Using copyrighted material in your video

Please note: This material is provided for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice, or a substitute for legal advice.

Getting permission to use someone else's material in your video

The rights to any screen shots or footage of third party content on our site are not ours to grant. Additionally, there is no general public record of who owns the rights to particular works. We therefore can't assist you with identifying and contacting the party that owns the rights to a particular work. You would need to follow up with the individual content owners regarding the rights to this footage. You may want to try emailing the user through your YouTube account.

We provide content owners with the ability to control the use of their content on YouTube. Because content owners have the right to change their mind about how their content is displayed on our site, it's possible that content that was once allowed is subsequently blocked. Also, it is possible that multiple parties hold rights to a different components (e.g. audio, video) of a copyrighted work. While one owner may allow the use of their material on YouTube, another may decide to disallow use.

I already have permission to use this content!

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

If your video is removed in error, you have the option to request a retraction from the claimant or submit a counter notification. Content ID matches may also be disputed.

Fair Use and Fair Dealing

It's possible that you may be permitted to include small excerpts from copyrighted material in your video if what you intend to use is insubstantial or is incidentally included, or where the intended use you have for the copyrighted material falls within a exception or limitation to copyright under the law in your country.

We can't give you advice on either of these topics, and if you do plan to use even a small portion of copyrighted material in your video we'd strongly advise you to take legal advice first.

In the U.S., the following four factors are weighed by courts to determine whether a particular case is fair use:

  • the purpose and character of the use, (including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes)
  • the nature of the copyrighted work
  • the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  • the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work

Read more about fair use at the U.S. Copyright Office.

YouTube cannot advise whether or not your video will ultimately qualify as fair use; this is something that can only be decided by a court. It is your responsibility to know the laws in your country, and to understand fair use before you decide to make a video incorporating copyrighted content without permission. If you choose to do so, and your video is removed by the copyright owner, it is even more important that you understand your position before deciding to submit a copyright counter-notification.

Here are a couple of videos you may find helpful to understand fair use:

View this video on the Stanford Center for Internet and Society channel to see a list of all the questions covered!

For more information on US copyright law and fair use, check out the following materials.

The School of Communication American University Center for Social Media has a helpful Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Scholarly Research in Communication you may wish to visit.

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

In European Union countries, the Commission website has some helpful information and links:

WIPO has a list of Intellectual Property and Copyright Offices internationally, you can find the one applicable for your country here:

Derivative works

The phrase "derivative works" refers to creations such as remixes, where you might take images or sound from a recording and edit it into something new. Although the new video is your own creation, the images and sound you've used still belong to someone else. It doesn't matter if you recorded it for free from television, purchased a DVD, purchased a video game, or recorded it yourself at an event—you may still need permission from the copyright holder(s) of the material you drew upon to make your new creation.

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