YouTube Will Stop Letting Copyright Holders Seize Revenue via Manual Claims on Very Short Music Clips

YouTube is pushing back against overzealous copyright policing by music companies.

Starting in mid-September, the video giant will forbid copyright holders from making manual claims to commandeer revenue generated by YouTube videos that include very short music clips (e.g., five seconds of a song) or “unintentional” music (like music from passing cars).

“One concerning trend we’ve seen is aggressive manual claiming of very short music clips used in monetized videos,” YouTube said in a blog post announcing the change Thursday. “These claims can feel particularly unfair, as they transfer all revenue from the creator to the claimant, regardless of the amount of music claimed.”

Once YouTube starts enforcing the new policy next month, any copyright owners that repeatedly run afoul of the guidelines will have their manual-claiming privileges suspended, according to YouTube.

However, copyright holders will still have the ability to block or disable monetization for any videos via the manual-claim tool, even those with very brief song clips. YouTube acknowledged that the policy change might result in a short-term increase in the number of blocked videos. But, YouTube said, “we feel this is an important step towards striking the right balance over the long term.”

Meanwhile, the change only affects claims made with YouTube’s Manual Claiming tool, which requires rightsholders to actively review videos. The policy governing copyright claims automatically generated by the Content ID matching system — which represent the vast majority of claims — will remain unchanged.

Last month, YouTube began requiring copyright owners to provide timestamps for all manual claims so that creators know exactly which part of their video is being claimed. It also introduced new editing tools in Creator Studio to use those timestamps to remove any content subject to a copyright claim, which will automatically release the claim and restore monetization.

“As always, the best way to avoid these issues is to not use unlicensed content in your videos, even when it’s unintentional music playing in the background,” YouTube said in the blog post. The site urged creators to use music from “trusted sources,” such as the YouTube Audio Library.

YouTube also pointed out that if creators feel their use of copyrighted material in their video qualifies as fair use, they can use the service’s appeals process to dispute any claims.

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