What's the Difference Between a Copyright Claim and a Copyright Strike?

YouTubers, do you know the difference between a copyright claim and a copyright strike? If not, find out right now.

The world of copyright isn’t always as cut and dried as a rights holder claiming that you used their content. There can be a number of complicated moving parts when it comes to digital rights management and your responsibilities and obligations as a YouTube creator.

In the first of a series on rights management and social video, we're going to answer a question we get asked a lot: what is the difference between a copyright strike and a copyright claim?

Obligatory disclaimer: Please note that this post is an overview of how copyright works on YouTube. Please consult a lawyer if you need advice on a specific case.

Before we take a deeper dive into the differences, here's a quick overview of both types of copyright infringement processes. Essentially a copyright claim is someone asserting that you have used their content, whether that be a video clip, an image, or a piece of audio. A copyright strike is much more serious for a YouTube creator and your channel can be suspended for repeated copyright offenses.

1 Minute Guide: Copyright Claims

Copyright claims are also known as Content ID claims. Content ID is a fully-automated digital rights management tool on the YouTube platform that scans videos and notifies the rights holder if their video clips, images, or audio have been used without express permission. Regarding copyright/Content ID claims you should know the following:

  • A claim will not adversely affect your YouTube channel.
  • The rights holder can claim the revenue on your video if you have used their content.
  • The copyright holder can place ads on your video to generate that revenue.
  • The copyright holder can restrict your video in some countries or regions.
  • The copyright holder may also choose to take no action (but absolutely don’t rely on that!)
  • Copyright claims are a part of Copyright Law.
  • Copyright claims only apply to the videos flagged and not the entire channel
  • A claim can be proven false depending upon if you really own the content that is being claimed by someone else.

1 Minute Guide: Copyright Strikes

A copyright strike is issued to a creator if they’ve uploaded something within their video that they do not own the rights to. The copyright holder has the right to remove that video from YouTube altogether, which means it’s blocked everywhere and the ability to generate any further ad revenue is shut down. Creators should know the following about copyright strikes on YouTube:

  • A copyright strike WILL adversely affect your channel.
  • The copyright holder can completely remove your video from YouTube.
  • If you receive a copyright strike you won’t be able to monetize your videos.
  • You also won’t be able to live stream from your account.
  • If you receive 3 copyright strikes, your YouTube channel will be terminated and you’ll be banned from creating another one.
  • Copyright strikes expire after 3 months.

YouTube’s Current Copyright Policy

Unsurprisingly, YouTube isn’t here to play when it comes to copyright infringement. The platform has solid guidelines that match copyright policies in the USA (and presumably beyond), and it states very clearly that:

“Creators should only upload videos that they have made or that they’re authorized to use. Users should not upload videos that they didn’t make or use content in videos that someone else owns without necessary authorizations."

So, with that warning in mind, let's take a more detailed look at claims and strikes.

Copyright Claims AKA Content ID Claims

YouTube's copyright infringement detection is incredibly sophisticated. The platform uses proprietary software called Content ID which scans content and notifies creators (who have access to the tool) where their work may have been copied. That creator can then decide whether to make a claim, depending on whether the video falls under Fair Use, instead of submitting a copyright takedown notice.

These YouTube accounts can also make a manual claim for anything the Content ID tool misses for any reason.

As a general rule, Content ID claims are made against video clips, audio, and other content that qualifies as owned media and hasn’t been available for publication on YouTube. Claims are issued to creators if they don't own the TV or music clips, music, or other copyrighted media.

The rights owners have full control of their Content ID policy. Some creators and media publishers always opt to stop certain content from being uploaded to YouTube, like TV clips or music videos. Others allow their content to remain published on the uploader’s channel but only if some or all of the advertising revenue is funneled back to the copyright owners as compensation.

That all sounds a little confusing so let’s break it down.

ContentID claims come with a monetization, tracking, or viewing restriction rule. For the latter, the video may only remain live in certain countries or regions at the rightsholder’s discretion. The owner can also decide to:

  • Block the entire video from being viewed on YouTube.
  • Monetize the video by placing ads against it - this might come with the option of a potential revenue share with the uploader.
  • The rights owner takes 100% of the revenue share from ads. The creator can still keep the video up but they won’t generate any revenue from that upload.
  • Track the video’s viewership stats which disables any monetization and lets the owner see how well your video is performing in case they choose to claim any revenue in the future.

YouTube itself has a handy guide for the options here:

Note: Not everyone can access the Content ID feature. YouTube has very specific criteria for rights owners who want to track their content. Find out more details here.

OK, let's tackle what happens if you receive a Content ID claim against one of your videos.

In order to resolve and remove a copyright claim, the uploader will need to dispute it. Once the claim has been formally disputed by the uploader, the rights owner then has 30 days to respond to that appeal with the option of either:

  • Releasing the claim if they find evidence that the uploader does in fact have permission to use the material (as is often the case when a creator uses a music track licensed through a third party like Epidemic Sound).
  • Rejecting the dispute and upholding the claim because they believe they still have a strong and valid case
  • Removing the video in question from YouTube by submitting a copyright takedown request. This will lead to a copyright strike against your channel (see below).
  • Deciding not to respond to the appeal and let the claim on their part expire.

While the content is in dispute any viewing restrictions are reversed, and the video can continue to generate revenue through ads. However, that revenue will be held in a neutral account and only released to the party who wins the dispute.

If the rights owner doesn’t respond within 30 days, the Content ID claim is automatically released. But if they reject the dispute, the claim gets reinstated once more. The uploader can again appeal and fight their case, and again, the rights holder has 30 days to respond. In the meantime, the ad revenue holding account kicks in again, as does the lift on any viewing restrictions.

At this stage in the dispute, the rights owner can either release their claim, choose to take down the video, or set up a “delayed takedown.” If the owner opts to go down the delayed takedown route, the uploader will be automatically notified that they have just 7 days to retract their appeal or the video will be automatically taken down and disappear forever from YouTube.

Talking of YouTube, take a few minutes to watch their advice about ContentID claims:

Copyright Strikes and Takedowns

So, we’ve covered the main points of Content ID claims, now let’s take a look at copyright strikes.

PSA: You do NOT want to attract any copyright strikes against your channel!

A copyright strike is issued when a rights owner requests the legal removal of a video on YouTube because the uploader didn’t have the permission to use their images, audio, or video clips. As you can see from the image above (thanks YouTube), a strike differs significantly from a claim.

Copyright strikes are manual and are activated when a rights owner files a DMCA takedown request. The owner must supply YouTube with specific information regarding the takedown which includes:

  • The rightsholder’s contact information.
  • A thorough description of the material the owner wants to protect.
  • A sworn statement of good faith belief that the material (a video clip, a gif, an image, etc) has been used without express permission.

After a takedown request is filed by the rights owner, YouTube has to remove the video in question from the uploader’s channel. That creator is notified, and they can either file a counter-notice or accept the takedown decision.

If the video is taken down following a manual claim, the creator’s channel will receive a copyright strike. Oh, and deleting the offending video will not resolve the strike.

What Happens After Your First Copyright Strike?

If you receive a copyright strike against a video, take that as a real warning that YouTube now believes that your account is losing good standing. The first copyright strike received may negatively affect some channel features like a stop to any live streaming or monetization.

YouTube is willing to give the creator another chance at this stage though because the first copyright strike will expire after 90 days as long as they complete the courses in YouTube’s Copyright School​ (yes, that's a real thing).

What Happens After Your Second and Third Copyright Strike?

OK, the danger level just turned up a notch. If your channels receive a second copyright strike before the first strike has even expired, you will have then have to wait another 90 days until the second strike has expired. In the meantime, your account remains out of good standing.

If you receive a third copyright strike before the first two strikes have expired, YouTube will automatically terminate your account and remove all of your uploaded videos. You’ll also be banned from creating any new channels.

In a few cases, the bad news doesn’t end there. You could face a legal challenge and the media you used without permission could take you all the way to court. If you lose the case you could end up with massive legal fees plus a substantial fine to pay off. Good times.

Can You Still Monetize Your YouTube Channel If You Have Received a Copyright Claim or Copyright Strike?

We've covered this topic in the video below. and the answer is possibly, maybe, but also probably not.

If you apply for the YouTube Partner Program but aren’t accepted, YouTube doesn’t give enough of an explanation as to why you were rejected, so you’ll never know whether your application failed because of a copyright issue.

However, we do know that to monetize your channel, you have to comply with YouTube's Terms of Service, copyright guidelines, and community guidelines, as well as Google's ad policies.

So if you have a copyright claim or a copyright strike on your channel, will you be rejected for monetization? No, but bear in mind copyright strikes are serious offenses.

If your channel has no copyright claims, and no copyright strikes, you'll automatically be accepted into the YouTube Partner Program? Again, no because you've also got to consider all of the other community guidelines you need to adhere to.

Further Resources: Copyright and YouTube

What is copyright?

What is a Content ID claim?

Copyright strike basics

The difference between copyright takedowns and Content ID claims

The legal issues all YouTube creators need to know about

The expert's guide to Fair Use & copyright on YouTube

How to get royalty-free music for your YouTube videos

Copyright and rights management

Frequently asked copyright questions