What is copyright?

Copyright is a form of protection provided for original works of authorship, including literary, dramatic, musical, graphic and audiovisual creations. "Copyright" literally means the right to copy, but has come to mean that body of exclusive rights granted by law to copyright owners for protection of their work.

Copyright protection means that a copyright owner can control certain uses of their work. Most importantly, this protection gives the copyright owner the right to control the copying of their content, adapting and transmitting the content. Uploading and sharing content via the Internet implicates many of a copyright owner's exclusive rights. The exclusive nature of copyright means that only the owner can decide who engages in these activities with respect to their content.

There are limitations to copyright. It does not generally protect ideas or facts. In addition, there are some uses of copyright protected materials that are authorized by law. This means, for example, that the copyright owner's permission is not required to use their work in a video. The precise nature of these exceptions to copyright protection, depends on the national copyright law that applies. In the US, the most important exception is fair use. In the UK, there are fair dealing exceptions for particular uses such as criticism and review or reporting the news. In Brazil, the exceptions are itemized and specific and include quotes with attribution or short excerpts for personal use.

What is copyright infringement?

Copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner.

YouTube respects the rights of copyright holders and publishers and requires all users to confirm they own the copyright or have permission from the copyright holder to upload content. We comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and other applicable copyright laws and promptly remove content when properly notified.

Posting copyright-infringing content can lead to the removal of your videos and possibly monetary damages if a copyright owner decides to take legal action (this is serious—you can get sued!). Repeat infringers' accounts are terminated. These users are permanently prohibited from using YouTube.

YouTube hopes that you will help us protect the rights of artists and creators, and work with us to keep our community a creative, legal and positive experience for everyone.

How do I avoid copyright infringement?

The way to ensure that your video doesn't infringe someone else's copyright is to use your skills and imagination to create something completely original. It could be as simple as taping some of your friends goofing around, and as complicated as filming your own short movie with a script, actors, and the whole works. If it's all yours, you never have to worry about the copyright—you own it! Make sure to follow the other guidelines in the terms of use, too.

Be sure that all components of your video are your original creation—even the audio portion. For example, if you use an audio track of a sound recording owned by a record label without that record label's permission, your video may be infringing the copyrights of others, and may be subject to removal. YouTube offers a library of authorized music to liven up your video. Try AudioSwap now!

Below are some guidelines to help you determine whether your video may infringe someone else's copyright.

  • If you taped it off cable, videotaped your TV screen, or downloaded it from some other website, it may still be copyright infringement and requires the copyright owner's permission to distribute or can only be used within the limits of legal exceptions to copyright.
  • If you give credit to the owner/author/songwriter—it may still be copyright infringement.
  • If you are not selling the video for money—it may still be copyright infringement.
  • If similar videos appear on our site—it may still be copyright infringement.
  • If the video contains a copyright notice—it may still be copyright infringement.
  • If you created a video made of short clips of copyrighted content—even though you edited it together, it may still be copyright infringement.

Examples of copyrighted works

The most common reason we take down videos for copyright infringement is that they are unauthorized copies of copyrighted content, and the owners of the copyrighted content have alerted us that their content is being used without their permission. Once we become aware of an unauthorized use, we will remove the video promptly. See http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf for more information about U.S. copyright law.

Some examples of potentially infringing content are:

  • TV shows
  • Music videos, such as the ones you might find on music video channels
  • Videos of live concerts, even if you captured the video yourself
  • Movies and movie trailers
  • Commercials
  • Slide shows that include photos or images owned by somebody else
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