If you just received your fist strike on YouTube, your first course of action should be to calm down. Do not delete any videos. You are in an uncomfortable situation, yes. But you aren’t lost, and there is plenty of time to fix the situation. Now, let’s understand the situation:
Is it a community guideline or a copyright strike?
YouTube has two strike systems. The community guideline strike system counts your violations against YouTube’s community guidelines, as determined by YouTube themselves. The copyright strike system is an implementation of DMCA (US copyright law), so YouTube only is the messager in this situation.
What to do if you get a Community Guideline Strike
When you get a strike, you first should try to understand what the strike has been issued for. YouTube will send you an email with a reason, which will have a help center article attached to it. For example, Spam, deceptive practices and scams has this article. There also is a list of all strike reasons.
If you think YouTube is right in their assessment, you can acknowledge it and just move on. The first strike comes without any repercussinos (it’s just a warning), the ones after may put temporary restrictions on your account. Strikes expire after 90 days. If you think you understand where you went wrong, you may want to edit your video in a way that solves the issue and try again. Note that YouTube cares a lot about context, so superficial changes alone may not be enough. For example, if a video of a sexy, naked dance gets taken down, reuploading it with a few censor bars won’t make it okay. It may be slightly more acceptable, but if it’s overall purpose is still to be sexually gratifying, it’ll be taken down all the same.
If you think YouTube is wrong in their assessment, you can appeal. A link for that can be found in your YouTube Studio. Often times, giving more context on what’s happening in the video is useful, especially if your video falls into one of the EDSA categories (educational, documentary, scientific, artistic). Once you appeal, it can take a few weeks for YouTube to respond.
If YouTube denies your appeal, you can contact @teamyoutube on twitter as a last resort. This typically only works if YouTube is very obviously wrong (for example, taking down a single video of you just testing our your mic as spam or porn), and it can happen that you don’t get any reply here at all.
If all of this fails, you’re out of luck. Should you try to re-upload your video, note that it may be taken down for the exact same reason relatively quickly, so avoid doing that.
What to do if you get a Copyright Strike
Copyright strikes are effectively a copyright owner saying that you violated their copyrights. Note that in addition to copyright strikes, there also are copyright claims. A copyright claim may run ads on the claimed video, or block it in some countries, however, it won’t have any effect on your channel. You can have as many claims as you want. A copyright strike will remove your video and, once you get 3 strikes, terminate your channel.
When you get a copyright strike, the first question to ask yourself is: Is the video completly my work? A video only can be completely yours if you don’t use anything that anyone else has made. For example, if you play a game in your video, that game is copyrighted by whoever made the game. Should you use music, the music is copyrighted unless you made all of it yourself (melody, chords, lyrics and playing instruments).
If you didn’t make everything used in the video, the next question is: Do I have licenses for every third party work in my video?. That is to say, if you have documents from the copyright owner(s) of the work(s) you used in your video which state you’re allowed to use them, you’re fine.
If you can answer the above questions with yes, you can pretty safely send a DMCA counter notification. If you happen to have contact to the claimant, you may want to send them an email / call them directly instead to sort this out, as that can be much faster. Once you send a counter notification, the claimant has 10 business days to respond. And if they don’t, your video will get restored within 10-14 business days.
If you used third party content in your video without a license, you need to get licenses (or at least permissions) to use the content. You can even do this after your video has received the strike. Note that asking for a free permission (or, equivalently, asking the copyright holder to retract the claim) is unlikely to result in anything useful; if they were fine with you using it for free, they wouldn’t have striked you. Especially for more popular works (movies and music from the charts), it’s likely that these licenses will be rather expensive.
There are a few special cases for copyright strikes, such as:
- “The name of the claimant is not the name of the publisher.” This is quite common; Musicians especially won’t go around sending strikes to reuploads of their music on their own time – they’ll hire a copyright management company such as AdRev or DistroKid instead. Just because you see a name you don’t recognize and some reddit post saying they’re fake doesn’t mean that they actually are.
- “This is fair use.” Fair use is a defense you can use in a court of law. Sending a counter notification is forcing the copyright owner to agree with you or drag you to court, so make sure you have the resources to fight this in court before you proceed.
- “I sent a counter notification, but YouTube rejected it.” This happens if YouTube is very, very sure that you don’t have any legal ground for your counter notification, and blocks your notification to prevent you from dragging yourself to court.
In all of these special cases, ask a copyright lawyer for advice. Also, note that I’m not one of ’em.
What to do if your YouTube channel got terminated
For channel terminations, the same rules as for strikes apply generally:
- Don’t panic.
- If it’s a termination because of community guidelines or terms of service, you can appeal using this form.
- If the appeal fails, you can tweet @teamyoutube
- If it’s a termination because of copyright strikes, you need to resolve this with the copyright holders, either by getting a license or by sending free-form counter notifications.
For any further questions feel free to drop us a line on discord or via email.