Avoid Copyright Strikes! A Guide for Bloggers & Vloggers

You’ve gone to YouTube and clicked on the latest update of Game of Thrones to watch when you notice something funny. Maybe the audio is sped up. Maybe the video is played in a flipped image. Or maybe the quality of image is 1/10th what it should be.

This is how some people try and get around copyright strikes.

While getting around the content ID systems that companies use may have worked in the past, nowadays, the algorithms will err on the side of caution and flag things if it suspects a violation has occurred.

So as bloggers, vloggers, and content creators, what are some of the things that we can do to avoid copyright strikes all together?

Today, I’ll break down some of the common myths about copyright and show you ways to legally upload content on social media sites that won’t get you flagged.

First, what is Copyright

Copyright is the protection granted to content creators who make original works of music, art, dramatic, or literature. The copyright owners are those who first made the work. Infringement happens anytime someone other than that original maker, posts, shares, uploads, etc. without the permission of the creator.

Long story short: the best way to avoid copyright infringement is to make everything yourself, or, to get permission from the original creator.

However! There is a certain (legal) way in which you have to go about getting that permission in the form of a license. You can’t just post something and say, “I got permission from Bob to post this”. Which brings us into some common myths about copyright and the internet.

Myths

While in no way an exhaustive list, these are some of the more common myths that I see around the internet regarding use of songs and TV/movies.

Myth # 1 : If you use less than 30 seconds you won’t get hit with a strike.

False! The length of time does not determine if it will be hit or not with a strike. Copyright material is protected no matter if you use 2 seconds or 2 hours. If you upload something and it doesn’t get an infringement notice, that means only that the algorithm wasn’t told to look for that specific thing at that time. It could get a strike later.

Myth #2: “No Copyright Intended” or “not used for profit” placed in the description will prevent strikes from occurring.

Again, false. Intention doesn’t matter when you use material that has been protected, nor does it matter if you are making money off of the material or not.

If you are using copyright protected material in an educational setting or part of a news update, than you can claim Fair Use. But uploading outside of those circumstances means that you can get hit with a strike.

Myth #3: I see X channel using copyright protected things all the time! Why aren’t they taken down on that channel? I should be fine too, right?

Sorry, but no. I would bet that one of two things are happening. First, the other channel went ahead and purchased a license to use that material legally. Second, they are using material that hasn’t been picked up by the algorithm yet but will be in the future.

What to do

Okay, so now that we’ve covered the myths surrounding copyright, what is a creator like yourself to do?

This post is going to focus on music as that is what most often causes a copyright strike.

Thankfully, there is a legal way to use material created by others. And the cool thing is that when you do these next steps, you are supporting artists and musicians. They need to pay the bills, too! Let’s take a closer look at how to legally ensure you can use material under copyright protection.  

YouTube and Other Videos

YouTube has the (notorious) Content ID system to analyze songs against a massive database to see if any matches occur. If they do, a notice is sent out and you have the opportunity to appeal. If you own the work or a license for the work, make sure you state this in your appeal.

Content ID claims do not result in a strike.

You are given a copyright strike means that the legal owner of the copyright material has sent a formal and legal request to YouTube. The material is taken down until the matter is resolved. If you received it while live streaming, your ability to live stream will be removed for 90 days.

How do you resolve a copyright strike? There are 3 ways according to YouTube:

  1. Wait it out. After 90 days and after you complete the YouTube Copyright School, the strike will be removed from your account.

  2. Get a retraction. Reach out to the person who filed the strike against you and ask them to remove it.

  3. Submit a counter notification. If you know that you have not infringed on copyright, you have the right to appeal it.

Facebook

Facebook has a copyright policy in place, though we aren’t too sure on how the strike system works regarding how many strikes you get before they close your account. most strikes are community reported, though the algorithm is improving.

When you are given a penalty on Facebook, the content is removed and you are given a notice as to why. If you believe that it was done in error, you are allowed to counter-claim. The more you violate copyright, the more strikes your account is given, until legal action is taken and/or your account is removed.

To use copyright protected material on Facebook for music, the best thing you can do is to acquire a license.

Instagram

Music on Instagram stories is allowed, and you can post any song that pops up when you search within the app. These songs are legal to use via a license that Instagram (well, Facebook really) has purchased and it works much in the same way that streaming services work.

instagram copyright page.png

Using songs on a post is a slightly different matter. If you create a video and import it into Instagram, you need to make sure that you acquire a music license for the song you wish to use. This is the legal way of not only making sure you don’t get hit with a copyright strike, it also helps to support music artists!

Getting that License

Okay, so you now know that you need a license in order to legally upload your content with that song attached. How do you go about getting one?

What you need to find is called a Synchronization License. That means after purchase you can synch a song to your visual image (meaning, put a background song in your vlog). It must be obtained from the owner of the copyright. In order to find out who that is, there are databases online to help you. Some of the better ones are:

Harry Fox (https://www.harryfox.com)

ASCAP (https://www.ascap.com/ace/)

BMI (http://repertoire.bmi.com/StartPage.aspx)

For example, you can see here that I searched for Taylor Swift in the ASCAP database and discovered that they own some of her songs.

t swift copy 1.png

In order to get permission, you have to reach out to the publisher, and their info is found in the collapsed tabs. If I wanted to use this song, all I would do is write them and ask permission.

t swift copy 2.png

This is the same method that filmmakers use to get major songs into their films.

Other Songs

If you are looking for songs that aren’t on the Billboard charts, you can search websites dedicated to creators like you. Some places to look that are really supportive to both you and the musician are:

Air Gigs

https://www.airgigs.com/

This site lets you hire professional musicians at almost any price point to have them make custom and original songs for you!

Epidemic Sound

https://www.epidemicsound.com/

Search a huge database of songs ready for you to use in your videos. Includes a special price for bloggers and vloggers! This place is great because it’s a one-stop-shop for both the music and the license! Everything is included in the first purchase price.


I’d like to wrap this up and say that while I did study music and copyright law in grad school, it is an ever changing field of study and don’t take anything I say as true legal advice and if you are really concerned, to reach out to your local lawyer.

And with that I wrap up perhaps my longest blog post to date! Have you ever used a music license to use in your videos? Or have you been guilty of using one of the myths to try and avoid strikes? What will you do differently now? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!