Frequently Asked Questions

General copyright questions

What is the public domain?

Copyrightable works eventually lose their copyright protection and are said to fall into the “public domain,” making them free for everyone to use. It typically takes many years for works to fall into the public domain. The length of a term of copyright protection varies depending on where and when the work was published, whether the work was commissioned as a work for hire, and other factors. Certain works created by US federal government agencies fall into the public domain immediately upon publication. Keep in mind that the rules for public domain differ in other countries.

It is your responsibility to verify that a work is indeed in the public domain before you upload it to YouTube. There is no official list of works in the public domain. However, there are some useful resources online that might help you. Columbia University Libraries and the Copyright Information Center at Cornell University both offer helpful guides to works that may fall in the public domain. Neither YouTube, nor either university, can guarantee that all the works linked to are free from copyright protection.

The above sites are referred to for educational purposes only and are not endorsed by YouTube.

What is a derivative work?

You need the copyright owner’s permission to create new works based on their original content. Derivative works may include sequels, translations, spin-offs, adaptations, etc. You’ll probably want to get legal advice from an expert before uploading videos that are based on the characters, storylines, and other elements of copyright-protected material.

Where can I find more information on copyright outside the U.S.?

The European Commission's website has some helpful information and links about copyright in European Union countries.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has a list of international intellectual property and copyright offices where you may find information about copyright laws applicable for your country.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation provides a database of copyright laws around the world.

The above sites are referred to for educational purposes only and are not endorsed by YouTube.

Questions for YouTube uploaders

How do I get permission to use someone else's content in my video?

If you plan to include copyright-protected material in your video, you’ll generally need to seek permission to do so first. YouTube cannot grant you these rights and we are unable to assist you in finding and contacting the parties who may be able to grant them to you. This is something you’ll have to research and handle on your own or with the assistance of a lawyer.

YouTube cannot grant you the rights to use content that has already been uploaded to the site. If you wish to use someone else’s YouTube video, you may want to reach out to them via our messaging feature.

Why was content I have permission to use removed?

If you have cleared the rights to use certain copyright-protected material in your video, you may want to alert the original copyright owner of your video's title and URL on YouTube, to avoid a mistaken removal.

If your video was removed in error, you have the options to request a retraction from the claimant or to submit a counter notification. Content ID claims may be disputed as well.

Before you issue a dispute, you may want to ask yourself a few questions to make sure it’s a valid dispute:

  1. Are you the copyright owner of the material in your video?
  2. Do you have permission to all third-party material in your video from the appropriate copyright owner(s)?
  3. Is your use of copyrighted material covered by fair use, fair dealing, or a similar exception under the applicable copyright law?

If one of the conditions above applies to your video, you may want to research the most appropriate dispute process or consult an attorney. If not, you may be in violation of copyright laws.

Why was content I recorded or purchased myself removed?

Just because you purchased content doesn't mean that you own the rights to upload it to YouTube. Even if you give the copyright owner credit, posting videos that include content you purchased may still violate copyright law.

Additionally, recording a television show, video game, concert or other performance with your phone, camera or microphone doesn't mean that you own all rights to upload it to YouTube. This is true even if the event or show you recorded was open to the public. For example, recording a concert of your favorite band does not necessarily give you the right to upload the video without permission from the appropriate rights owners.

Questions for copyright owners

Can I request the removal of an entire channel?

No, you cannot. You are required to identify any allegedly infringing content by its video URL.

Below are instructions on how to obtain a video URL:

  1. Find the video in question on YouTube.
  2. In the address bar at the top, you'll see the video URL. It should look like this:
Why did YouTube ask for more information regarding my copyright request?

Copyright takedowns are formal, legal requests that require specific elements in order to be complete and actionable.

When we receive an incomplete or otherwise invalid copyright request -- be it a takedown notification or a counter notification -- we respond with information that will help the sender complete their request.

If you received a response like this following your submission of a copyright request, it is important to review it carefully and respond accordingly. In most cases, we won’t be able to take action on your request until you do so.

Why do I have to provide all my information each time I submit a new copyright complaint?

In accordance with copyright law, we require complete copyright notifications for each removal request.

The easiest way to submit another complaint is to sign into your Google or YouTube account and use our copyright complaint webform.

For content owners with ongoing rights management needs, we accept applications to YouTube’s Content Verification Program and Content ID.

I notified YouTube of a video that infringed my copyright and it was removed. Why did I receive an email saying it may be reinstated to the site?

We have likely received a counter notification regarding your removal request. The video will be reinstated unless you submit evidence that you’ve filed a court action against the user seeking to restrain the allegedly infringing activity. If we don't receive that notice from you within 10 days, we may reinstate the material to YouTube.

How can I report videos that provide passwords or key generators that allow unauthorized access to my copyrighted works?

If a video includes information allowing people to bypass access restrictions to your software, such as passwords, key generators, or cracks, the appropriate and most efficient way to notify YouTube of these issues is through our Other Legal Issues form.

Disclaimer: We are not your attorneys and the information presented here is not legal advice. We provide it for informational purposes.