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What is a DMCA Notice in YouTube Videos

DMCA Notice in YouTube Videos

Leveraging video as a marketing tool is a strategic move for any business. And given that YouTube is the second most popular search engine in the world, it’s a missed opportunity to not create and optimize content for this social channel. 

Not to mention, there are minimal barriers to entry for marketing teams that want to make and share videos on social media. 

With some basic gear, a content strategy, and a video creation app, you can forego expensive filming equipment and make quality videos your target audience finds engaging. 

But there’s a caveat here. 

Anytime you use someone else’s content in your YouTube video (i.e., copyrighted music, stock video, still images, etc.), you could run into major legal trouble if you didn’t get permission to use the content in the first place. 

This could lead to two types of penalties on YouTube: a Content ID claim and/or a DMCA takedown notice.

In this post, we’ll focus on the latter and break down what a DMCA notice is, how it affects your business, and three reasons why YouTube videos receive these notices. 

And to wrap, we’ll discuss if and how you can overturn a DMCA notice to keep monetizing your video on YouTube as well as how to submit a copyright takedown request on your own. 

What is a DMCA Notice?

The DMCA — i.e., the Digital Millennium Copyright Act — has been around since 1998 when President Bill Clinton signed it into law. 

The act protects various forms of content and its creators by giving the content owners the ability to take legal action if they discover that their work has been stolen.  

This is where DMCA notices come in. 

A DMCA notice is a content takedown request that someone files when their content has been stolen and misused. If the person on the receiving end of this notice ignores the claim — and doesn’t take down the content — the notice could quickly turn into a lawsuit. 

A DMCA notice is a content takedown request that someone files when their content has been stolen and misused.

Unlike Content ID, DMCA doesn’t just cover stolen content on YouTube. It allows content creators to file a DMCA notice on virtually every internet service provider, search engine, and online platform.

It’s important to make the distinction between “content owner” and “copyright owner” when talking about DMCA notices. And that’s because content doesn’t actually need to be copyrighted for a DMCA notice to be valid.

So long as you can prove that the content originated with you and that it was used without your permission, you can send out a notice. 

Note: To protect the content you create, you can register your business’s website for a free DMCA Badge. Though this badge can’t stop people from stealing and misusing your content, it does show that you’re prepared to take legal action if they do. 

DMCA protection badge

How a DMCA Notice on YouTube Affects Your Business

Let’s say that one of your business’s YouTube videos receives a DMCA notice. How does this impact your business in the short and long term? 

On YouTube, a DMCA notice counts as one strike against your entire account. If you receive three strikes within a 90-day period, your videos and channel will be permanently removed. 

This means you’re no longer able to monetize content, spread brand awareness, and direct traffic to your website on YouTube. 

And if you’re not able to successfully dispute a DMCA notice (we’ll discuss this more later), Google and other search engines could rank your content lower in SERPs — making your content less visible to searchers. 

This could negatively affect your SEO efforts and business growth now and years down the line. 

So the question becomes — how do you safeguard your YouTube videos from DMCA notices?

The first step in protecting your business’s content is knowing the main reasons why DMCA notices are filed so that you can avoid this issue altogether.  

3 Reasons Videos Receive DMCA Notices

#1. You don’t have the music licensing rights 

Anytime that you use music in YouTube videos — and you’re not producing the music yourself — you need to get permission from the copyright owner(s) beforehand. 

Music licensing can be a time-consuming, expensive process. And if you’re not licensing music through a stock music company or YouTube Audio Library, you’ll have to personally negotiate with several people to get permission to use the music. 

When you’re on a tight deadline, it can be tempting to look for loopholes. But be wary of this. 

If your music licensing process isn’t airtight, you could be facing a DMCA notice for misusing copyrighted music. This type of notice is extremely hard to dispute successfully because musicians and other copyright holders take protecting their work very seriously. 

The penalty for using five seconds of background music without permission is just as extreme as it is for using five minutes of music.

To avoid this type of DMCA notice, triple-check that your team has documentation that the copyright owners gave you permission to use their music.  

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#2. The people featured didn’t consent to be included

If you film someone or use a still image of them without their consent, they reserve the right to file a DMCA notice if they choose. 

This is one instance where the content in question doesn’t have to be copyrighted to receive a takedown request. The fact that their image and likeness are featured in your YouTube video gives them enough grounds for making this request.  

One way to avoid this type of DMCA notice is to get written consent from every person featured in your videos. And if you’re filming in a public place with a lot of passersby, you can post a crowd release notice to let people know that you’ll be filming at that location.  

Example of a crowd notice release

Example of a crowd notice release. Source

By doing this, you’re able to build a solid defense for yourself that could pay off if you were to receive a DMCA notice.

#3. Copyright law applies to all forms of media 

It’s not just music you need to worry about: if you use video, images, or any other type of copyrighted content without permission, you could have a DMCA takedown coming your way. 

That’s because the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is a far-reaching piece of legislation. The law covers any “production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services” intended to circumvent mechanisms that control copyright.

If you don’t have express permission to use something — or a clear case for fair use — then you’re taking a big risk. 

Your Options if You Receive a DMCA Notice

If and when you receive a DMCA notice, the first thing you should consider is whether or not the claim is true. Because, if you did misuse someone else’s content, the best next step is to comply, take down the content, and make peace with a strike on YouTube. 

But if you went through all of the right legal steps and have proof that you did, you should file a counter notice to dispute this infringement claim. 

When you do, the person who filed the claim will either accept your counter notice or file a lawsuit against you. This is a worse case scenario, but as long as you have a solid defense, you stand a good chance of coming out on top. 

By using content legally from the start, you can prevent and overturn DMCA notices in YouTube videos successfully.

How to Submit a Copyright Takedown Request on YouTube

If, by chance, you find the tables turned and your work is used without your permission, then you are well within your rights to submit a copyright takedown request. The steps are relatively simple: 

  1. Fill out this Google webform (Make sure that the content you’re flagging isn’t covered under fair use.)
  2. Track your takedown requests by signing into YouTube Studio, clicking Copyright, and then clicking Removal Requests. 

Of course, you need to exercise caution when submitting a takedown notice. Misuse of this mechanism could result in legal consequences for you. Hopefully, you won’t have to deal with unauthorized use of your work, but if it ever happens, you know what to do now.

About the author: Mackenzie Scott is a copywriter at Soundstripe, a royalty free background music company that provides filmmakers, creators, and advertisers with royalty free lofi hip hop, among other genres.

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