvention of technological measures’). Having videos like that in your channel can lead to community guidelines strikes and channel terminations. Similarly, if you are promoting and/or showing cracked versions of the game, you can get a strike and/or channel termination.


5. Why do some game developers order gameplay videos to be taken down?

Perhaps these developers believe that maintaining control over copyrighted and trademarked content is more important than the promotion generated by Let’s Play videos. If you are going to be making Let’s Play videos for a certain game, you should try to get permission from that game’s developers if the terms of service don’t already allow for such uses. At the very least, you should find out from other video uploaders if the games you want to focus on are ‘safe’ to us.


6. Can I monetize Let’s Play videos?

The answer depends on the developer. Some developers allow this explicitly, some have certain conditions and and some don’t allow you to do this. According to YouTube’s terms of service, to monetize videos you must create all the content yourself OR have the permission or rights to make commercial use of other kinds of content you use (you can refer to these documents from YouTube (What Kind of Content Can I Monetize? and Video Monetization Criteria). As mentioned earlier, Minecraft’s terms of service explicitly state that you can monetize Let’s Play videos with footage from the game. The previously mentioned list of Let’s Play Friendly Developers can given you more information about which developers are more likely to allow monetization.

There are three more important points about monetizing videos to bear in mind:

  • Unless you have permission (written permission from the developer or in the game’s terms of service) to monetize your video, the game developer (or a music collection agency overseeing music licensing and royalties) can take over monetization of your video, getting all the revenue, at any time. In December 2013 many game channels were hit with a tidal wave of copyright notices (YouTube Video Game Shows Hit with Copyright Blitz ). YouTube recently created a revenue sharing option for videos of cover songs, but this is not available for Let’s Play videos.
  • With monetization, you are not only following the terms of service of Google/YouTube, you are now following the terms of service of AdSense, which are in some ways stricter. For example, view-building practices that are OK according to YouTube’s terms of service, could get your videos taken down and your account banned under the terms of service of AdSense (Is It OK to Buy View for YouTube Videos).
  • If you frequently get your monetization requests denied, you may eventually lose the right to monetize videos.

Update (February 2019): YouTube has changed its monetization policy. In order to monetize a gameplay channel, you need to be providing  substantial amount of commentary in the videos.

7. Should I join an MCN?

Multi-channel networks can help with things like getting clearance to use clips and monetizing your video. If you are looking at creating a gaming channel as an important source of income, it might be a good idea to join a multi-channel network. Do read this article by Freddie Wong (aka FreddieW) about the how channels operate and how to negotiate a contract that suits you: YouTube Networks: 7 Things You need to Know

Update (February 2019): In order to join and MCN, your channel now needs to be approved for monetization by YouTube.



Know your rights, but accept the limits to those rights.
Respect the rights of copyright owners.
Know the terms of service of YouTube, AdSense and the developers of the games you want to feature.

Appendix 1. What about fair use? Does it apply to Let’s Play videos?

Fair use is a provision in copyright law that allows people to make use of copyrighted work for the purposes for education, criticism or commentary. ‘Commentary’ here means analysis, not the sort of play-be-play commentary associated with sports broadcasting or many gameplay videos (which is why you won’t often come across homemade DVD-commentary-style videos of Hollywood movies or YouTube channels dedicated to combining original play-by-play commentary with official video clips from the English Premier League). The purpose of the provision is basically to prevent copyright restrictions from deterring the development of new ideas and the advancement of knowledge.

The use of a limited amount of gameplay footage in a game review could be considered to fall within fair use provisions because 1) you are using a small portion of the game and 2) you have modified the purpose, taking something that was entertainment and creating something that is an informational and critical. Your use of the footage can therefore considered to be transformational.

The extended use of game footage in a Let’s Play video, however, would likely not be considered fair use. Many gamers and let’s players would argue that it is fair use, but their views are not exactly unbiased.

There are four criteria used when evaluating whether or not something can be considered fair use:

  1. The nature of the original work. The use of fact-based works is more likely to be considered fair use than the use of creative works.
  2. The amount of the original work, especially when compared to what you are bringing to the table. If the original work is only a small part of what you are doing (e.g., a 30-second film clip in a 5-minute review), there is a greater chance that the use would be considered fair use. Unfortunately, there are no set guidelines regarding how much of a work can be used. You would also need to look the how important the part you are using is.
  3. The ability of your work to interfere with the market value of a work and the size of the potential audience. If you aren’t affecting the potential revenue or a work and only showing your new work to a limited number of people, there is a greater chance that the use would be considered fair use.
  4. The purpose of the the new work and the the extent to which the new work transforms the existing work. If the new work is educational or critical in nature and if it is non-commercial, there is a greater chance that the use would fall within fair use. Similarly if you are able to transform the purpose of the original work, there is a greater chance the use would be considered fair use.

Do Let’s Play Videos meet these criteria?

1. The nature of the original work.
The original work is creative in nature (unless you are playing an educational game).

2. The amount of the original work
A ten-minute game review showing brief ten-second clips would be far more likely to be considered fair use than a ten minute Let’s Play video where you are just adding running commentary. If you are creating a Let’s Play series where you are going through the whole game, then you definitely won’t be meeting this criteria.

3. The ability of the new work to affect the market potential of the existing work
You can argue that Let’s Play videos wouldn’t really interfere with a game’s market potential unless the game developer is also selling game guides. The opposing point of view is that Let’s Play videos may dispel too much of the mystery of the game and may give away important plot points, thus ruining the experience for others. Here’s a film equivalent; a film review site may show clips from The Sixth Sense or Toy Story 3, but if the clip reveals the vital plot twist of the former or the entire climatic incinerator scene in the latter, that would weaken any fair use claim. Another problem with posting Let’s Play videos on YouTube is the enormous size of the potential audience.

4. The purpose of the new work
If your videos are monetized, that moves them into the commercial realm. A Let’s Play video, created primarily to entertain, doesn’t really transform the purpose of the game, which was also created primarily to entertain. With a game review, however, the use of original footage could be considered to be transformational because the purpose of the original work is entertainment while the purpose of the new work is criticism.

Only the most liberal interpretation of the criteria could see the extensive use of gameplay screen captures in Let’s Play videos as being fair use. Fair use provisions are intended to allow copyright materials to be used for the purposes of education and advancement of knowledge through critical analysis. Do Let’s Play videos really reflect this purpose?

There are four more points about fair use to bear in mind:

  • Whether something is fair use or not can only be determined by a court of law (for example, it can act as legal defense in the event that you get sued for copyright infringement).
  • It cannot be applied for beforehand.
  • It applies to copyright law, but not to patent or trademark law.
  • If you challenge a Content ID match on one of your YouTube videos using fair use as your reason for appeal, your challenge is passed onto the copyright owner  (Disputing Content ID matches), who may not agree with your interpretation.

You can also appeal DMCA Takedowns (where you video is removed), but you would need to send your personal information to the copyright owner and you are inviting them to take legal action (YouTube’s Counter-notification Process). The copyright owners would then have 10-14 business days in which to take legal action against you (Guide to YouTube removals). If they do not, then your video is restored. As you are now entering murky legal waters, at this stage it would be a good idea to consult a lawyer before doing anything.


Appendix 2. What can happen if I don’t have permission ?

The consequences of using copyrighted material on YouTube without permission are varied. If two YouTubers upload exactly the same type of video for exactly the same type of game, there is no guarantee that the same things will happen. Any of the following may happen:

  1.  There are no problems.
  2.  Your video cannot be monetized because you are unable to prove you have the necessary rights.
  3. An element of the game is correctly identified through a Content ID match, and the copyright owner allows the video to stay up (but you are unlikely to be able to monetize it, unless you can prove you have the right to use the content commercially). In this case, be aware that developers may later change their stance.
  4.  An element of the game is correctly identified through a Content ID match, and the copyright owner decides to take over monetization.
  5. An element of the game is correctly identified through a Content ID match, and the copyright owner decides to have your video taken down and you get a copyright strike. These usually disappear after six months if there are no further issues with your channel’s content. However, once you get three copyright strikes, your account is terminated.
  6. A gameplay element is incorrectly identified through a Content ID match. This could be a mistake or it could be the result of a copyright troll abusing that the Content ID Match system. Usually, these clams will be released if challenged. One problem, however is that because Let’s Play uploaders may not have the right to use the content, they may be reluctant to challenge a claim by an unknown organization, which may or may not have the right to make such a claim.


Related Articles

Copyright: Music, Copyright & Youtube: Fair Use, Public Domain & DMCA

YouTube: How Much Money Do The Top YouTube Stars Make?

~by longzijun


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Is it OK to buy views for YouTube videos?

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:

  1. What is the purpose for buying views?
  2. Is the practice of buying views allowed according to YouTube’s Terms of Service?
  3. Can YouTube detect whether or not you are buying views?
  4. It it an effective way to build up your channel’s popularity?

I decided to research this topic when I noticed that someone using a song from my free background music collection had started a new channel and had a surprisingly high view count for a new channel with run-of-the mill content. A quick look at the channel stats suggested the views were being bought, so I started wondering, “Wow, that was a quick way to get views! Is it something I should be doing? What are the risks?”    

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?

No. This is mentioned in this YouTube Policy Article: Working with third party view service providers

“What’s downright not allowed?
Purchasing views for your videos directly from third-party websites (e.g. paying $10 for 10,000 views).”

If you are a partner, buying views and/or subscribers is explicitly forbidden under YouTube’s Partner Progam Policies, which state:

  • Do not click on your own ads or use any means to inflate video views, impressions and/or clicks artificially, including manual methods.
  • Do not encourage others to click your ads or use deceptive implementation methods to obtain clicks, including clicks on your videos to inflate views. This includes commissioning third party agencies that advertise these services to increase your viewership. The purchase or gaming of subscribers, views or any other channel features is a violation of our Terms of Service.
  • Do not manipulate or incentivize others to click on video features, such as “Like” or “Favorite,” to improve your standing and visibility across the site. We consider these to be fraudulent clicks and/or queries.
  • Do not employ third party sites and tools to automatically generate artificial subscribers or views.  (from Partner Program Policies,, Accessed 22 November  2013

If it is detected that you are buying views and/or subscribers, your account will be terminated.

If you are not a partner, and therefore are not monetizing your videos, buying ‘human’ views or subscribers does not seem not to be explicitly against YouTube’s Terms of Service (TOS), but it is explicitly forbidden under the policy article quoted at the top of this section. Buying automated views is definitely against the TOS. Once such practices are discovered, your account would be terminated.

You agree not to use or launch any automated system, including without limitation, “robots,” “spiders,” or “offline readers,” that accesses the Service in a manner that sends more request messages to the YouTube servers in a given period of time than a human can reasonably produce in the same period by using a conventional on-line web browser. (YouTube Terms of Service accessed 22 November 2013)

The problem here is that if you are a non-partner buying views, you would need to have complete trust in the view-selling service to never use automated techniques such as viewbots.

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 regularly; it is not an empty threat. If you drop by the Google Products YouTube Forum, you will see quite a few posts that start off with “Why was my account terminated for no reason?” with replies that go along the lines of “Well, I looked at your stats on SocialBlade and it is obvious that you were buying views and subscribers.”

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 worthwhile? 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 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 new 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.
  • If your video got deleted anyway you may use the YouTube View Abuse Appeal Form. Make sure to describe the counter-actions you took to prevent the YouTube system from damage. (, accessed 13 March 2014)

~by longzijun

More articles on YouTube


~by longzijun


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How Much Money Do The Top YouTube Stars Make?

This is the first in a series of articles about YouTube. Now that almost everyone is able to monetize their videos, one question that keeps coming up is ‘how much can I make from this gig’? Assuming I am good at making entertaining videos, is this something that can make me rich? Can I at least quit my day job and make videos full-time?

If you want the most up-to-date statistics, you should visit SocialBlades Top YouTubers chart and start clicking on some of the names.

According to SocialBlade’s statistics, the most viewed channel of the past year (at the time of writing)—PewDiePie—is estimated to have raked in an annual income of between 2.1 million and 17 million dollars (accessed ovember 2014). The true figure would likely be towards the bottom of that range as only a relatively small number of people click on ads. If you are looking for the estimated revenue of a particular channel, you can search for that channel’s data on the Social Blade site. Form this data, we can assume that several of the top channels are now bringing in over a million dollars a year via advertising revenue (but these would only be the channels at the very top).


How Much Do the Top YouTube Earners Make?

OK, so you want to be a YouTube star. Is it worth it?Everybody is keeping their cards close to the vest on this topic (YouTube does not allow partners to publicly disclose revenue figures), but if you are extremely successful (the ‘extremely’ part is important!), you can make enough to live fairly comfortably with your YouTube work being your full-time job.The top earning channels at present are certainly bringing in six figures from advertising revenue annually (before taxes) with the channels at the very top earning at least a million dollars per year. According to the Social Blade website (Social Blade, accessed May 2013), the top earning YouTube channel in May of 2013, the gaming channel BlueXephos, was earning anywhere between $681,700 and $6.4 million annually. Given that few people actually click on ads, however, the actual figure would likely be towards the bottom of that range (and not the 6.7 million dollars reported in Brian Warner’s CelebrityNet Worth article The 25 Highest Earning Youtube Stars. However, even that ‘bottom’ is close to a million dollars. That is a high bottom!

This article from several years ago (2010)—Meet the Richest Independent YouTube Stars— lists the top 10 YouTube earners at that time with Natalie Tran (aka CommunityChannel) placing 10th with an estimated pre-tax annual income of just over $100,000. Although the list has been criticized as being inaccurate and based on overly simplistic analysis, it does provide a useful starting point.

The list of the top ten earners has changed substantially since that article was published, with newer channels like Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg’s PewDiePie and Ray William Johnson’s =3 pushing past almost all of those on the list. In 2013, the top earners are making even more.

According to Open Slate’s 2012 research—YouTube’s Top 1,000 Channels Reveal An Industry Taking Shape—the top 1000 channels at that time were making an average of $23,000 per month (i.e., over a quarter of a million dollars per year). However, there were claims that the average is too high. For example, commenting on the article, Alex Ikonn writes,

I am a co-founder of a Top 300 YouTube channel and one of the biggest channels in the How-to category and I can tell you that advertising revenue is nothing close to $23k a month.

It is likely that among the top 1000 channels, the most successful ones (i.e., the top thirty) are far ahead of the chasing pack and are therefore distorting the average (i.e, the mean income may be have been $23,000, but the median income—the income of the channels right in the middle of the top 1000—would be much lower).

Importantly, there are other possible sources of income such as merchandising, product placement, live performances and speaking engagements as well as advertising on associated websites.It is definitely possible to earn a living and have a comfortable lifestyle if you are one of the top YouTubers and are pulling in millions of viewers for each video, but we are not at the stage yet where we are reading articles about YT stars buying luxurious LA mansions and private jets.


Sharing the Pie

To further muddy the picture, it is not always clear how a channel’s revenue is being distributed. For example, The Yogcast, the team behind one of the top-earning channels, BlueXephos, consists of twenty people (as of May 2013) including the two co-founders. In addition, the Yogcast team is part of the TheGameStationNetwork (TGS), which is a a division of Maker Studios, one of the largest YouTube networks (these are somewhat akin to television networks). If you belong to a network, a chunk of your revenue will go to that network. Yet another expense may be licensing.

To sum up, the revenue from the The Yogcast related channels like Blue Xephos would be somehow divided amongst the 20 or so Yogcast members, but not before a large chunk is gobbled up by TGS, Maker Studios and producers of some of the games featured on the channel.Besides handling licensing issues, what else do the networks/studios do? Looking at the credits list in the following video in the Epic Rap Battles in History series (who are associated with Maker Studios) can give you a clue.

You might assume that the video was produced entirely by the two stars Nice Peter and EpicLLOYD; however, the credits in the description also include:

  • Three additional writers (Zach Sherwin, Dante Cimadamore, and Mike Betette),
  • music beats (The Unbeatables and Dizzy Productions),
  • song producer and mixer (Choco),
  • director and editor (Dave McCrary),
  • directors of photography (Jon Na and Layne Pavoggi),
  • gaffers (Arthur Hong and Blake O’Neal),
  • compositing and background design (Andrew Sherman),
  • assistant editors (Ryan Moulton and Marc Chester),
  • costume designer (Sulai Lopez),
  • makeup and hair stylists (Eva Buinowsky and Tara Lang),
  • art consultants (Mary Gutfleisch),
  • production assistants (Jose Mendoza, Yev Belilovsky and Trent Turner),
  • production coordinators (Shaun Lewin and Atul Singh) and
  • producer (Michelle Maloney).

That’s a lot of help! That’s a lot of salaries. Many YT stars have either signed contracts with large YouTube networks/studios like Maker Studios and Machinama or are working with their own crews. The studios provide technical, legal, creative and administrative support while taking a large percentage of the advertising revenue. In the contract dispute between Maker Studios and Ray William Johnson, Maker Studios argued that it deserved a larger percentage of Ray’s current and future income because of the large number of staff involved in the =3 show. In Ray’s written response— Why I Left Maker Studios—he reported the terms of the new contract he was being asked to sign:

They wanted 40% of my YouTube channel’s Adsense revenue after production costs, and more importantly, they wanted 50% of the show’s intellectual property in perpetuity. Let me clarify: they wanted to own 50% of the intellectual property of “Equals Three” for the rest of eternity.

Note that the cut taken by the studio is ‘after’ production costs.Most popular video makers will eventually have to decide whether it is worthwhile for them to join a network; however, owners of gaming channels looking to earn money don’t have much choice because of the difficulty of obtaining rights to monetize game-play footage. Even if you don’t join a network and are independent, like Ryan Higa of Nigahiga, there are often co-founders (in Ryan Higa’s case, Sean Fujiyoshi, Tim Enos, and Tarynn Nago), as well as recurring actors and/or technicians that might need to be paid.

Thus, the terms ‘gross revenue’ or ‘turnover’ might be more accurate than ‘income’ when describing the money generated from a video channel. From that revenue, you would need to pay the staff working for you (or indirectly pay those working for the network you belong to), any production costs, licensing costs and related expenses, not to mention taxes.If your format is a relatively simple one that doesn’t require much support like doing monologues directly to the camera (Phil DeFranco) or doing monologues and short skits (Natalie Tran, Ryan Higa), there is obviously more pie for you.


Can’t I Just Do Everything Myself?

You can, and you might have to at the beginning, but one trend is that popular channels and videos now tend to have high production values (well, a lot higher than a couple of years ago).  And these values come with their own costs. In commenting on YouTube’s own list of top ten viral videos, Josh Dawsey reports:

Five years ago, when YouTube pieced together its first list of the year’s top ten videos, many were accidental home videos or amateurish films never designed for widespread consumption, said Kevin Allocca, a trends manager for the company.With nine of the ten videos that made this year’s YouTube list coming from professional producers, making a video that appears to be an accidental hit is becoming increasingly typical….“There are more and more people who know how to build an audience, how to use YouTube,” Allocca said. “There are companies who spend millions and millions of dollars trying to create these videos.” (YouTube’s Top Ten Viral Videos of 2012

The Harlem Shake video craze, for example, was pushed heavily by Maker Studios. Though they did not create the original, they did create and promote the video (Office Version) that sent the silly dance viral ( A more recent example of a professionally produced and promoted viral hit is Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise, which is a promotion for the remake of Carrie.

It is getting more and more difficult for an independent amateur video maker to create a splash on YouTube. If you look at some of the relatively low production work of the early videos of the established stars, you might wonder how these videos would fare if they were new releases by unknown YouTubers in 2013.

Freddie Wong’s First YouTube Upload

A More Recent Upload from Freddie Wong (2013)


Do the Top YouTubers Deserve the Money?

The answer to that would have to be an unqualified ‘yes’. The most successful YouTubers have all been able to climb to the top of a very crowded and easy-to-enter market and are pulling in huge numbers of views. As of May 2013, the videos on Ray William Johnson’s =3 channel have received over two billion views and the 23 videos of Epic Rap Battles of History Season 2 have received half a billion views.

These views are not from one-off viral videos; they are from an established fan base built up steadily over the past couple of years. With those viewership figures, shouldn’t the stars be paid comparably to television celebrities? If we are going to make that comparison, we might conclude that YouTubers are underpaid if anything.



Becoming hugely successful is one thing; staying there is another. The average number of views per video appears to be dropping among almost all the top YouTuber channels. For example, a couple of years ago, vlogger Jenna Marbles ( was pulling in at least 10 million views per video, with her more popular ones receiving several times that number. Now, though still highly popular, she is generally reaching a more modest two to four million views per video, with only her most popular ones hitting 10 million. As most vlog videos get the vast majority of their views in the few weeks after being released, it is unlikely these new videos will ever come close to enjoying the popularity of her older ones.

This Wired article, The rise and fall of YouTube’s celebrity pioneers, looks at the video career trajectories or the original success stories on YouTube. Most of them have gone back to obscurity (which is not necessarily a bad thing!). How many of these early YouTube stars have you even heard of?

A related problem is keeping your audience, especially if you are targeting tween, teens or young adults or if you are making a trendy kind of video. If you are targeting younger viewers, they are going to grow up and will probably grow out of whatever it is you are doing. Will you be able to captivate the next generation of young viewers? As for trendy videos, now reaction videos are quite popular, but will viewers start to get bored of the format after a year or two?

Another potential problem is that there is no guarantee that companies will continue to pour as much money into social media advertising as they are now doing. If companies. especially those using the banner ads, caption ads and pre-roll adds that most channels earn their money from, find such ads are no longer worth the price and stop running them, the advertising rates paid to YouTube channel owners would also drop, as they have done already earlier this year, falling from $9.35 per 1000 views (using pre-roll videos) to $6.33 (

A fourth problem is that YouTube fame does not always lead to fortune. A good example of this can be seen in the work of the indie band OK Go, who have had phenomenal success on YouTube, with the the Rube Goldberg machine video for their song This Too Shall Pass getting over 40 millions views and the video for Needing/Getting closing in on 30 millions views. However, the band’s music has not really taken off. Of the three albums the band has released since 2002, the highest position on the US Billboard Album charts has been 40 (the first two albums reached positions 107 and 69, and the albums barely registered on the British charts).

As the band had to pay off advances from their former record label, they are not seeing any money from YouTube. In short, their great success with viral videos has not translated into great record sales OR advertising income (you can read antiquiet’s article Why OK Go Make Awesome Videos but No Money for more information).


Yes, it’s possible to earn a good living, but this only holds true for the most popular channels. Unless you can also develop and nurture a channel so that it stands out from thousands of competing channels or unless you can find a way to make money from your video work above and beyond advertising revenue (e.g., by selling your music arrangements or craft patterns, by setting up speaking engagements or consultancy work etc.), you can consider being a YouTuber as a kind of part-time job or hobby. And even if you can claw your way to the top of the heap, at the moment, the financial rewards do not really compare to the possibilities offered to the top stars in other entertainment fields.Let’s take one last look at Natalie Tran, the top 10 earner mentioned at the beginning of this article. She recently took a half-year hiatus from her CommunityChannel vlogging and has just returned to making videos, though less frequently than before. The reason for the hiatus? She got a job in the ‘real world’. For anyone aspiring to Youtube stardom, that should be a sobering thought.Your Thoughts?What do you think? Do the YouTube stars deserve the money? Leave a comment below.

~by longzijun


Return to Writing


ifaq (Infrequently Asked Questions)

When I check to see what search terms brought viewers to my blog, I find some people would have been frustrated to get here and not find the answers they were looking for. Here are the answers:

What is the cause of the buzzing sound when recording through a microphone to a camcorder?

Maybe it is a loose connection. Another likely explanation is that you are listening using headphones while the audio output setting for your camcorder is set to AV. If this is the case, the buzzing is not recorded and is easy to get rid of. Most camcorders have a function for switching the output from AV to headphone.

Where can I find copyright-free instrumentals? Where can I find public domain music for advertising?

Almost nowhere. This is because with music recordings, the music and the recording are both copyrighted. What you are looking for is:

  • Royalty-free music (which means you pay for the music, quite often as part of a CD collection, but are allowed to use it when creating videos or for other purposes)
  • Music issued under a creative commons license that gives you the right to use the music under certain conditions
  • Music  for which the composer/performer gives you the right to use the music under certain conditions
  • Music which has been released into the public domain by the composer/performer (this almost never happens)
  • The music and the recording are so old that they are already in the public domain (this is also very rare—most recorded music is simply not old enough). Depending on the country, recordings enter the public domain 50, 70 or 95 years after the death of the copyright holder (in the US it is 95 years, but due to a legal technicality most sound recordings made in the US will not enter the public domain until 2065.

So basically, you only have the first three choices. Here are some links to help you:

Is YouTube the public domain? Are all videos posted on YouTube in the public domain?

Absolutely not. No No No. Negative. Nyet

How do I import an After Effects project in Premiere Pro?

There are two ways.I think the best way is to simply import the composition. In Premiere Pro, select File – Adobe Dynamic Link – Import After Effects Composition and then choose the After Effects file (and composition you are working with). I like this method because, you can change/edit the After Effects file at any time (just don’t rename it or move it) and the changes will appear automatically in Premiere Pro. The other method is to render the After Effects composition as an AVI file (Composition –  Add to Render Queue)

If the form(s) of documentation you listed in the previous problem is (are) missing, why will an assignment be plagiarized?

This is a research paper question. In research papers, the sources cited in the text must exactly match the ones listed in the references section; otherwise, it may appear that a student is making up the citations and/or references.

A Good Poem about a Fisherman?

My own poem is about a specific person and is a little negative. Try this one instead:
Trout Fishing by Eunice Lamberton

Give me a rod of the split bamboo,
a rainy day and a fly or two,
a mountain stream where the eddies play,
and mists hang low o’er the winding way,

Give me a haunt by the furling brook,
A hidden spot in a mossy nook,
No sound save hum of the drowsy bee,
or lone bird’s tap on the hollow tree.

The world may roll with it’s busy throng,
And phantom scenes on it’s way along,
It’s stocks may rise, or it’s stocks may fall,
Ah! What care I for it’s baubles all?

I cast my fly o’er the troubled rill,
Luring the beauties by magic skill,
With mind at rest and a heart at ease,
And drink delight at the balmy breeze.

A lusty trout to my glad surprise,
Speckled and bright on the crest arise,
Then splash and plunge in a dazzling whirl,
Hope springs anew as the wavelets curl.

Gracefully swinging from left to right,
Action so gentle- motion so slight,.
Tempting, enticing, on craft intent,
Till yielding tip by the game is bent

Drawing in slowly, then letting go
Under the ripples where mosses grow
Doubting my fortune, lost in a dream,
Blessing the land of forest and stream.

Rochester, N.Y.
December fifteenth, 1873

Can I remove or reduce voice vibrations (vocal vibrato) with Premiere Pro?

Removing vibrato is not a run-of-the-mill audio recording process, so  I think you would need specialty software or plug-ins for that. There is a discussion of the various methods and software available here:

It is basically a kind of auto-tune feature, so while you maybe be able to reduce or eliminate vibrato, you might end up with electronic-sounding artifacts. Generally, I am inclined to agree with the posters who suggest that it is much better to re-record the vocals than to heavily process them afterwards to fix any problems.

Music, Copyright & Youtube: Fair Use, Public Domain & DMCA

The aim of this article is to help you better understand the copyright principles, such as fair use, public domain and creative commons licensing, that you need to be aware of when including music in your YouTube videos. At the end of the page, there are also a few links regarding where to find music that you can legally use as background music in your video.

Why should you learn about this?

if you are involved with creating videos for YouTube, you are automatically a worldwide media production company. Congratulations! However, music copyright laws were not set up to accommodate today’s social media landscape, in which hundreds of thousands of amateur and semi-professional videos makers are creating works that can be viewed almost anywhere in the world. The relevant laws and music licensing processes tend to be complex, restrictive and ambiguous, best to be dealt with by a media company’s legal team, yet here we all are making videos, so until the laws change, we better learn more about our rights and responsibilities. This page is long (sorry), but only represents a summary of the main issues. A lot of people on the Internet seem to be basing their advice on what they would like copyright laws to be rather than on what the laws really are, so there is a lot of bad advice out there. My approach is to err on the side of caution.

If you have a specific question, you can check the list of questions below or send your question via the comments sections.

1. Music Copyright Basics
1.1 What parts of the song are copyrighted?
1.2 Which country’s copyright laws would I be following?
1.3 If I wanted to use copyrighted music legally, what kind of license would I need?
1.4. What is copyright free-music?

2. Public Domain
2.1 What is public domain?
2.2 How old is old enough?
2.3 Why is a music publisher saying they own the copyright to my recording of a work by Beethoven?
2.4 What is copyfraud?
2.5 Is their any danger if I use pre-recorded audio loops in my music?

3. Creative Commons
3.1 What is Creative Commons?
3.2 Am I safe if use Creative Commons licensed songs?

4. Fair Use
4.1 What is fair use?
4.2 What are the criteria for determining fair use?
4.3 What about parody?
4.4 What about anime music videos (AMVs)?
4.5 What about mashups?
4.6 What about cover versions?
4.7 What about remixes?
4.8 If I use a karaoke track of a cover song, add my own words and upload to YouTube, is that allowed?

5. YouTube Policies
5.1 What is YouTube’s policy concerning copyrighted music?
5.2. What can you do if you receive a copyright claim against your video?
5.3 My video has been deleted: DMCA and the counter-notification process
5.4 So, if I post something and don’t get a notice then I am safe, right?
5.5 I got a notice about my video saying that someone is claiming copyright, but that I don’t have to do anything. I’m safe, right?
5.6 I got a YouTube copyright strike! Will it ever go away?
5.7 Can I cheat YouTube’s content match system?
5.8 Is it OK if I use copyright-protected music without permission as long as I post a statement saying I do not own the music and I properly credit the artist?
5.9 Is it OK if I use copyright-protected music and set the video to Private or Unlisted?

6. Licensing
6. Can I license music from a pop star?

7. Free Music Resources
7. Where can I get music to use as background music?

1.1 What parts of the song are copyrighted?

The composition (including the music and any lyrics) and recording are protected by copyright. The purpose of copyright is to try to ensure people responsible for making the music can earn a living from their work. It is important to note that the composition and recording are covered by separate copyrights, so even if you were to change the words to the song and record all the instruments yourself, the music (melody, harmony and basic arrangement) is still protected by copyright.

Things that might break copyright laws would include:

  • Playing a song from your favorite band as background music in your video
  • Uploading your own cover version of that song
  • Uploading an instrumental version of the song
  • Posting the entire lyrics on your website
  • Uploading a video that contains a song playing in the background on a radio

Of course, this kind of stuff can be seen all over YouTube. That, however, does not mean that those videos are not in breach of copyright law. You may do the exact same thing as a hundred other videos on YouTube and find that your video has been banned and your account is in danger of termination. With YouTube’s current system, any time you upload anything that is copyrighted, there is a risk that you will earn a copyright strike. If you accumulate three strikes, your account is terminated.

The last item on the above list of copyright infringing practices—uploading a video that contains a song playing in the background on a radio—catches many people by surprise. The audio is often of low quality, so it is not like anyone would download it, and in many such cases, the music was recorded by accident. There is no way your use of the music would affect the earning of the artist; however, this does not give you the right have the song playing in your video. One of the purposes of copyright (besides trying to protect artists financially) is to give artists control over how their work is used, and not every artist wants his/her music playing in an advertisement, in a movie or in your home video of a baby dancing.

1.2 Which country’s copyright laws would I be following?

There is no international Copyright law, only an agreement for countries to respect each other’s copyright law. Therefore, which country’s law should be applied. is not international.
When deciding jurisdiction in international copyright cases, courts will generally look at where countries where there is a direct connection to the case. For example, that could be the
country where the material was copied and uploaded and/or the country where the damage to the target market would be greatest. For example if a someone in the US uploads a Bollywood song to YouTube, possible jurisdiction, a copyright case related to that could be heard in America (where the act if infringement took place, where the infringer lives, where YouTube is based and where most of YouTube’s servers are based) or in India (where the work was first published and, more importantly, where the the main target audience of the material resides. For more information, you can read the following articles:

In many ways, current copyright laws are unsuitable for how people are using the Internet. If you are uploading to YouTube, allowing your videos to be accessed around the world, it would be a good idea to make sure your work is at least in line with American copyright law. If you want to be especially safe, can also try to make sure that your work is in line with the jurisdictions the country where you live and of countries with a clear connection to the original work (e.g., the country with the main target audience).

1.3 If I wanted to use copyrighted music legally, what kind of license would I need?

The different kinds of music licenses and royalties are introduced here: Basically, there are three kinds:

  • Mechanical license (giving you the right to publish, distribute and/or sell your own audio recording of a copyrighted song—an audio-only cover version)
  • Synchronization license (giving you the right to set your cover version to video and publish the video). That is, you have the right to use in your video the musical composition, but not the recording.
  • Master Use license AND Synchronization license (giving you the right to use an existing copyrighted recording—Master Use—of a copyrighted song—Synchronization—in your video). If the same person(s) holds the copyright to both the composition and recording, these licenses can be combined into a single ‘Synchronization and Master Use’ license. If you want to use a recording of a song that is no longer protected by copyright (e.g., a Mozart piano sonata), you would just need the Master Use license.

To legally sell your cover version of a song on iTunes or post your audio-only cover on Bandcamp, you would need the first. To legally upload a video of your cover version, you would need the second (though almost no one will actually obtain this). To legally upload a video that contains an existing audio recording by your favorite artist, you would need the third. These licenses are discussed in more detail towards the end of this page. Getting a Mechanical license is straightforward, but Synchronization licenses and Master Use licenses are not always easy to obtain (if there are a few different songwriters, you would need to negotiate a fee with each one!) and Master Use licenses are typically very expensive.

Of course, if an up-and-coming performer or composer is looking for free publicity, it never hurts to ask him/her to just give you written permission to use the song.

1.4 What is copyright-free music?

I think people who use this term really mean “music that is in the public domain” or published under a Creative Commons licence.

2.1 What is public domain?

Once a work is old enough, it enters the public domain and can be freely distributed, performed and recorded without you having to obtain a license or pay royalties.

Some people have the misconception that if something is posted on YouTube, it becomes a public domain work. This is a completely wrong idea.

Composers and musicians may release their work into the public domain at any time, meaning they give up all control over the work. This, however, is extremely rare.

Also, people tend to forget that the composition as well as performance enjoys copyright protection; therefore, while a Beethoven composition will be in the public domain, a recorded performance of this work would most likely NOT be in the public domain.

2.2 How old is old enough?

The laws that govern exactly how old a musical work must be before it enters the public domain differ from country to country and also tend to become more restrictive over time. As new laws are passed, copyright terms tend to be longer and longer as evidenced in this video that is amusing and disturbing in equal measure: Copyright: One Day Less than Forever.

A work may be in the public domain in one country while still being under copyright protection in another country. For example, musical compositions published in America before 1923 are in the public domain. For works published between 1923 and 1977, they enter the public domain 95 years after their initial publication. And for works published from 1978 on, they are protected for 70 years after the death of the composer (if there is more than one composer, you start counting after the death of the last one). To make matters worse, a legal technicality means that most recordings of music in the US will not enter the public domain until 2067! ( In the US, recordings made since after 1922 are NOT in the public domain unless the copyright owner has explicitly placed them in the public domain. For sound recordings made prior to 1923, most of these are actually still copyright protected under various state laws. The exact details for when a work enters the public domain in the USA are here:

In other jurisdictions, the copyright term may be different. For example, in Canada and Hong Kong, works enter the public domain 50 years after the death of the composer; while in European Union countries and Russia, the figure is 70 years. It is possible that your video might include music that is in the public domain in Canada, but not in European Union counties, so YouTube would be within it’s rights to block your video in those countries.

At the moment, I am recording one of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s preludes (Op. 23 No. 6) and posting it to YouTube. The piece was published in 1903, so it is in the public domain in America. Rachmaninoff died on 28 March 1943, so that makes it in the public domain in Canada, but not in the EU (Note: At the time the article was first posted, it was not, but now it is).

2.3 Why is a music publisher saying they own the copyright to my recording of a work by Beethoven?

To complicate matters, most classical musicians play from sheet music, which is itself copyrighted by publishing companies. Though a composition may be in the public domain, a new arrangement of the composition (e.g., a saxophone quartet version of Pachebel’s Canon) would be considered a derivative work and would be protected by copyright law. It is not clear how substantial the changes must be in order for the new version to be considered a derivative work. Would adding more detailed articulation and dynamics make it a new work? Probably not, though sheet music publishers may disagree (this issue is explained in more detail in the second part of the Public Domain Sherpa link: If you are in a school symphonic band or orchestra, it is very likely that whatever you are playing has been heavily adapted and therefore is NOT in the public domain.

This is why when you post your own performance of a classical piece or an old folk song, you will sometimes get Content ID matches or copyright claims even though your work is definitely in the public domain. In most cases, the claim will come from a legitimate publishing rights collection agency that is making the claim on behalf of a music publisher. They are basically claiming that they own the performance rights and reproduction rights to their ‘new’ version of the work. It is up to you whether you want to challenge their interpretation of copyright law.

In some cases, however, when you get a copyright claim notice for a public domain work, you might be the victim of something known as copyfraud.

2.4 What is copyfraud?

Copyfraud is a kind of abuse of copyright. In some cases, copyright claims on public domain music are completely spurious—simply the work of con artists trying to monetize as many videos as possible. A company which is now causing a lot of grief on YouTube is GoDigital MG (Media Group), which seems to be combining two roles: legitimately collecting advertising revenue for copyrighted works while also making fraudulent claims on public domain works and songs that include licensed loops from software like GarageBand. This problem is discussed in detail here: YouTube Copyfraud & Abuse of the Content ID System

Why does YouTube allow this practice? Well, if advertisements are put beside and over your video, part of the money collected will go to the copyright holder and part will go to YouTube. YouTube benefits financially from false (and therefore illegal) copyright claims, so there is not much incentive for them to stop.

2.5 In my songs or videos, I sometimes use audio samples from purchased collections or that come with video editing or music recording software. Is there any danger if I post these songs/videos to YouTube?

Yes. There are a lot of people making music almost entirely from pre-recorded audio loops or who use some loops in their songs (not everyone has a drummer on hand!). These loops can come with software like GarageBand, Cakewalk, Final Cut or iMovie or they can be purchased in collections (e.g., SoundPool Sony, Cyclicks).

The most common problem occurs when someone else uses the same loop in his/her song and then has that song entered into YouTube’s Content ID Match system. The other person can basically end up claiming copyright over all songs containing that loop, including yours. Of course you can dispute this claim, but if the other person insists his/her work is entirely original, your dispute may fail. At the moment, I am disputing such a claim by Believe a music publishing organization that is becoming notorious for their false Content ID matches (view the YouTube Forum Discussion). As so many problems with copyfraud and false Content ID Matches can be traced to a handful of companies (e.g., GoDigital MG, Believe), it would be easy for YouTube to crack down on common frequent abusers, yet it is rare that action is ever taken.

If you are planning on monetizing your videos or selling your music, you better carefully read the terms of use of the loop packages. For example, the loops that come pre-packaged with Magix Music Maker (Soundpool Collection 17 or above) are not intended for commercial use and you would need to buy an additional commercial licence for such use. In contrast, loops from earlier collections from the same company (e.g., Soundpool Collection 16) are royalty-free and can be used commercially in original compositions.

If you are a composer/musician that uses loops extensively, it would be irresponsible to have collection agencies like CD Baby or Believe administer the copyright for your work and enter it into YouTube’s Content ID Match system. Just don’t do it.

Similarly, some video makers make use of the background music sample provided in video editing software programs. These songs may also get incorrectly entered into the Content ID system.

3.1.What is Creative Commons

Some musicians are now releasing work under Creative Commons (CC) Licenses ( This is a new scheme meant to allow artists to share their work more freely, while not giving up complete control. There is no formal registration process, so musicians and composers can just write in a video description that they are using a Creative Commons licence. There are six main kinds of licences:

  • Attribution (CC BY) (The user needs to credit the creator)
  • Attribution Share Alike (CC BY-SA) (The user needs to credit the creator and the the new work, whatever it is, should have the same Creative Commons license.
  • Attribution No Derivatives (CC BY-ND) (The user needs to credit the creator; the user may use, but may not adapt or remix the original work).
  • Attribution Non-Commercial (CC BY-NC)(The user needs to credit the creator; the work may only be used for free for non-commercial purposes; however, the creator, is free to make other arrangements for people who want to use the work commercially)
  • Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike (CC BY-NC-SA)
  • Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives (CC BY-NC-ND)

There are some things you need to watch out for. If the license includes a non-commercial (NC) restriction, you would not be able to monetize your video unless the copyright owner gives you permission. Once you start monetizing videos, you can no longer claim that they are non-commercial.

If the license includes a no-derivatives (ND) restriction, then you do NOT have the right to use the music in a video as you are creating a new work—’an adaptation’ according to the wording of the CC license ( If you want to use a piece of music that is licensed with the ND attribute, simply ask for permission and you will likely get a favorable reply (I don’t think many people know about how the ND restriction works and probably never intended to prevent you from using their music in a video).

3.2 So I am safe if I use music published under a Creative Commons license, right?


What if a musician with poor knowledge of copyright does something like upload an instrumental version of a copyrighted song and then upload this recorded version under a Creative Commons license. The music composition is copyrighted, so you could still find yourself in trouble with the music publisher if you use the recording.

Creative Commons licenses are irrevocable, but people often remove them anyways. Media companies like YouTube, Flickr, Vimeo and Soundcloud all allow uploaders to ‘cancel’ their Creative Commons licenses. What happens if the composer of the Creative Commons licensed song you are using in your video suddenly removes the license information and asks you to pay for its use? You would legally be in the right to refuse (Hey, the licence is irrevocable!), but do you have proof the song was published under a CC license? If you ever use CC licensed work, I would recommend that you record the download date and the URL and get a screen capture of the licence information.

Here is a tough luck case in which a YouTuber used YouTube’s own video editor, which allows you to mix videos that have been published with a CC license to create new videos. Two of his videos were later deleted and he received two copyright strikes because someone else published something under a CC licence and either didn’t have the necessary rights to do that and/or ‘cancelled’ the licence:!msg/youtube/HEMd4WQcTlk/Z4xEqVXDHvgJ

4.1 What is fair use?

Fair use is an exemption to American copyright law that allows people to make use of limited amounts of copyrighted works for the purposes of education, criticism,commentary and parody without permission. The kinds of purposes associated with fair use are spelled out in the actual law: “the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. “

Of course other purposes may fall under fair use, but the examples given all have to do with the advancement of knowledge. Those purposes explicitly mentioned seem to related mainly to to non-fiction, non-creative works; however, it is important to note that creative works of art also carry their own meanings and can provide a kind of commentary on society, concepts, individuals and other works of art.

Therefore, if you are going to rely on fair use, you should look at

  • The extent to which your new work advances knowledge.and/or
  • The extent to which your new work makes its own artistic statement.

4.1.1 Fair use is not a universal concept
Copyright laws differ from nation to nation. In describing fair use, many countries have a very similar principle in their copyright laws, though it is sometimes referred to as fair dealing rather than as fair use.

Fair dealing exemptions can be found in the copyright laws of many Commonwealth countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and England. Fair dealing exemptions tend to be more restrictive, with the purposes of use allowed under fair dealing being more clearly defined, For example, parody as a fair dealing defense was only added to Canadian copyright law in 2011.

However, In the copyright laws of some countries, like Japan, there is no overriding principle of fair use at all. Instead there are very specific and very narrowly defined exemptions, none of which cover things like YouTube reviews or parodies. Japanese copyright law also grants moral rights to copyright owners, among which is the right to preserve the integrity of a work. This right enables claims against those who distort, remove, or conduct any other modifications without authorization.

As laws differ from country to country, if you are involved in disputes with copyright owners from a country without a fair use principle in its copyright law, you should bear in mind they their attitudes towards your use of the work will be informed by the laws of their own country. Therefore, you may have a difficult time convincing the copyright owners to accept your standpoint.

4.1.2 The subjective and vague nature of fair use
First, exactly what constitutes fair use is subjective and depends on four criteria (these are described below). You can say your use of copyrighted work constitutes fair use; however, the copyright owner might disagree. In such a case, who would decide? It would basically require a court case. The courts would decide whether your use falls under fair use provisions. Thus, fair use can be considered as a legal defense against claims of copyright infringement. YouTube, of course, is not a court. Therefore, it has no right to determine whether something constitutes fair use.

Second, YouTube gives copyright owners the benefit of the doubt in almost all cases. In an article entitled Content ID and and Fair Use in the Google Public Policy Blog, Shenaz Zack (Product Manager) states that “rights holders are the only ones in a position to know what is and is not an authorized use of their content, and we require them to enforce their policies in a manner that complies with the law” ( I would argue that YouTube’s interpretation is wrong here; not all copyright owners are infallible and impartial arbiters when it comes to something like fair use. Many copyright owners routinely reject fair use claims (perhaps because so many people make bogus claims). If you are looking for information about what to do if your claim is rejected, you can go to Section 5.3 to find out about submitting appeals and counter-notifications.

Third, the criteria that are used to determine fair use are purposefully left ambiguous and vague. For example, if you are doing a commentary of a famous rock album. How much of any one song can you use before you are using too-much-to-be-fair-use? Is 10% OK? What about 25%? There are no exact guidelines because copyright laws are left ambiguous to allow decisions to be adapted to a wide variety of circumstances and to new forms of media and technology.

Fourth, there is no way to apply for anything like a ‘fair use license’ before using a copyrighted work. Such a thing does not exist. Of course, you can still ask for permission to use a work, but there is no formal mechanism for applying for fair use exemptions or permissions.

4.2 What are the criteria for determining fair use?

There is no exact formula for determining fair use, but in a court case, four aspects would be considered:

4.2.1 The nature of the original work
If the original work is factual in nature (rather than a creative work), then using it would more likely fall under the category of fair use. Unfortunately, music is basically creative in nature (an exception might be a performance by a musician demonstrating various music styles).

4.2.2 The amount of the original work used and it’s role in the new work
There is no exact figure for how much of an original work can be used, but in the education field, using 10% of an original work would probably be considered the limit. However, if you re-publish something that is considered a very crucial element to the work, such as a YouTube video clip showing the entire incinerator scene in Toy Story 3, that might be considered too much. One exception where using a longer excerpt might be considered fair use would be in a music tutorial video—you can argue that it is necessary to play the whole song, or at least most of the song, in order to teach people how to play it. The factors related to ‘time’ include:

  • How much of the original work is used
  • The proportion of the original work used
  • How important that portion of the original work is in relation to the entire original work
  • How necessary it is to show that amount in order to make your point
  • How much of your own content you are bringing to the table and how the original work relates to your own content

Everything depends on the context. If I upload a 15-second clip of the Simpsons with nothing added, that would not be fair use. However, if I used a 45-second clip of the Simpsons in the middle of a twenty-minute commentary about the role of the cartoon on pop culture, I would be on much firmer ground when arguing fair use.

4.2.3 The size of the potential audience and the ability of the new work to affect the potential market value of an existing work
Showing something in class to 30 people is not the same as posting it on YouTube, with a potential audience of millions. This criterion is related to the potential of your use of the work to affect the market value, and potential future market value, for the work. Of course, the smaller the actual and potential audience, the better your chance of your use of the work being considered fair use. Putting something on YouTube, however, makes it very difficult to meet this criteria unless you have really transformed the nature of the music (see the next point) or have used a very small proportion of the music (see the previous point). You need to be aware that anything you can upload can be downloaded using online video-downloading sites, so if you put a whole song online, you are basically offering it free for the entire world. And yes, there are people who build up their mp3 collections by downloading the soundtracks of YouTube videos.

4.2.4. The purpose of the use and the extent to which you have transformed the purpose of the original work
If the purpose is for non-commercial use, especially for education, criticism and commentary, or for strictly personal use, this would increase the chances of the use of the work being considered fair use. Also important, however, is the extent to which your new work transforms the purpose of the original work. One example of a commercial use that could be considered fair use would be a commercial movie review webcast using short clips of movies to demonstrate the points made by the film reviewers. The purpose of the original movie may be entertainment, but your use of the clips can be considered as a form of criticism or commentary.

With regard to music, if you just do a cover of a song, there is no transformation of the melody, harmony and lyrics, and there is no transformation of the purpose, so a straightforward cover version would not be considered fair use. However, if you do song tutorials in which you teach people how to play the song on the guitar, you have transformed the purpose of the song (it is now serving an educational purpose), so you would be in a much stronger position to claim fair use.

Even if the purpose of your new work is educational, however, you would also need to look at if your use of the original work is necessary for that purpose. If you are teaching people how to play a song, obviously the use of that song is necessary. In contrast, if you are creating an educational video about physics and want to liven it up with a pop song in the background, the use of music would not be considered relevant to the educational purpose of the video and its use would not be considered fair use.

To sum up, almost all uses of copyrighted music that you normally see in YouTube videos uploaded by non-copyright holders would not meet most of the four criteria and would not fall under the category of fair use.

Here is a video with legal experts discussing the possibility of applying fair use arguments to a number of different situations involving YouTube videos. Their favorite words seem to be: “that depends”, “that’s tricky”, “that’s hard to say” and, of course, “that’s ambiguous”. In reality, the answer for a lot of questions concerning ‘Can I use legally use music in this way?’, is simply ‘No’, but I got impression the experts were trying to be as open-minded (and non-discouraging) as possible. It’s a long video, but worth watching if you are interested in things like cover versions, video-game commentaries and parody as the speakers discuss the legal issues surrounding these cases.

4.3 What about parody?

This is a controversial topic. Parody involves the deliberate imitation of a work, usually in order to make fun of it or comment on it in some way. It is considered a form of derivative work—meaning something based on an existing work. In many jurisdictions (such as the USA), parody can be considered a form of fair use if certain conditions are met and is thus protected from copyright claims from the owner of the original work. In the United States and Britain, for example, a parody can be considered to be fall under fair use if the new work can be interpreted as a comment or criticism of the existing work. In Canada, however, there is no such protection.

Parody becomes an even more troublesome concept when music is concerned. Most music parodies make fun of the performance style of the performer and the lyrics of the song; however, the actual music (the melody and harmony) remains unchanged. Thus, although the performance and lyrics are imitations, the music—which is also protected by copyright—is not. One key factor would be the extent to which the purpose of the original performance has been changed (e.g., from Lady Gaga entertaining you with her music to you criticizing Lady Gaga’s music, lyrics and performance style through your parody of her song).

The most famous music parodist, Weird Al Yankovic, does get permission from the performers and copyright holders before recording his parodies of their songs.

4.4 What about mashups and Anime Music Videos (AMVs)?

Regarding AMVs, no, sorry, these are not protected from copyright claims (though you may find opinions to the contrary). In an interesting article on copyright law, AMVs and the new culture of re-mix creation, Stanford Law professor Lawrence Lessig calls for a new way of considering intellectual property, but admits that the existing laws do not really allow for uses such as AMVs:

“Yet the law of intellectual property will not easily accommodate this remix creativity. As the rules are written today, even for purely noncommercial purposes, there is no clear right on the side of the remixers….the law today speaks firmly: there is no freedom for this sort of creativity. There is no way to even license the right.”

The main problems are that:

  • The original work is creative in nature (failing to meet the first criteria).
  • Large amounts if not all of the original song is used (failing to meet the second criteria).
  • People can now download the song using YouTube downloading software instead of buying the music. Because people do download mp3 audio-only files from videos posted on YouTube, you are making the music available to a huge potential market (failing to meet the third criteria).
  • And finally, while possibly adding a layer of meaning to the song through visual imagery and probably using the music on a non-commercial basis, you are not transforming the purpose. It is still mainly entertainment (thus, only partially meeting the fourth criteria).

As anime music videos really do not meet any of the four criteria, it would be wishful thinking to claim fair use when uploading them.

4.5 What about Mashups?

For mashups, there is some legal ambiguity. the MAY fall under fair use. It would really depend on how much of an original work is used and how much a piece is transformed. The problem with mashups is that mashup creators tend to use a lot of the original works, do not transform the purpose (the original was for entertainment and the mashup is usually for entertainment) and do not bring much to the table besides editing skills. The argument against the last two points is that mashups, by juxtaposing two or more unrelated works, CAN shed new light on the meanings of each work or the creative process or some other subject. This counterargument is the key. If you buy into that, mashups can be considered to fall under fair use. If you don’t buy into it, mashups are just a fun exercise in editing and copyright infringement.

What about the Pop Danthology or DJ Earworm’s mashups? Can they be considered a kind of criticism of the sameness of contemporary pop music? Can they be considered entirely new artistic creations?

To sum up, mashups are in the greyest of grey areas when it comes to copyright infringement. Here is a good article discussing both points of view:

4.6 What about cover versions?

As mentioned before, the music (combination of melody and harmony) and lyrics are protected by copyright, so even if you are changing the arrangement, the song is basically still the same. If you upload cover versions, you are technically breaking copyright law. However, even if your cover version is detected via YouTube’s Content-ID match system, in almost all cases, music publishers, composer collection agencies and artists are content with earning money through advertising and will not pull things like cover versions of songs (Update: There is now a feature in which copyright owners can elect to share advertising revenue with cover artists who are YouTube partners).

The key word in the above paragraph is ‘almost’. If that is your thing—doing cover versions—and you are posting a few hundred of them, there is a good chance you will come across an ornery individual or company. Here is David Choi’s experience:

One interesting thing that although there are copyright issues with uploading cover versions to YouTube, you are able to sell cover versions on iTunes legally and quite easily. This is because to make and sell audio recordings of cover songs, you only need to get a mechanical licence, which is quite easy. Though you would need to pay royalties to the songwriters, this is handled by a performance rights organisation.

If you want upload a video completely legally, however, you also need to get permission from the copyright holders and negotiate a synchronization license (if you also wanted to sell MP3s of your version, you would need a mechanical licence as well), which can cost a lot of money and is not always easy to obtain. For lesser known songs, however, it might even be possible to get such a license for free, as shown in this video:

4.7 What about remixes

If you create your own remix and upload a video containing it without permission from the whoever owns the copyright of the original composition and whoever owns the copyright of the recording, you would be infringing copyright. A remix wouldn’t fall under fair use provisions. This is because there is no critical or educational value, the original is a creative work designed to entertain, the remix is a creative work designed to entertain, there is no transformation of purpose and large amounts of the original work have been used.

It may be true that a new work has been created, but this would be a derivative work rather than a transformative one.

If you upload a video containing someone else’s remix without permission, you are adding a third copyright infringement to the list: that of the remix producer.

You would be infringing copyright in two areas: (1) the actual recording of the karaoke track would almost certainly be protected by copyright and (2) the music part of the composition is still protected by copyright.

4.8 If I use a karaoke track of a cover song, add my own words and upload to YouTube, is that allowed?

You would be infringing copyright in two areas: (1) the actual recording of the karaoke track would almost certainly be protected by copyright and (2) the music part of the composition is still protected by copyright.

5.1 What is YouTube’s policy concerning copyrighted music?

YouTube is caught in a difficult situation. Much of the content and traffic on the website (and therefore much of the revenue) comes from the illegal use of copyrighted music and visual elements. To solve this problem, YouTube gives copyright holders the power to take down videos containing their work, monetize them or simply do nothing. To do this, YouTube makes use of an amazingly powerful music content matching system that can identify copyrighted music within seconds.

One problem with YouTube’s approach is that it creates a lot of misunderstandings. Some users are punished by having their accounts terminated (becoming something like sacrificial lambs slaughtered to appease powerful media companies), while other users with exactly the same copyright issues have their videos promoted as suggested videos. The following video, featuring a representative of the company, does a great job of explaining  how their copyright policy works, though you might not like to hear what she says.

Another criticism is that YouTube doesn’t seem to be checking very carefully to see if the people and organisations claiming copyright under the content ID match system actually own the copyright to the content they are claiming (leading to the copyfraud problem).

Apparently, YouTube has privately reached an agreement with some media companies. Basically, the media companies allow their copyrighted work to be uploaded and then they monetize the videos; however, it has never been made public exactly which companies are involved. If you are using copyrighted music in your work, the least you can do is talk to people doing similar things (e.g., making AMVs) and find out which companies are aggressive in protecting their work and avoid using anything from these companies.

5.2. What can you do if you receive a copyright claim against your video?

There are two kinds of procedures. One is for disputing challenging ID matches while the other is for challenging the decision to take down videos. This second type—a DMCA counter-notification is covered in the next section.

When you receive a content ID match or copyright infringement notice, you will also be asked if you want to appeal the claim. If you are confident that the work is in the public domain worldwide or that your work is really fair use, you can take this option. The challenge would be passed on to the person or entity claiming copyright, who would then have 30 days to review your case and decide whether to uphold their claim or release it (or take a third option, which is to order your video to be taken down). If they uphold their claim, you can continue the process by disputing the appeal. The company then has 30 days to respond, either by dropping the claim or by taking legal action in the form of a takedown notice. In the latter case, your video is deleted and a copyright strike is issued to your account (

Quite often, however, publishing rights collection agencies will only want to earn money from your videos (by putting ads next to them) or block them in certain countries. In such cases, you may not feel that it is worth the trouble to contest the claim, though you should be aware that the copyright holders can change their policy—block, take down or monetize—at any time.

DMCA takedown notices are more troublesome, and if you get three of these, your YouTube account is terminated. If you want to challenge a takedown notice, you have to file a counter-DMCA notification ( You can view this video showing the counter-notification process in detail:’

5.3 My video’has been deleted: DMCA and the counter-notification process

OK, so your video had been deleted for copyright infringement. What do you do? You need to issue a DMCA counter-notification ( If you have had repeated copyright infringements, however, you may not be allowed to issue a counter-notification.

Under the terms of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), content hosting sites like YouTube are protected from liability against copyright claims as long as they abide by certain guidelines. Thus, the DMCA serves as a kind of Safe Harbor. One thing YouTube must do to protect itself form liability is to remove content upon the request of a copyright holder (thus, the dreaded DMCA takedown notice). However, YouTube is also required to give content creators the opportunity to challenge such removals.

To have your video reinstated, you would need to complete the online counter-notification form (if your account has been deleted, you might need to send in a hard copy). Your personal details and contact information (including your address as well as other personal information) as well as your explanation as to why you you believe there is no copyright infringement would then be forwarded to the party claiming ownership of the content you have alledgely used inappropriately. That party would then have ten business days in which to notify YouTube that it is taking legal action against you. You therefore need to take the counter-notification process seriously. You are basically saying, “Oh yeah, so sue me then.” Ideally, you should get proper legal advice before submitting a counter-notification. Also, do be on the lookout for fraudsters. Because your personal information is forwarded to the supposed copyright holder, a new kind of fraud has come to light. Apparently, false copyright claims are being made for the sole purpose of harvesting the personal information, which can then be sold on.

What should happen after submitting the counter-notification is that either a) you get sued (congratulations!) or b) the copyright claim is dropped and your video goes back online (congratulations!). This is how the process is supposed to work.

However, sometimes, something strange happens. Instead, you can get c) you don’t get sued, but the claim against your video is upheld by YouTube and your video remains deleted. What? Can YouTube legally do this? It seems they can. In a comment on his own blog post YouTube Refuses to Honor DMCA Counter-Notices, Patrick McKay explains:

Sadly there is no actual affirmative requirement in the DMCA to follow either the takedown procedure or the counter-notice procedure. The DMCA is a safe harbor, which means if you follow it you are safe from civil liability on other grounds. If you take down a video, you are safe from liability for copyright infringement, which entails statutory damages of up to $150,000. If you follow the counter-notice procedure, the only liability you are safe from is breach of contract, since baring some contractual relationship, a private website like YouTube has no legal obligation to host your content. YouTube’s terms of service, which are the only government contract here, expressly insulate them from an liability for refusing to host a video, even if it is not infringing. They only say they “may” restore the video, not that they will.

YouTube could be doing a lot more to shut down false copyright claims, preserve the privacy of its users and protect the concept of fair use. If YouTube uploaders get three copyright strikes, their accounts are terminated, why can’t a similar principle being applied to people making spurious claims?

5.4 So, if I post something and don’t get a notice then I am safe, right?

Um…no. As YouTube refines its content matching system to make it even more powerful, your video might get taken down later. It is a common experience.

5.5 I got a notice about my video saying that someone is claiming copyright, but that I don’t have to do anything. I’m safe, right?

Sorry, that’s another no. The copyright holders can change their minds at any time and issue a DMCA takedown notice on a video they had previously approved for monetization. Personally, I prefer not having any of my videos having copyright claims on them because it means someone a third party has power over whether my videos will continue to be seen or be deleted.

5.6 I got a YouTube copyright strike! Will it ever go away?

These used to be permanent. Now, after six months have passed without any copyright issues popping up on your channel, you may find that the strike has disappeared. No notification will be given.

5.7 Can I cheat YouTube’s content match system?

It is definitely possible, but this usually involves changing the speed and/or pitch of the song and generally messing up the song in the process. The result of this is that you may alienate your viewers and if your song is detected, there is an increased risk that it will be taken down.

5.8 Is it OK if I use copyright-protected music without permission as long as I post a statement saying I do not own the music and I properly credit the artist?

No. You can do this as a form of courtesy to the original artist, but unless you are using public domain music or your use is really consistent with fair use, your use of music would still be in breach of copyright law. On the one hand, at least you are giving credit. On the other hand, with such a statement, you are openly admitting to breaking copyright law as well as YouTube’s own terms of service. In any case, using such statements will not be useful in persuading a copyright holder not to have your video removed.

5.9 Is it OK if I use copyright-protected music and set the video to Private or Unlisted?

No. This will have no effect. The Content ID match system can still detect your song and copyright strikes can still be given. This is because this video setting can be changed anytime.

6. Can I license music from a pop star?

It is extremely difficult unless you are dealing with an unsigned (i.e., they don’t have a contract with a record company) songwriter/musician. In this case, you can send an e-mail requesting use of the song. Maybe they would appreciate some exposure.

If it is a song by a well known performer, however, things become incredibly difficult. You would need to get permission from the music composer(s,) the lyricist(s), the publisher, the performer(s) and/or the record company (whoever owns the copyright for the music, lyrics and performance). If any of the people are dead, you would need to seek out their family members. You would need to get a Synchronization License (giving you the right to include the song in a video) from the owners of the musical composition (music and lyrics) and a Master Use license (giving you the right to use a specific artist’s version of the song in the video) from the owner of the copyrighted recording of the song. These licenses are typically very expensive. Small indie filmmakers can expect to spend several thousand dollars (US) to get the licenses for a single song for a limited release. For studio produced movies, the fees are often in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The whole process take a long time and there is little chance of getting a positive response from everyone involved (the whole process is outlined here:

There are copyright clearance agencies that can be hired to perform this task (for a fee).

7. Where can I get music to use as background music?

Luckily there are composers and musicians who are willing to give you free songs to play with. These are issued under Creative Commons licenses ( or under the musician’s own terms (e.g., ‘not for commercial use’).

Archive Org:
Video, music and text in the public domain or issued under Creative Commons Licences.

Music recordings issued with Creative Commons Licences

An audio uploader that features many Creative Commons licensed music tracks. Try searching for a style of music (e.g. dub step) and then select one of the Creative Commons attribution qualities on the right. Not all music uploaded here is under Creative Commons.

Longzijun: Free background music and scores from a variety of composers in a variety of styles/
This is my page of links to composers and musicians who provide free music. You can also simply click the ‘music’ tab this website to see my own work

A site of Creative Commons licensed music tracks

Related Articles

The Illegal Downloading Debate: Is it OK to Download Songs without Paying?
Creative Commons Licenses: Advantages and Drawbacks

~by longzijun


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Exporting HD Video for YouTube (Premiere Pro)

Page Updated: February 2019
Versions: Premiere Pro CS4, CS6 and CC
if you are using other versions, you may still find the information on this page useful.

Summary of Settings

Here is a summary of the main settings:

  • Format & Container: H.264 & MPEG-4
  • Resolution (Frame Dimensions): 1920 x 1080 or 1280 x 720. If you are working with 4K video that would be 4096 x 2160 pixels, while 2K video would be 2560 x 1440. This article focuses on the most common resolution 1920 x 1080.
  • Pixel Aspect Ratio: Square pixels (1:1)
  • Field Order: None, non-interlaced, progressive (different terms for the same thing)
  • TV Standard: NTSC or PAL (depends on your original footage and/or settings in your video editing program)
  • Frame rate: 29.97 (for NTSC) or 25 for (PAL) or 24 (depends on your original footage and/or settings in your video editing program). You can also choose the higher frame rate options of 60, 50 or 48. These are especially useful if you want to have very smooth action (e.g., in a gameplay video) and your original footage was filmed at that frame rate.
  • Bitrate Encoding: (Updated October 2014) YouTube and Vimeo now recommend Variable Bit Rate (2 pass)
  • Video Bitrate: At least 6,500 kbps for 1280 x 720 , 10,000 kbps for 1920 x 1080 video. . These are the recommended settings for what YouTube calls ‘normal quality’.  For higher frame rates, you can multiply the figures by 1.5.  You can see YouTube’s recommendations here:  Advanced encoding settings.
  • Profile: High
  • Audio Code and Channels: AAC, Channels: Stereo
  • Audio Frequency: 48 khz
  • Audio Bitrate = 320 kbps or 384 kbps

Select Render at Maximum Quality and . Consider selecting Render at Maximum Depth and Frame Blending.

For exporting high-definition video (HD video) using Adobe Media Encoder. In Premiere Pro, this is accessed by selecting File – Export – Media or Media Encoder. However, make sure you have clicked on the timeline first. For earlier versions of Premiere Pro make sure that you have selected all the clips that you want to export (as shown in the following image).

Use the Work Area bar to select all the clips you want to export

Main Workflow Principles

There are two main principles. One is to try to minimize the number of times the format of the original video is altered.  Therefore, the  project settings you choose when you open a new Premiere Pro file and your export settings for creating the final video for uploading are based on the format of your original video.

The second principle is to export your video in a format YouTube handles particularly well; that is, in a format that doesn’t need to be changed very much when being converted.

Three Main Choices

a) Resolution
For HD video on YouTube, there are two main choices: 1280 x 720 or 1920 x 1080 (not counting the 2K and 4K resolutions).

  • If you are working with 1440 x 1080 anamorphic* HD video, it is best to downscale the resolution slightly to 1280 x 720 and change the pixel aspect ratio to 1:1. (*anamorphic pixels are rectangular).
  • If you are working with 1920 x 1080 video, you can keep these larger dimensions for your output or downscale to 1280 x 720 if you want smaller file sizes.
  • If you are working with 1280 x 720 video, just export the video at this resolution.

b) TV Standard
There are two main standards: PAL and NTSC. If you are creating a video for YouTube, just maintain the same video standard through your whole workflow. For example, if your camera produces PAL video, use PAL project settings and export to a PAL video. In HD video meant to be played on computers, the main difference between the two formats is frame rate. The frame rate of PAL video is 25 or 50 frames per second. The frame rate of NTSC video is 30 (29.97) or 60 frames per second.

c) Use of Render at Maximum Quality, (CS4 and CS6), Render at Maximum Depth (CS6) and Frame Blending
CS4 and CS6 feature a maximum render quality setting. This is useful when exporting video with lots of movement, but it will  increase the video rendering time. You can see the difference in the following still images taken from the same timeline.

Still image showing video without (top) and with (bottom) Maximum Render Quality selected

The top image is from a video exported without this function enabled. The image on the bottom is with the Use Maximum Render Quality setting enabled.

These three settings are disabled by default

The Render at Maximum Depth setting involves the ability to differentiate between different colours. Enabling this function MAY increase the quality of the video slightly, but it might not be noticeable once your video is uploaded and transcoded in YouTube. Many people leave this function disabled (the default setting).

The Frame Blending function comes into play if you have changed the speed of your video in the timeline (e.g., slow motion) or if there is any different in the frame rate between the project settings, original video clip and export settings. It tries to create smoother movement by blurring some of the frames together. Some people like this effect; others dislike it. If your video has any changes in frame rate, I recommend doing trial exports of a small portion of the video with Frame Blending enabled and disabled and see which one you prefer.

You can enable frame blending while exporting or you can enable it on individual video clips in the project (Right click on the clip then select ‘Clip’ in the toolbar at the top of the screen. Select ‘Video Options’ and then ‘Frame Blending’).

The WMV Option

If you are using PAL settings, you can also create a HD WMV video for YouTube very easily.  Just select ‘Format: Windows Media’ and select the most appropriate preset (the one that most closely matches your video footage) . The video quality will be almost as good as the MP4 file and can play more easily on different versions of Windows Media Player. You don’t need to change any values (but if you are still using CS3, make sure the deinterlace option is checked).

If you have any more information about exporting for YouTube, please let me know. This page is intended for newbies. If there is anything that isn’t clear, let me know so I can improve the page.

My Other Articles on Video Editing

~by longzijun


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