YouTube provides significant freedom when it comes to what you can upload to the service. That is, as long as you're creating the content and not uploading anything that goes against their terms of service (TOS).

That said, it’s against the TOS to upload copyright material that you don’t have a license to use. Doing so could result in YouTube removing the offending video and potentially issuing you a copyright strike. These strikes are really important to avoid as the repercussions can be severe. Some punishments can include shared monetization, disabling monetization on your entire channel or even, deletion of your channel. This post should not be construed as legal advice on the subject matter but as informational only.

There’s a distinction between a copyright strike and ContentID matches. ContentID is an automated system that recognises copyright material and resolves the copyright match immediately. ContentID is done in partnership with larger companies such as record labels, television networks and royalty free services like Epidemic Sound.

Some examples of ContentID resolutions include monetization splits, muted audio or restricting viewing options. A copyright strike, on the other hand, requires the rights holder to submit an infringement form about the offending video. This falls under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). If the request is valid, the offending upload is deleted and as a result, your channel gets a copyright strike. ContentID is an automated system while the copyright notices require direct involvement.

Copyright strike punishments are severe. YouTube generally has a 3-strike policy on copyright infringement. Your first copyright strike is the most lenient - it’s a warning. A second strike comes with another warning but may also hit your channel with demonetization for a period of time. A third strike will see your account deleted and you will lose the ability to create new channels. In all copyright strike cases, the video is removed.

In most cases, you will be able to submit a written defence to a copyright strike. To do that, you need to go to your Creator Studio and then to the Copyright Notices section.

There, you will be able to see any content that has a copyright strike against them. You will learn more about the claim, who claimed it and if they offer any kind of simple resolution. It is here where you will be able to submit your defence to prove you have the rights to use the content. The claimant will then be able to submit a retraction if they agree with your defence. You can also submit a counterclaim if you believe that your video falls under fair use or other valid legal defence. Note that if you do file a counterclaim, it could go to court. (See h3h3, Lewis Bond)

Fortunately, YouTube is somewhat kind in how they handle copyright strikes. Strikes expire in 90 days IF you complete Copyright School. Other than that, your only solution is the defence or counterclaim option. That said, you will need to keep a clean account during those 90 days or risk further punishment. Deleting an offending piece of content will not resolve the strike.

Copyright strikes are a serious issue on YouTube. In order to avoid strikes, make sure the content you upload to YouTube is your own OR you have the rights to use the content. While fair use is a legal way to use copyright content, the definition is open to interpretation. The last thing you want is a legal battle over a video.

Want to use royalty-free music
in your next video?

→ Sign up for a free trial