Disclaimer: I am not an attorney. The content of this article is not, and should not be construed or taken as, legal advice. If you believe that you are in need of legal advice, please enlist the services of an attorney who is licensed to practice law in the jurisdiction in which you live and/or do business.
This series is here to teach you what I know of the rules and best practices to keep you from running into copyright problems when uploading videos to YouTube based on my experience working as a contractor within YouTube's Content Manager CMS as well as a content creator on the platform. All of the information here can also be found in the Creator Academy, which is available to all YouTube creators, but has been distilled in such a way as to assist you with interacting with the individuals and companies enforcing and managing their rights through the Content ID system.
Now that you know what Assets and Claims are and how Content ID works, let's talk about how to avoid breaking copyright laws when you create and upload videos. There are a few ways you can avoid getting claimed, or at least be protected if your videos get claimed incorrectly.
Note: While it is possible that there are exploits and loopholes that you can use to get around the systems that enforce copyright within YouTube, those are not part of this discussion. I want to teach you how to avoid breaking the rules, not how to break the rules without getting caught.
Method 1: Don't use any content you didn't create 100% on your own.
This means that any music you use is entirely written and recorded by you. Using samples, creating covers or remixes or "remaking" a song from scratch does not count because the original melody and lyrics are still copyrighted. The same goes for some graphics, artwork and even written content such as poetry or stories.
This is by far the best way to avoid claims, and you'll be completely protected in the event a party makes a copyright claim on your video. Especially if you can prove that you created everything in the video yourself. It also means that the claim on your video is infringing on your rights, and it might be worth seeking legal counsel.
Method 2: Obtain licenses for the content you're using.
This method can be more complicated. A license is written permission from the original copyright owner or representative to use the content. Sounds simple, but it can get more complicated depending on the content you're using.
If, for example, you're creating a cover song then you need to approach the writers/composers of that song and get their permission to do the cover. But, a lot of writers go through music publishing companies, and their agreements with the publishers often include a clause that only permits the publisher to license their content. That means that even if you got the writer to give you permission, they may not legally be allowed to give you that permission and the publisher could still legally claim your video (it does vary from writer to writer and publisher to publisher). So, to get permission, you'll actually need to contact the music publisher that represents the writer you’re trying to get permission from. Additionally, most songs have more than one writer/composer, and not all of them are with the same publisher, even for the same song. That means you will need to find out the names of every writer/composer for the song you want to cover as well as which publishers represent each one. Then you need to purchase a license from each publisher. Those licenses can be very expensive, and the more licenses you need the more it's going to cost you to record your cover.
Now let's say you want to use a song as an intro to your video. That means that you have to not only do what I just explained with the publishers, but you also have to buy yet another license from the record label.
Not to mention you might need to pay royalties for the usage as part of your license.
It's possible that there are MCNs that have agreements with music publishers to record covers, and there is a lot of royalty free music out there where you purchase the license with a single up front fee.
Having a license doesn't guarantee you won't get claimed, but you are protected by the license and it can make the dispute a lot easier to handle (I'll talk more about disputing claims later in the series).
If you can't employ these methods when creating your videos, there are other options. Next time I'll talk about two more that you may or may not be familiar with.
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