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How to check if a video is copyrighted?

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  • 6 min read

Sharing videos online, casting them or using excerpts can cause copyright issues which can be a pain to deal with. That’s why it is essential to get your sources right when creating content. 

In this article, we’re going over a few things you can do to check if a video is copyrighted.

Also read: Vimeo vs YouTube: Features, creators, users and pricing

Where to start?

YouTube Studio can be your all in one starting place when it comes to checking if a video is copyrighted or not. There are three main ways you can check for copyright issues on your account. 

  • Check your dashboard for Copyright Strikes Cards.
  • Filter your video library for Copyright claims.
  • Take a look at the Restrictions column.

However, you’d have noticed by now that these methods are basically about damage control rather than preventing copyright claims in the first place. As amazing and convenient it would be to enforce a system to check for copyrights in real-time, with hundreds of thousands of videos being uploaded every second, it’s not really feasible. 

Also read: 6 ways to fix YouTube server error 503

So what should you do?

The best and the surest way of avoiding any copyright claims on your videos is to do your research before you hit upload and do it properly. Once you have a proper basic understanding of the legalities around content creation, you’ll know what will and what won’t get you in trouble. 

Apart from basic copyright issues, you should also know about the following concepts. 

  • Copyright Strikes: Getting a copyright strike on your video can mean trouble. Copyright Strikes are handed out when a copyright owner initiates a legal and complete takedown of your video for using their content. Youtube takes down such videos to comply with copyright law. 
  • The Content ID system: If you’ve uploaded a video that violates any copyright policies on Youtube, you could get a Content ID claim on your upload. These claims are automatically generated, and copyright owners can choose to either take down such videos or keep them on Youtube with ads. In the latter case, the advertising revenue goes to the copyright owner. 
  • Fair use: Fair use is simply a legal doctrine that states that you can reuse certain content from users under certain circumstances without necessarily getting permission from the owner. Note that different countries have different interpretations of this. In USA, for example, commentary, criticism, research, teaching, or news reporting is considered fair use. Some countries have a similar concept called Fair dealing. However, it may work differently in this regard. 
  • The Creative Commons licence: Creative Commons (commonly known as CC) licenses give other creators the ability to reuse your content provided you permit them. Marking your videos with a CC BY license means that you retain your copyright, but other creators can reuse your work subject to the terms of the license. Note that you can only use CC licenses on completely original content. If there’s a Content ID claim on your video, you can’t use this licence. 
  • Submitting copyright claims: Submitting copyright claims is an important part of protecting your content in the public domain. However, there are a few things you should keep in mind before doing so. It would help if you considered whether or not the reuse comes under fair use policies followed by Youtube. Also, your personal information, such as your full legal name and email address, will be shared with the uploader. Other details such as home addresses and phone numbers are kept confidential unless required by a lawsuit. You can submit a takedown claim by going through the copyright complaint form.

Youtube’s copyright and right management section will help you out the most when brushing up on these topics. 

There’s also a bit of a more direct approach to testing copyrights. However, it does involve a little bit of risk. You can try uploading the video in question and check if you get a copyright strike or not. This method focuses heavily on YouTube’s Content ID system, which ensures protection against copyright infringement.

However, since there’s a risk of you getting a copyright claim or even a strike, it’s best to try this method out with a backup or secondary Youtube account so that it doesn’t impact your main channel. 

Also read: How to avoid a copyright strike on YouTube? A concise YT copyright guide

How to check for copyright with Youtube partner tool?

Lastly, for those in the Youtube Partner Program, the company has an exclusive copyright section that lets you use the Copyright Match Tool. The tool allows users to check for videos that match their content (either completely or partially). 

If a match is found, they can then get in touch with the creator and ask them to take the video down or even reach Youtube about the issue. However, since this method relies on finding matches that use either full or nearly full videos, it isn’t flawless as videos with a lower usage rate can go undetected. 

Also, while this may be the most reliable and truest copyright checking method for Youtube, it isn’t an automated process. This means putting in the work and time to use the tool and check videos and having knowledge on fair use and other major details from the copyrights and right management section. 

If you’re having trouble finding the best copyright tools that suit you, you can fill out this form for other copyright management options and have Youtube help you instead. 

Also read: What is the difference between Copyright and Trademark?

Implementing the fair use policy

Aforementioned, the fair use policy allows you to reuse a video in certain circumstances without seeking permission from the owner. In such cases, if you come across a video that’s copyright protected, you’ll still be able to use it as long as your implementation of the fair use policy applies. 

Finding whether or not a particular video is copyright protected or not relies largely upon your research. You can skip the research altogether and use the direct upload method on a backup channel to find if a video is copyright protected. 

If the content you’re looking to upload is, in fact, copyright protected, the fair usage policy will apply in the following use cases.

  • Commenting/Reacting/Critique videos: If your video majorly only talks about, reacts to, or critiques the video in question, your use comes under fair use.
  •  Research/Teaching: If you’re using a source as the basis for research or educational purposes, reuse under the fair use policy is allowed. 
  • Reporting: Lastly, if you’re reporting on a particular piece, you can still go ahead and reuse the video in question as a source.

Do keep in mind that fair use rules vary according to countries and regions. Check up with copyright laws and fair use/fair dealing policies in your region before proceeding. 

Also read: How to fix YouTube playback error?

Yadullah Abidi

Yadullah is a Computer Science graduate who writes/edits/shoots/codes all things cybersecurity, gaming, and tech hardware. When he's not, he streams himself racing virtual cars. He's been writing and reporting on tech and cybersecurity with websites like Candid.Technology and MakeUseOf since 2018. You can contact him here:

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