YouTube announced today that copyright owners who make manual claims on short song clips (defined as single digit seconds’ worth of music) or unintentional audio (such as a passing background song from a store or car) will no longer be able to monetize videos with manual claims.
These claimants will only be able to block monetization outright or block the video itself, but not earn revenue for it.
This is a great step towards (hopefully) better managing the middle ground between appeasing copyright holders and protecting creators from unnecessarily having their revenue taken. I would imagine that this may help make some videos seem “not worth it” to manually Content ID claim if the copyright holder can’t monetize it, leaving some creators alone.
There’s a couple important caveats here, though. First, this only applies to manual Content ID claims. Automated detection of songs, even this short, will still have the same policies applied. Also, “special cases and exceptions” to this rule, such as an entire video made up of compilations including short music clips may not apply here.
Also, an unintended negative side effect could come of this change by way of more content being blocked on the site than before. This is concerning - as it was generally considered “okay” (even if it shouldn’t) to risk losing monetization on a video over a short music clip just to keep a joke or reference in a video, but now there’s a higher potential for them to be blocked outright. In the YouTube Help page on this update, Sarah from TeamYouTube responds to this:
“These changes will likely be accompanied by new challenges, including a potential for more content to be blocked, but we feel this is an important step in creating a fairer system for creators & music partners in the long term. And reminder that even if your content is blocked, you can still edit out the claimed content to unblock your video.”
They reference the update from July many times, reminding creators that they have new tools in the Studio Beta for quickly cutting out or replacing short Content ID-claimed clips within your videos to help keep from getting blocked. Read more about how to do this here.
An interesting note that is a change from previous iterations of the YouTube Editor tool is that users who are in the YouTube Partner Program can actually save their video edits even on videos with over 100,000 views. Previously the only option on such videos was to save the edit as a new video (useless for this scenario) but apparently they have updated it!
It’s not made super clear in this post, but TeamYouTube on Twitter clarifies that this new policy only applies to new Content ID claims moving forward, and previous monetized claims will not be affected. (Policy enforcement will “ramp up” mid-September.)
Both on Twitter and in the Help article, the team tries to make it clear that creators shouldn’t focus on the “time limit” for how much of a song can be used, as it’s not a set rule, and that using copyrighted content that the creator doesn’t have license for forfeits their right to monetize/etc. the content - but I do worry that people will take this and further push a big misunderstanding of “Fair Use.” There’s been a long-running myth about Fair Use on YouTube (and by “long-running,” I mean since the site introduced its first copyright-related tools) that a video is “Fair Use if it uses less than X seconds of a song/movie/show/etc.” This just isn’t true. That’s not how Fair Use works at all, but that myth has survived a long time and this potential for new protection when using X seconds of a song in a video may further perpetuate the misunderstanding.
Lastly, it’s noted that Content ID holders who “repeatedly fail to follow this policy” will have their access to manual claiming revoked. This is an important step for protecting creators that has been requested for years now, and awesome to see finally happening - even if we have to wait a month for it to take effect.
Overall this is a great change, and I’m just seriously hoping it leads to copyright holders deeming this kind of manual claiming “not worth it” instead of just blocking everyone’s videos, but we shall see.
You can read all the details of this policy update in the YouTube Help article here.
Tech educator, '90s and '00s Nostalgia Nerd, Pixel and Framerate Junkie. 12 years on YouTube is a loooong time.