So you received a copyright claim on YouTube for using Royalty Free music? Here’s how to resolve it.

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You know how everyone has a YouTube channel now, right? Incredible, isn’t it? It’s an amazing way to quickly, easily, and cheaply create personal, educational or entertaining content. To share your life, knowledge, and passion with the world. It’s a win-win. Unless you end up with a dreaded YouTube copyright claim!

Here at the IMLC we are very pro-YouTube. We even have our own channel. Here we provide independent content creators with the best advice on how to get value out of using royalty free music.

But let’s not forget YouTube has billions of users. It is so easy to start a channel and upload content. Add to this the scarcity of information around correct copyright procedures and it’s clear content creators should be wary of getting copyright claims on youtube.

Free to use music?

Royalty free music has a significant part to play in this danger. As a relatively new concept in the music industry, there is plenty of misinformation around royalty free music. This means people don’t always know how it should be used, especially in terms of its relation to copyright.

There is a vast and undefinable amount of independent royalty free music being used across the platform. This means the chances of misuse of copyrighted material are higher than ever before. In our first year of existence, here at the IMLC we identified close to 2,000 instances of misuse of our artists’ work on YouTube alone. And that is clearly only the tip of a sizeable, ship-sinking iceberg.

If you’re a YouTuber and have used royalty free music in your videos, you may have already experienced the consequences. These could have been receiving copyright strikes or even the loss of your channel. It may even have involved legal action being taken against you. So what should you do if you get a copyright claim on YouTube for the use of royalty free music?

What is a YouTube Copyright Claim?

Otherwise known as a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) claim, the term Copyright Claim on YouTube can refer to either a copyright removal request or a Content ID claim. These are the two different ways to challenge copyright misuse on YouTube.

Content ID

A Content ID claim is run through YouTube’s automated content identification system. The system identifies and manages copyright protected content on the platform. Videos uploaded to YouTube are scanned against a database of audio and visual content submitted to YouTube by the copyright owners. Not everybody is able or willing to use this system. YouTube grants Content ID to copyright owners with exclusive rights to a substantial body of material uploaded to YouTube.

Many music artists, producers and creators elect not to submit their music to YouTube’s Content ID system. This allows them to have more control over how their music is used. Much of these copyright owners are independent royalty free music creators. This means it is rare to find 100% Royalty Free music covered by Content ID.

Copyright removal request

A large amount of royalty free music misused on YouTube channels comes from sites such as Free Music Archive. These two sites and others like them allow creators to control their own copyright by releasing content on a Creative Commons licenseIn these cases, tracks can be downloaded for free and used in line with a set of licensing conditions, which can be confusing.

When a copyright owner discovers misuse of music not entered into the Content ID system, they do have an option. They can flag up the infringement by submitting a copyright removal request, otherwise known as takedown request.

Once a copyright owner submits a complete and valid legal takedown request for using their copyright protected content, two things happen. Firstly, the video is removed from the channel in compliance with copyright law. Secondly, the offending user will receive a copyright strike.

Copyright strike

A copyright strike is essentially a warning from YouTube. The first time a user gets a strike, they will be asked by YouTube to go through Copyright School. This is a system designed to explain copyright and how it’s enforced on the platform. 

Copyright strikes may affect your ability to monetise your channel. If you receive three of them you are at risk of losing your channel and all your videos. For YouTube and its users, copyright strikes are a big deal.

When you receive a takedown request you will see all relevant information laid out like this:

copyright strike on youtube

If you value your YouTube channel and want to keep hold of it, you must try and avoid copyright strikes. If you do receive one for your use of royalty free music, you may be confused as to why. You might be convinced you’ve done everything right. But there are plenty of reasons why this could happen to you.

I thought Royalty Free music was free to use. Why have I received a claim for using it in my video?

There are several reasons why the copyrighted owner of a piece of royalty free music might decide to initiate a copyright removal or takedown request. But all of them boil down to one thing: they believe that the terms for which they want the music to be used have been violated.

This might be as simple as a missing or wrong attribution. It might be a track that doesn’t allow commercial use being added to a video by a company or somebody promoting a product. We have written at length already on our site about Creative Commons licenses and how they can be misused. This is important information for anyone with a YouTube account.

What are my options for fixing a royalty free music takedown request?

Once you have been notified about a takedown request against your channel, YouTube will give you some options about how to go about solving the problem. As you know already, YouTube takes copyright infringement on its platform very seriously. But it also acknowledges that the copyright removal request system is open to manipulation.

Any copyright holder wishing to issue a takedown request on a video will be warned of the following by YouTube:

submitting a copyright claim on youtube

Though false claims are sometimes made, it is in your best interests to take the claim seriously before you have irrefutable evidence to the contrary. This will allow you to sensibly consider the two options presented to you.

The two options for resolving the request might seem similar, but there is a very important distinction that is vital to pay attention to. The options are to directly contact the user who filed the takedown request, or to file a Counter Notification with YouTube.

Contact the user

You will be provided with the user’s email address with details of the copyright claim. They will have full expectation that you may contact them for clarification on why the claim has been made.

Submit a Counter Notification

A counter notification is a legal request for YouTube to reinstate content that was removed due to a copyright removal request. When you submit a counter notification you are essentially informing the other party that you will face any legal challenge they may bring against you.

So what should I do?

The first thing you should do on being notified of a takedown request against a video on your channel is to contact the person who has filed the complaint. In most cases this will be the copyright holder, but it could also be an agent acting on their behalf such as a publisher or label employee.

YouTube will only provide you with the basic details of the claim, such as the type of infringing content and where it appears in your video. They will also give you the name and contact information of the user who submitted the request.

As we’ve seen earlier on in this piece, there are any number of reasons why the request might have been filed. Until you know the specifics of those details you cannot know what will be required to resolve the claim. This could be a case of agreeing to remove the content yourself in order to have the strike cancelled or paying for a license.

If you do decide to submit a counter notification, however, you should do so very carefully. Remember that by doing so you are opening a legal dispute between yourself and the copyright owner.

How to avoid copyright takedown requests, claims and strikes in the future

There’s a simple answer to this. Source your music from a reputable music licensing website like the IMLC. As independent artists, we are the best people to speak to regarding how our music should be safely used. If you are ever in doubt, try and contact the copyright owner directly to find out if the music is safe to use. It pays to be careful and avoid any of those nasty copyright claims on YouTube.

YouTube copyright claims are no joke!

Just like YouTube, the IMLC takes copyright infringement on its work very seriously. Our team has a lot of experience using the copyright removal request system to prevent misuse and secure compensation for our artists.

YouTube is generally safe for content creators to freely express themselves. But it is important for those creators to be aware of the consequences of copyright misuse and what they can do to avoid any issues. A copyright claim on YouTube doesn’t have to be the end of the world. But it is worth avoiding.