Creators who have uploaded videos to YouTube (or other video hosting platforms) that include someone else's musical or visual property are probably familiar with a "takedown notice." Officially known as the "DMCA Takedown Notice", this is a request submitted by a copyright holder to a host (YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook), a search engine (Google), or Internet Service Provider (ISP) intended to remove material that infringes on a copyright. This is better known as a "copyright strike."
Below, we will get into the definition of a "copyright strike". Then, we'll see how you can avoid getting one. The easiest way to avoid a copyright strike is by using licensed music from a royalty-free music platform, like Artlist, but another option is using non-copyrighted music. Before we get into all that, here's the difference between a Content ID Claim and a Takedown Notice.
Copyright claim vs. takedown notice
The major difference between a copyright claim (also known as Content ID Claim) and a Takedown Notice is that the Content ID Claim is a YouTube system, while the Takedown Notice is defined by law. Because of this, another significant difference is what ultimately happens to the uploaded content in the event of a copyright claim on YouTube and a Takedown Notice.
In a Takedown Notice, the creator who uploaded the video is asked by the hosting platform to remove the content, according to the country's digital copyright law. In the U.S., this law is known as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act; and other countries have similar laws governing digital copyright.
In a Content ID Claim, on the other hand, the copyright holder typically doesn't want to take down the video. Instead, they either want to instantly monetize it with ads if it has a lot of traffic, or track it to see if it might perform well and become monetizable in the future.
"Unlike takedowns, which are defined by law, a Content ID is a YouTube system that is made possible by deals made between YouTube and content partners who have uploaded material they own to our database," reads YouTube's copyright claim page. YouTube notes that users will know if their video has been hit with a content ID claim if they see the phrase "Includes copyrighted content" in the copyright notice.
What is a YouTube copyright strike?
So leads someone to get a YouTube copyright strike? If you fail to resolve a YouTube copyright claim, the owner may issue a Takedown Notice. And if YouTube deems it to be "a complete and valid legal request," it will take down your video and give you a copyright strike. It's important to understand that they remove the upload to comply with a given country's copyright law.
You can get only one copyright strike to an uploaded video at any given time. Even if you delete the video, it won't resolve the strike. (More on copyright strike resolution below.) "When you get a copyright strike, it acts as a warning," YouTube notes. "The first time you get a copyright strike, you'll need to go through Copyright School. We do this so you can understand copyright and how it's enforced on YouTube."
According to YouTube, copyright strikes can impact a user's ability to monetize content. For example, if a YouTuber uploads video content that includes copyrighted music, they won't be able to monetize their content. And if a live stream user has content removed for copyright infringement, their account will be restricted for 90 days, making it impossible to live stream.
It's important to know that since a takedown notice is defined by law, you don't have to be on YouTube to get a copyright strike. You can get it on any platform. A few months ago, some popular Twitch streamers received a mass of copyright strikes that forced them to delete many of their clips. This incident sparked a debate on Twitch's music policy and how to legally use music for Twitch streams.
How many copyright strikes can you get?
Three copyright strikes can make an account and any associated channels subject to termination. Also, all videos uploaded to that account will be deleted, and the user won't be able to create any new channels.
To resolve a copyright strike, users can wait for the strike to expire after 90 days. A first strike requires completion of YouTube's Copyright School. Another option is to ask the person who claimed your video to retract the claim of copyright infringement. And if a user's upload was mistakenly removed because it was misidentified or might constitute fair use (more on this in the next section), the user can submit a counter-notification.
It's worth noting that YouTube's "three-strike" copyright system is now being exploited by anonymous extortionists. These scammers threaten to shut down YouTube channels, claiming a "third strike" violation, unless the owner pays a fee to a bitcoin wallet. YouTube does not ask for payment for copyright strikes, so you can be sure any such notice is the work of a scammer.
What is fair use?
Before claiming "fair use" of copyrighted material, it helps to understand its legal definition and learn how to know if a song is copyrighted. As with any other copyright issue, fair use is complicated. The most important thing to remember is that fair use work must be transformative. This means it must transform the original to the point that it's not even close to being considered a cover. It's also helpful to know that fair use of copyrighted material includes commentary on, a critique of, or parody of the work.
An excellent example of fair use is a parody of a music video. YouTuber Bart Baker, for instance, is well-known for his parodies of famous pop musicians. So, if you plan on parodying a pop music track for your YouTube channel, you're free to do it. A review of a movie, song, or even another YouTube channel video is also considered fair use. Providing commentary on the news, whether cultural or political, can also be considered fair use.
However, there are some limitations to fair use, and failure to know them might result in a copyright strike. There is an internet myth that using 40 seconds of copyrighted material constitutes fair use, but this is incorrect. The material must be used in the circumstances listed above: commentary, parody, or review. Another misconception is that a lack of a copyright notice means it's fair use. It may be the case that your video is violating fair use, but no one has noticed it yet. (For more reading on fair use, visit Copyright Alliance.)
How to avoid a copyright strike
Unless you believe your inclusion of copyrighted content constitutes fair use, avoid using copyrighted material in your content. In the end, dealing with the repercussions of using copyrighted material is a headache you just don't want to have.
If you're a filmmaker, videographer, or vlogger and you need music, then either make the music yourself, pay someone else to write and record it for you or use a subscription-based platform to use royalty-free music in your video. Creators who need interesting footage and b-roll for their project can use a stock footage licensing site. Other options are Creative Commons and archival material from something like archive.org. The other option, of course, is to shoot original footage yourself.
Similarly, if you're a musician in need of visuals, don't use copyrighted film, video, images, and animations. Instead, use a platform that allows you to use footage royalty-free.
A Takedown Notice is accompanied by a copyright strike. When a copyright owner files a request to take down copyrighted content, YouTube removes the material. Each YouTube owner gets three copyright strikes. After which time their account can be terminated, and they may not be able to create any new channels.
If you think that the music in your YouTube video (or footage, for that matter) has been misidentified as copyright infringement, or if you believe your use of the content constitutes fair use, be sure to reach out to YouTube to resolve the issue. To free yourself from dealing with copyright issues, the best thing you can do is use licensed music. When you sign up to a platform like Artlist, copyright claims become easy to resolve and finding music for YouTube becomes simple and fast. Whatever path you choose, we hope it will be trouble-free. Good luck!
DJ Pangburn is a New York-based journalist, videographer, and fiction writer, with bylines at Vice, Fast Company, Dazed and Confused, and other publications. DJ records ambient techno and IDM under the name Holoscene.