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YouTube Fair Use HACKS for Every Type of YouTuber

Fair use is a great tool that every YouTuber should use whenever they include copyrighted material in their videos. While the fair use doctrine won’t protect creators 100% of the time, it’s a great method to prevent and dispute copyright flags 🚩 on YouTube. 

That being said, fair use on YouTube doesn’t look the same for every creator. In fact, some methods of fair use aren’t even applicable to certain types of YouTubers!


YouTube Fair Use

Therefore, to help you understand which method is right for your channel, I’ve outlined below 👇 some of the most common fair use hacks for different types of YouTubers. Check them out!

✳️ Educators

➡️ Tutorials and How-To Videos

When you’re instructing viewers on completing a task or creating a piece of art, you may be tempted to use copyrighted material to demonstrate the final product.

For example, if you were to make a how-to video explaining the creation of special effects in Star Wars, you would probably want to provide your viewers with a clip from the movie 🎞️.

However, how can you provide this reference without breaking copyright laws?

One of the most commonly used fair use strategies is adding commentary to footage. Luckily for you, this commentary could help instruct your audience.

For instance, during the Star Wars FX footage, you could comment on what kind of software the FX artists most likely used. Furthermore, you could point out which FX is outdated, and how a better product would be created in modern day.

Commenting 💬 on the footage you show and relating it back to what you’ll be teaching is a great way to incorporate the doctrine of fair use into your YouTube how-to videos.

➡️ Teachers and Tutors

On the other hand, there is a different method for teachers and tutors who are providing instructions on more traditionally educational topics, such as history, science 🔬, arithmetic, and language.

These types of instructors may want to include informational texts, such as a newspaper article from World War II or a quote from a recently published nonfiction book.

Whenever you’re displaying or reading from a written text in your videos, you must list the name of the book 📚 or piece of text, the author, the publication date, the publisher, and the source – or as much of this information as you can gather. You can show this information in your video description as well as in your video itself if you deem fit.

Providing this information while keeping any footage or quotes as short as possible is an effective way of avoiding copyright strikes on your channel.

✳️ Vloggers

➡️ Reactors

Unfortunately, reaction videos usually depend on the use of copyrighted footage for the viewer’s reaction. However, luckily for vloggers, reacting to a piece of content is a type of YouTube fair use 👍! 

That being said, be sure to provide a reaction to everything that you show in the video. In other words, don’t let the footage play on for longer than a few seconds without commentary. 

Additionally, change the focus between you and the material often to keep the clips as short as possible.

These rules hold true to videos, music, and any other type of reaction-worthy work. As a rule of thumb, keep the camera 📹 on your reaction for as long as possible while still expressing the general theme of the content. 

Overall, make sure you are the focus of your video – not the content you’re reacting to.

✳️ Musicians

➡️ DJs

DJs should take advantage of their mixing skills 🎛️ to transform content and abide by the doctrine of fair use. Usually, this means creating remixes and mashups – but feel free to use your imagination. The main requirement is that you transform the content in a way that makes it a totally original piece of art.

One of my favorite examples of a great mashup is this awesome mashup of the best songs of 2018 by Mashup Songs

As a DJ, practice your craft by altering the speed, volume 🔈, and sound effects of every song you use. Quite honestly, DJing skills should make transformation and fair use quick and easy!

➡️ Singers

On the other hand, singers usually don’t use software to modify the music they make. Therefore, they have to use other strategies to utilize the fair use doctrine.

Unfortunately, while performing original music is the safest way to post music 🎼 to your YouTube channel, not all singers are songwriters as well.

These limitations leave some musicians with little options for transforming content. Luckily, covering copyrighted songs is an easy and very popular way to do just that! Covers technically transform the original song, so they should almost always be protected by the doctrine of fair use. 

However, if you’re looking to make a profit 💰, check out the legal requirements for selling covers. While Spotify and other online platforms usually provide copyright protection, other forms of sale require further legal action.

✳️ Gamers

➡️ Walkthroughs

Believe it or not, posting live stream walkthrough videos of yourself playing video games online is technically in violation of copyright laws 😵.

Think of it this way: everything you see and hear in a video game is copyrighted. From the sound effects to the music and the characters, everything you display during live gameplay is protected under copyright law.

Furthermore, most of the time, video game developers have not 🙅‍♂️ provided you license to broadcast their games online. Therefore, it’s extremely important to always check out the license of each video game you plan on using for walkthrough videos.

That being said, as long as you provide commentary throughout your live stream walkthroughs, you should be protected under the doctrine of fair use. 

However, it’s incredibly important that you provide thorough instruction, reactions, or critique AND avoid posting any spoilers that the video game developers would not want leaked.

➡️ Let’s Plays

Let’s Play videos are a bit less risky than walkthroughs 🚶‍♀️, as they are usually edited and include much more commentary.

Much like reaction videos, Let’s Play content focuses much more on the player’s experience. Therefore, they usually abide by the YouTube fair use doctrine better than walkthroughs, especially those without sufficient commentary.

While most video game 🎮 developers have turned a blind eye to live stream and Let’s Play gamers due to the “free” advertising they provide, they may press charges if a YouTuber is using their game to earn a profit. 

Furthermore, game developers have been known to file a takedown notice for game plays in which the player uses slurs or hate speech.

That being said, the safest way to add gameplay content to your YouTube channel is to obtain licensing permission from the developers. However, these licenses usually come with a long list of legal requirements 📝. 

Therefore, be sure to consult a social media lawyer to ensure you are protected from video takedowns and legal action to keep your channel – and your wallet – safe.