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Ksenia Yakunina

Senior lawyer

25 April 2021

YouTube Channel Monetization and Copyright Enforcement

YouTube is a major online video-sharing platform, which gives its users the opportunity to find content they are interested in, publish their own videos and get paid for it. Internet advertising specialist Alexey Biryukov says that big producers are interested in big and interesting channels with a large audience, which ultimately leads to mutually beneficial cooperation: the channel earns money and the awareness of the producer’s target audience rises. All this is made possible through monetization on the YouTube video platform.

Monetization on YouTube is a way for an author to generate income from creating and posting video content that meets the rules and restrictions set by the video-sharing platform. Over the period of YouTube’s existence, the rules have undergone various changes, mostly in terms of tightening them.

To monetize a channel, the user has to apply for participation in the Partner Program, then the video-sharing platform administration checks the channel for its compliance with all conditions set. The video hosting checks the content of the entire channel rather than specific video content: the main topic of the channel, the most viewed and the most recently added videos have been analyzed. Here’s what's taken into account: content; title; icon; description and tags.

So, to participate in the Partner Program and broadcast advertisers’ videos on a channel, the user needs to accumulate at least 4000 hours of views in the last calendar year and have over 1000 subscribers. These conditions are designed to prevent artificial viewer fake-out. In accordance with the YouTube Terms of Use, updated as of December 10, 2019, it is prohibited to use the services of third parties to artificially increase the number of views, likes, subscribers and other statistical indicators of channels and videos, as well as to perform actions on their own that prevent accurate measurement of the actual interest of viewers to the content.

Here are all the main topics that are not advertiser-friendly:

  • Inappropriate language
  • Violence
  • Adult content
  • Shocking content
  • Harmful or dangerous acts
  • Hateful content
  • Incendiary and demeaning
  • Recreational drugs and drug-related content
  • Tobacco-related content
  • Firearms-related content
  • Controversial issues and sensitive events
  • Adult themes in family content

YouTube notes that some videos may include inappropriate content but are suitable for monetization. This applies to artistic videos, such as music videos that contain profanity, references to light drugs or sexual material that is not explicit. In such cases, the decision to monetize will depend on the context in which the inappropriate content appears.

More details about the criteria and examples of content types can be found at:

In addition to the above, content should not contain third-party intellectual property unless users have permission from the appropriate person or others in the video hosting channel owner.

Most advertisers use famous music tracks or movie clips in their commercials, but even the mention of any trademark must be confirmed by the right to do so.

If some user wants to run an ad on YouTube using intellectual property, he or she needs to prepare a proper documentation proving rights to use this content in the video. In case of violation of the rules, video hosting takes measures of varying degrees of severity. For example, YouTube can deprive the dishonest creator of the opportunity to monetize content or delete the account.

If there is copyrighted content in your uploaded video, its owner can submit a request through the Content ID system. Such requests are sent on behalf of copyright holders.

Owners of copyrighted content choose what Content ID system will do with videos that illegally use copyrighted content. User cannot monetize video as long as it has been copyrighted in the Content ID system. Instead, the copyright holder can earn revenue from the video. In other cases, for example, if user has used a piece of music in a video, he or she may be able to share the advertising revenue with the copyright holder.

If the channel owner tries to contest the Content ID application without a good reason, the rights holder may request that such a video be removed. In this situation, the channel owner receives a copyright infringement warning. Please note that even if the disputed video has received multiple Content ID requests or requests for removal, the owner will only receive one warning.

Notably, after the first warning, the channel owner will have to take a course at the Copyright School. In it, YouTube explains what copyright is and how it is protected on the video hosting site.

Copyrighted content can be used if the owner of the YouTube channel is guided by the principles of fair use or, accordingly, has a permission from the copyright holder.

YouTube, by analogy with Article 1274 of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation, identifies 4 criteria for fair use, as follows.

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes.
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work. Using material from primarily factual works is more likely to be fair than using purely fictional works.
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole. Borrowing small bits of material from an original work is more likely to be considered fair use than borrowing large portions. However, even a small taking may weigh against fair use in some situations if it constitutes the “heart” of the work.
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work. Users that harm the copyright owner’s ability to profit from his or her original work are less likely to be fair uses. Courts have sometimes made an exception under this factor in cases involving parodies.

Some copyright holders, however, permit the use of their creative work with certain reservations when downloading content. If a video is added under a Creative Commons license, it means that in addition to the copyright holder, it can be used by other authors. In this case, the content is copyrighted and other authors may use the content in accordance with the terms of the license. By posting a video under the Creative Commons license, the author permits all YouTube users to reuse and modify it.

Video hosting YouTube actively implements updates to make the terms and conditions of video hosting for advertisers, authors and users of the site most comfortable. Be sure to keep track of changes in rules and policies, and observe copyrights to avoid blocking by YouTube administration.

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