Introduction to YouTube’s backend: Content ID

If I ask you what is the second-biggest search engine after Google, what will you say? Will you say Bing? Yahoo? What if I said it’s actually YouTube.

But that makes no sense. First, YouTube is part of Google and I don’t search flight tickets on YouTube.

That is also true, but according to Alexa, is the second most used domain in the world. So the amount of content available on the platform, whether for education or entertainment, is massive.

Screenshot of Alexa’s top 50 global sites, sorted by traffic.

 For a lot of people, YouTube is also a primary source of their income. When they upload content onto the video sharing platform these so-called YouTubers will be able to earn revenue through views and ad earnings. The beauty of social network is that everyone can be content creators. Knowledge about anything and everything is readily available online, in various formats and languages. All you need to do is find one that is suitable for you.

Hence this raises the question: with the massive volume of content uploaded daily on YouTube, how does one make sure its sole creator will be the rightful earners of the revenue? How do they know that others will not copy or claim that those videos and or music is theirs? What about if other budding artists want to do a cover of a song? Or so on.

So here’s the interesting part. Being previously involved in a national TV station’s YouTube team it gave me first-hand experience in dealing with YouTube’s backend – Content ID.


What is YouTube Content ID?

YouTube Content ID is a Content Management System that allows copyright owners to identify and manage their content on the YouTube platform. When a creator uploads their video to YouTube, the system checks the video against a database of copyrighted content. If a match is found, the copyright owner can choose to block the video, monetize it by running ads on it, or track the video’s viewership statistics.

The Content ID system works by allowing copyright owners to upload their copyrighted content, such as videos or audio tracks, to a database. When a user uploads a new video to YouTube, the system checks the video against the content in the database. If a match is found, the copyright owner is notified and given the option to take action.

One of the key benefits of Content ID is that it allows copyright owners to monetize their content on YouTube, even if it is used by others without permission. For example, a music label could upload all of its songs to the Content ID system and then choose to run ads on videos that use those songs. This allows the label to earn revenue from videos that use their music, even if the videos were not created by them.

Content ID also allows copyright owners to block videos that use their content without permission. This can be an effective way to prevent copyright infringement and protect the rights of creators.

However, it’s worth noting that Content ID is not perfect and disputes over copyright infringement can still arise. Additionally, YouTube’s Content ID system can also be used to silence criticism or censor legitimate fair use videos. On top of that, Content ID can be very tedious when you are working in a company that generates a lot of content such as TV stations, music label and more. Sometimes the tool does not properly identify and tag infringement accordingly. And disputed infringements can sometimes take a long time to settle – hence you need to establish clear contractual understanding between the two parties between your party and other copyright holders.


So let’s say that I am an aspiring artist who likes to upload song covers? Will I still make money from YouTube?

 You absolutely can. However it all boils down depending on which artists, music labels and regions specified to that song. Some music labels allow “Fair Use Policy” which means that the public can reuse and repurpose their music under certain circumstances. On some occasions you are allowed to monetize your cover songs but the music label and/or the artist will take a percentage of the profit from your video for their royalty fees.

Unfortunately, some music labels/artists are strict on reusing their IP and will immediately block or demonetize your videos. Same goes with movie & TV clips, concerts, etc. A lot of them will not allow a portion of their IP to be posted on YouTube for more than 30 seconds (sometimes even much less) before the video is blocked or demonetized.

Majority of the “infringements” or disputes that are raised by Content ID are easily resolved. However, there might be times where an IP holder does not have copyright ownerships in certain countries hence they will have no rights to distribute their IP in that particular country. Then later on an unauthorized pirate channel will upload those so-called IPs onto their channel and not only claim ownership in that country, it will also acquire revenue from that IP.

From my previous experience working in a broadcasting company this occurred a few times. Because the company just have updated or renewed their broadcasting contracts and expanded to include OTT platforms as well as YouTube, I discovered that a lot of our TV shows have been uploaded onto YouTube by a few unlicensed channels from various countries in Southeast Asia. Some of these videos even garnered hundreds of thousands of views. While it’s pleasing to see that there are apparent regional interests in our older TV shows, this also indicated that we are losing massive chunk amount of revenue that we could’ve earned through YouTube. Bottom line though is that this is a massive copyright infringement that might need to go through legal recourse.


So what are some of the legal implications for violations that are more severe?

In cases mentioned above, usually YouTube will impose a strike and if they repeatedly violated some rules then YouTube will allow to take down the channel, and prevent the users to create further channels based on their IP address(es). Unfortunately, it might be harder to impose these laws in less developed countries such as Southeast Asian nations but the punishment will be more severe in EU, UK, US and Australia.

Another legal issue related to YouTube rights management is trademark infringement. A user may use a trademarked name, brand or logo in their video without permission, which can lead to legal action from the trademark owner. Additionally, creators may use copyrighted music or other audio in their videos without obtaining the necessary licenses, which can also lead to legal trouble.

Usually, these infringements are just slapped with a takedown notice either by copyright owners or Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and potentially a ban for repeat offenders. However, there has been cases where users were sued by major corporations/parties for uploading unauthorized content such as releasing a content before its release date, conducting content that are disruptive to its environment (pranks, harassment, violence and damages, etc).

So in summary, in order to protect your IP on YouTube creators need to often be aware and take some steps that can be done from their end in order to protect their intellectual property and avoid infringements online. Here are some steps:


  1. Use the Content ID system: YouTube’s Content ID system allows copyright owners to claim ownership of their content and control how it is used on the platform. Creators can use this system to identify and block videos that use their content without permission.
  2. Use a watermark: Watermarking your videos with your name or logo can help to deter others from using your content without permission. Additionally, it makes it easier for you to identify your own content.
  3. Use the YouTube End Screen feature: The YouTube End Screen feature allows creators to add links to other videos and playlists at the end of their videos. This can be a good way to promote your own videos and discourage others from using your content without permission.
  4. Use the YouTube claim feature: YouTube provides the option for creators to claim their own videos, if someone else uploads it. This feature allows you to monetize the video and also give you the control over it.
  5. File a copyright infringement claim: If you believe that someone has used your content without permission, you can file a copyright infringement claim with YouTube. This can result in the infringing video being taken down, and in some cases, termination of the infringing user’s account.
  6. Register your copyright: Registering your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office (or similar office in your country) can give you additional legal protections and make it easier to enforce your rights in court.
  7. File a cease and desist letter: If you have evidence of copyright infringement, you can send a cease and desist letter to the infringing party, demanding that they stop using your content without permission.
  8. Ensure that your content are not harassing, harmful and negatively affecting parties: so if you are specializing in comedy, pranks or criticising food/movies/artists, be sure to be respectful to the audience and the subject itself. Avoid threats, blackmails, and false allegations and make sure that you are complying with the policies adhered in your community.


So there you go, a short and sweet blog post in regards to rights management from YouTube’s POV. Do you want to know more about Rights Management and/or Content ID? Feel free to reach out to us!


This post is written by Nina Ruru


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