What to Do if Someone Used Your Content in Their YouTube Video

What to Do if Someone Used Your Content in Their YouTube Video

Copyright owners definitely have their work cut out for them when it comes to protecting their content on YouTube. If content creators want to protect their copyright interests, there’s a lot they need to know, both in terms of their own rights, and the rights of those who want to use their content.

If you’re new to video marketing on YouTube, you might assume that if someone uses your content in a video, you can just report it to YouTube and that’ll be the end of it. But in many cases, copyright issues on YouTube aren’t so cut and dried. Let’s take a look at what you can do if someone has repurposed your content for their YouTube video.

Criteria for Legally Using Other People’s Copyrighted Content

First, let’s look at how you can use another person’s content without infringing on their copyright. Under the legal concepts known as fair use and fair dealing, there are certain situations where people have the right to use content without the copyright owner’s permission. Fair use applies to the United States, and fair dealing applies to several Commonwealth countries, such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Fair Use (USA)

Under fair use, a person can use other people’s content for the purposes of commentary, criticism, parody, and other transformative uses. Fair use doesn’t specifically mention providing attribution, but doing so certainly wouldn’t hurt.

Fair Dealing (Canada)

Fair dealing goes a bit more in depth, permitting the use of copyrighted work for research, private study, parody, criticism, satire, education, review or reporting, and if you’re using it for review, reporting or criticism, you have to provide attribution to the author and the source of the work.

Though a lot of money has been spent trying to come up with an exact definition of these terms, it’s been left up to interpretation on purpose, as lawmakers and judges don’t want to limit its definition. If the terms were rigidly defined, it might be too limiting for certain situations.

The idea behind these concepts is that without them, copyright owners could basically prevent anyone from criticizing their work, and the public can benefit from content that requires the use of copyrighted material.

Examples of fair use or fair dealing could include:

  • Making a YouTube video using parts of someone else’s video for the purpose of criticizing their work
  • Using song titles and lyrics, or excerpts from a novel in an album or book review
  • Imitating well-known copyrighted material as part of a stand-up comedy act
  • Quoting from a scientific study or survey for a newspaper article

More than anything, fair use and fair dealing are legal defences against claims of copyright infringement. And unfortunately, the only way to know for sure if someone’s use of your work qualifies as fair use or fair dealing is for the issue to be resolved by a lawsuit or arbitration.

There are a number of factors that judges consider in these cases. For fair use, this includes:

  • Whether your use of the material will deprive the copyright owner of income
  • How and why you used the copyrighted material
  • The nature of the copyrighted material
  • How much of the material you used

For fair dealing, they’ll consider the same factors, but will also determine whether it was necessary for you to use the material, and if there were any alternatives.

Now that we’re done with the crash course in copyright law, here are your options as a copyright owner on YouTube:

What to Do if Someone Repurposed Your Content on YouTube

First off, before you do anything, you need to be sure that you’re making a valid claim. On YouTube’s copyright takedown notice page, it states that if you misuse this process, your account can be suspended, or it can result in “other legal consequences”, so keep this in mind. If you’re sure that someone has either stolen your work, or used part of it in their own content in a way that you believe wouldn’t qualify as fair use or fair dealing, you have two main options:

1. Send YouTube a Copyright Takedown Notice

A copyright takedown notice is a formal request from the content owner for YouTube to remove a video. If you want to submit a notice, click on your profile photo in the top right-hand corner of the screen, click on the help option and type copyright into the search bar. From here, click on the topic that says, “Submit a copyright takedown notice” and then click on the blue button that says, “submit a copyright complaint”, which will take you to a page where you can start the process.

Make sure to read the text surrounding the copyright complaint button. In short, it asks you to consider whether fair use or fair dealing apply to the situation, and explains that by submitting a takedown request, you are “initiating a legal process.” This is extremely important to understand, as it also explains that if YouTube takes down the video, the name you’ve used as the copyright owner will be displayed on YouTube in place of the disabled content. At this point, this has also become part of the public record, and all your information, including your legal name and email address will be included in the notice, which might be provided to the uploader whose content you’ve flagged.

If you realize that you’ve mistaken someone’s content for something else, or you’ve just changed your mind, you can retract your copyright infringement claim. Just click on your profile photo, then click the help option and type retract into the search bar. From here, click on “Retract a claim of copyright infringement” and then click where it says, “If you removed a video” for instructions on how to go about doing this.

2. Use YouTube’s Content ID system

Copyright owners who qualify for the Content ID system can track viewership statistics on videos, block videos from being viewed in certain areas, and monetize videos by running ads on them.

The Content ID system scans uploads against its database and determines if they match copyrighted content. To have access to the Content ID system, copyright owners have to meet specific criteria and be approved by YouTube.

These criteria include having evidence to show that you control the exclusive rights to copyrighted content and having a “substantial body” of original content that is “frequently uploaded” by other YouTube users. Those using the Content ID system also have to be sure that they’re not misusing it, as this can result in their access to the system being disabled or their partnership with YouTube being terminated.

If you don’t qualify for the Content ID system, you also have the option to sign up for YouTube’s Content Verification Program. This program provides help to copyright owners to search for content that infringes on their copyrighted work and provide information that allows YouTube to justify removing the material.

If you want to know what options are available to the users whose content you’ve made a copyright claim on, click here to read our article on how to deal with copyright strikes – a must read for anyone interested in video marketing on YouTube.

So, while you might be punching a hole through your monitor because other people are profiting from your work, it’s not always worth pursuing legal action, especially if what they’re doing clearly falls under fair use or fair dealing. Remember, if you’re asking YouTube to remove videos, you’re starting a legal process, and you want to be sure that you’re not making false claims.

Is the thought of filing copyright claims making your stomach turn? Contact the Best Media for a free demo of our video marketing services. We can create a YouTube video marketing campaign that’s perfect for your business.

Rob Pacinelli

Roberto Pacinelli is the VP of The Best Media and Senior Digital Marketing Strategist with a career in digital marketing spanning over 19 years. Roberto and The Best Media have helped thousands of small, medium and large businesses succeed online across Canada, USA and the world with many business owners recognizing Roberto and his team as their Key to Success in helping their businesses earn millions of dollars as a result. Call Roberto Pacinelli at 416 253 0934 or email him at