How is copyright law applied to YouTube?

All copyright owners are entitled to the same scope of exclusive rights—from independent musicians and vloggers to large record labels and movie studios.

  • A copyright owner is typically the only party who can exercise or grant the rights to reproduction, distribution, public performance, public display, and creation of derivative works, like fanfiction, sequels, translations, spin-offs and adaptations.
  • Head’s up: You’ll probably want to get legal advice from a lawyer before uploading videos that are based on the characters, storylines, and other elements of copyright-protected material.

Bottom line: You need a copyright owner’s permission to create new works based on their original content. We’ll cover more in our courses on permissions and exceptions, like fair use, creative commons and public domain.


Can YouTube determine copyright ownership?


No. YouTube isn’t able to mediate rights ownership and Content ID disputes. Copyright is determined by law and not by YouTube.

  • When we receive a complete and valid takedown notice, we remove the content as the law requires.
  • When we receive a valid counter notification, we forward it to the person who requested the removal. After this, it’s up to the parties involved to resolve the issue in court. If there is no evidence of a lawsuit, videos are reinstated, usually after 10 business days.