You post a review of a movie on your YouTube channel, and next thing you know, you’re hearing from the studio’s lawyers about how you’ve infringed on their copyright and you’re about to get sued if you don’t take the video down.
What can you do?
More than you think.
One experienced YouTuber offers his advice on how to handle YouTube copyright disputes.
How long have you been on YouTube and how many copyright claims have been filed against you?
I’ve been on for 10 years full time, and I’ve been hit with over 1,000 copyright claims. Most people are shocked by this and think this many claims would put me out of business.
But here’s the thing – I’ve successfully beaten every single claim that I disputed.
Notice I said I won everyone that I disputed. When I was just getting started, I made some stupid mistakes, using copyrighted songs. Instead of disputing those, I simply deleted the videos.
Why have there been so many copyright claims against you?
I do movie reviews – a LOT of movie reviews, and sometimes I like to use movie clips inside my reviews.
Are there certain types of clips that tend to be flagged more often than others?
YouTube uses a program called Content ID Match to help users discover if their content is being used by someone else. I’ve found that audio triggers Content ID match claims 4 times more often than video segments.
And interestingly, footage from trailers always gets tagged. Which is why I’ve been hit so many times.
If you want to show copyrighted work in a fair use context – avoid pulling the source material from YouTube itself, like using a movie trailer clip.
Are some studios more aggressive than others? Which ones have been the hardest to deal with?
MGM rejects every dispute of mine automatically, without reviewing. This forces me to risk an actual copyright strike by appealing it. But at that point, they’ve always backed down.
There’s another company in Europe, GRUPA BB MEDIA Ltd, that handles international licenses for some American movies. They don’t understand fair-use law, so I’ve had to call them out on it and basically give them an education.
It’s important to realize that you can still defend trailer footage as fair use. I’ve done it probably a thousand times. But it will almost always trigger Content ID match claims, which forces you to go through the dispute and appeal process to defend your content.
How do you successfully contest these claims? What’s the basis upon which you contest them?
When you get the copyright notice from YouTube, the next step is to file a dispute – it only takes about a minute and it’s really simple and easy.
But here’s the thing – when you do this, you have to check a box that’s next to bold, intimidating, scary looking letters that say,” I understand that filing fraudulent disputes may result in a termination of my YouTube account.”
This is the point where a lot of YouTubers get scared and back down without defending themselves against what I think of as the content bullies. If you’re in the right and you know you’re in the right, you need to file your dispute. Don’t let these big companies steal your money or your hard work.
The weird part is, movie reviews – at least positive ones – HELP the studios to sell movie tickets. Yet their automatic systems are continually telling us to stop, and so we have to continually tell YouTube that what we’re doing is 100% legal.
So, when you get to that scary, bold sentence about fraudulent disputes, and you know you’re in the right, just click the box that says, “I am sure that my video meets the legal requirements for fair use and I want to dispute the claim.”
What do you do after you tick that box?
Next, you click “continue,” and on the next page I copy and paste my “fair use defense,” sometimes slightly modified for the particular case.
I can’t tell you what to write here, because what you fill in will depend on what’s in question – a song? A video? Something you have a license to? Or simply a short video clip?
You can find plenty of examples online for how to defend your particular case. Tailor your defense to what’s appropriate for the claim. And save that defense, because you will likely be able to use almost the exact defense the next time one of your videos is disputed.
After you do that, type in your digital signature and click “continue.”
Now you’re on a confirmation page. Click “Submit” and “Ok” and you’re done.
It’s that simple.
Can claims lead to termination of my channel?
Absolutely not. I’ve routinely carried dozens at a time. You might stand accused, but according to YouTube, you are still innocent until proven guilty, and if you’re not guilty, then you have nothing to worry about.
How much time does it take for each dispute?
About 1 minute for each. That takes care of about 60-70% of them. The rest get denied at the dispute level, necessitating an appeal, which takes another minute or two.
Over the course of 10 years, I’ve probably spent 24 hours total on these things. Generally, I just set aside a half-hour each week to stay on top of them, and that’s plenty.
Is there a lot of misinformation about YouTube’s copyright laws?
Yes, I think so, because blaming YouTube for a “broken system” is easier than admitting it works remarkably consistently on millions of videos every day.
Also, a lot of people confuse “receiving a match claim” with something far more serious, like an actual strike – which would require losing both the dispute and appeal.
Any last words of advice?
If you’re using something like a song for your background video music, make sure you’ve got permission. And keep good records of that permission, too.
If you’re using just a few seconds – basically sampling someone else’s video and giving attribution to the original creator, you should be fine. Mind you, I’m not a lawyer. But ten years on YouTube does show that the system – however scary to a newcomer – works.
Never be intimidated by a big company. They send out those notices automatically because the computer program flagged something in your video. You just have to respond appropriately, and you’ll be fine.
Study up on YouTube’s Content ID Match so you know how it works. It’s best to be informed, so when you get your first dispute, it doesn’t scare you into deleting your video.
I knew one guy who was so terrified to receive a dispute, he deleted his entire channel. Don’t be that guy.