5 Tips to Avoid Copyright Strikes on YouTube

There are tons of videos 📹 and articles 📜 out there about fair use on YouTube, but none of them seem to answer YouTubers’ most common question:

❓ How do I use someone else’s copyrighted material in my videos without getting slammed by YouTube strikes ❓

Using shortcuts and hacks may seem like the easy way out, but in actuality could lead you to legal issues or worse – cause you to lose your YouTube #channel 😨.

Each time YouTube flags 🚩 one of your videos for copyright infringement, you receive a strike. Just like in baseball ⚾, three copyright strikes and you’re out!

In order to avoid copyright strikes and lawsuits, be sure to comply with the fair use law

🔑 YouTube uses the fair use law to determine whether or not they remove a video from their platform.

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That being said, the fair use law was created by the court and lawyers – not YouTube. As a business 👩‍💼, YouTube’s priority is avoiding lawsuits; so, even if you believe you’re complying with the law, there’s always a chance of YouTube removing your video just to protect themselves.

Plus, to be fair, it is free to post our videos to YouTube 🤷, so they can pretty much do whatever they need to avoid a lawsuit. 

Therefore, it’s imperative that we, as creators, follow the fair use doctrine to a T. 

In order to remain extra safe 🛡️ and stay far away from copyright strikes on YouTube, be sure to follow these five tips when using other peoples’ material in your videos:

1. Keep it short 

There’s no rule about what length ⏱️ your copyrighted material must remain. However, I always advise keeping these imported 📥 audio or video clips as short as possible.

One or two seconds is preferable, but even if you have to keep as long as 30 seconds in your video, just be sure to follow all of the tips outlined here to keep yourself out of trouble.

2. #Comment on copyrighted work

YouTubers are notorious for using copyrighted videos or audio and simply letting them exist without commenting 💬 or responding to them. 

Take the classic example of YouTubers fighting 🗯️ or arguing on camera and cutting to the iconic clip from Taxi 🚕 Driver: “You talkin’ to me?”

In this case, the YouTuber should engage with the clip and make it his own in order to avoid copyright strikes.

By responding directly to Robert De Niro with a comment like “I’m not talkin’ to you, I’m talkin’ to them!” the YouTuber transforms the clip into something new.

3. Take it out of context 

Taking the copyrighted material far away from its original intention is an easy way to transform the content.

For example, a fashion 👗 YouTuber who is reviewing a bad outfit might compare it to something an 80s hair band 👨‍🎤 would wear. 

Inserting Guns ‘N Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” into this video would completely transform the original intention of the music 🎶 video – instead of expressing how cool Axl Rose is, the YouTuber is actually implying that he’s uncool 😬. 

Such a transformation would most likely be enough to save him or her from a copyright strike.

4. Modify the original

Taking a piece of art and creating something totally new – whether it’s a #mashup or remix 🌀 – is super easy, and can even enhance your videos!

If you need proof that modifying a piece of art will save you from copyright strikes, check out the case of Cariou vs. Prince

When Richard Prince added blue dots 🔵 to a photograph originally taken by Patrick Cariou, the court ultimately ruled that Prince had transformed the image enough to fall within the fair use guidelines.

Another well-known example of such transformations includes this mashup 🎛️ of Ed Sheeran and Disturbed, entitled “Shape of the Sickness”. 

Also, this Seinfeld episode 📺 by Dave Webb is comprised entirely of deleted scenes, alternate takes, and stand-up bits. 

Take it from these guys – modifying the original art really does work!

Of course, manipulating photos, videos, and audio in a creative, transformational way takes a lot of work. However, that work is necessary if you want to avoid copyright strikes on your channel.

5. Attribution

Tip number five ✋, on the other hand, is incredibly easy: 

Be sure to attribute the video or audio clip you’re using to the original creator.

Attribution is as simple as citing 📝 the original source, and in the worst-case scenario is a decent defense to a YouTube copyright strike, especially in conjunction with tips 1-4. 

Plus, using the Modern Language Association (#MLA) format allows you to easily insert the creators’ information into this example: ‼️ NAME. TITLE. WEBSITE NAME. PUBLISHER, PUBLICATION DATE, URL. ‼️

An example of a complete MLA citation would look like this:

Neistat, Casey. I Got Hurt. CaseyNeistat. YouTube, August 18, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BOioqhnpakk&t=7s.

By keeping a checklist ✅ of these five tips and making sure to follow them every time you insert others’ content into your videos, you can most likely avoid a YouTube copyright strike. 

Save yourself the heartbreak 💔 – use these tips and keep your channel safe