YouTube content claims

If you’re sharing a recording online of your group performing music which is in copyright, then you need to ensure that the website or platform you are using has the correct licence(s) to allow you to do so.

YouTube does have licenses and permissions in place for this, which usually means that you do not have to obtain any other licenses from PRS to be able to share your recordings of copyrighted music on YouTube. Check our guidance on licensing live music online to find out how you can determine whether the correct licenses are in place.

However, when you upload your video, you may experience something called a ‘content claim’. In this resource, we’ll explain what that means, and what you can do about it.

What is a content claim?

A ‘content claim’ could be either a challenge to your rights to use the actual recording, or a challenge to your rights to use and perform the music. The two key principles are that:

1.    The recording must belong to you, and you must not upload a recording that belongs to someone else.
2.    You must have all the correct licenses and permissions in place to share the recording on YouTube (see our guidance on using live music online).

A content claim is most commonly (but not exclusively) used by record companies who are trying to make sure that people are not using their recordings or sound files to promote or support other organisations or products without permission.

Because a content claim could be about the recording and not about the music, you could also receive a claim against music which is out of copyright.

What happens when a content claim is triggered?

Outline of the process for content claims

  • A claim is raised automatically
  • The claimant and the video owner are both notified that a claim has been raised
    • The video owner chooses how to respond to the claim (more detail below)
    • The claimant reviews the claim made on their behalf and chooses whether to pursue it
  • If the video owner challenges, the claimant must respond. Claimant’s response is final.
  • If video owner does not challenge and/or the claimant does not close, nothing happens – the video remains available for the public to watch, and the claim remains open.

What triggers a content claim?

YouTube has a database of recordings that are registered as being under copyright. Each entry in the database contains an analysis of the music of these recordings, usually the pitches and overall shape of the melody. When you upload your own recording, it analyses the music, looking for any melodies that match those already in the database (it does recognise small variations to melodies such as changes of rhythm or pitch, or embellishments), and lets you know if there is a match. Because the software can’t tell whether your recording belongs to you and is correctly licensed, an automatic assumption is made that you have either uploaded a recording that does not belong to you (because the software can’t tell the difference between recordings – it only recognises that the melody is the same), or that you have not got the correct licenses in place – and so a content claim is automatically raised.

The copyright holder for the recording registered in YouTube’s database is  the claimant, and they are invited to review the claim that has been automatically made on their behalf. If there is a genuine claim (i.e. you have used their recording or have not got the correct licenses), they can request that the recording be removed, or they can choose to claim the revenue from adverts attached to the recording (more on this below). If there is no claim (because you have used your own recording and have the correct licenses in place), or they do not wish to pursue a claim, they should also respond to say so – but many don’t respond at all.

If the recording is legitimate and the claimant can’t claim otherwise, why isn’t the claim removed or closed down?

It’s possible that the claimant has not followed up on the claim and confirmed with YouTube that they have no rights to your recordings. The larger record companies receive hundreds of these claims every day from around the world, and while they may take the time to double check the details, if there is no claim to pursue they sometimes leave it without completing the process – and in other cases, they don’t even look unless there is a challenge to their claim.

How do I know if there is a content claim on my video?

YouTube usually notifies you straightaway when it has finished uploading and processing your video. When the page refreshes to show that the upload is complete, if it has matched your recording to an existing record in the database then you will see the words ‘copyright claim’ in the column headed ‘restrictions’. To find out more, hover your mouse over the column, and a pop-up window will appear – click ‘see details’ to see more.

Content claims are only visible to the video owner and the claimant via their account management settings – the general public can’t see details of a content claim when watching your video.

What should I do?

You have four options:

1. Do nothing
2. Remove your recording from YouTube altogether
3. Cut the claimed section from your recording and re-upload it
4. Challenge (or dispute) the claim

1. Do nothing: In our experience, if the recording is legitimate, then the best thing to do is nothing – just ignore the content claim. Although the content claim will stay against the video it will not usually affect your video, which will remain accessible to the general public without any details of the content claim visible. If the claimant doesn’t think it is legitimate they can close it down, but In our experience, they rarely do this if they have not been challenged. So as long as you know for certain that your recording belongs to you, you’re unlikely to get any further comeback by doing nothing.

2. Remove your recording from YouTube altogether

3. Cut the claimed section from your recording and re-upload it

If the recording is not legitimate – you have used someone else’s recording or do not have the correct licenses in place - then the best thing to do is take it down or remove the relevant section and re-upload it.

4. Challenge or dispute the claim: If you choose to challenge the claim, then YouTube will ask the claimant whether they wish to uphold the claim. It is up to the claimant to decide whether they accept your challenge or not – YouTube do not get involved, other than being a conduit for messages between you. The claimant then has three options:

  • Accept your challenge and remove or close down the content claim against you.
  • Reject your challenge but allow your video to remain on YouTube, and claim monetisation from it (more on this below).
  • Reject your challenge and get the recording taken down – this results in a copyright strike against you. After three strikes, your account can be terminated.

If you don’t agree with the claimant’s decision, there is no appeal process – the claimant’s decision is final, so you are relying on them to check your video and agreeing that it doesn’t contravene their existing copyright. It is possible that the claimant could reject your challenge and decide on option three without even looking at your video to check it.

You have to decide whether challenging the claim is worth this risk. The main reason why you might want to challenge the claim is if you have decided to monetise your recording and you don’t want to lose the income (see more on this below). But if, like most leisure-time music groups, you have not chosen to do this, the main thing you need to consider is that the recording might get taken down if the claimant rejects your challenge. This is why doing nothing is the easiest option, as it is highly likely that nothing further will happen and your video will remain live for all to see.

What does it mean when it says I can’t monetise my recording because of the content claim against it?

YouTube raises revenue by selling advertising space to companies, and these adverts run before and after videos are played (and sometimes during them if the video is longer than eight minutes).

Some organisations who meet specific criteria set out by YouTube can state that they want adverts to be attached to their videos, and in return they can claim a portion of the advertising revenue – essentially monetising their videos. A leisure-time music group will probably not choose to monetise their videos in this way, so this feature is unlikely to make a difference to your group.

A recording that has a content claim against it is not allowed to be used for monetising purposes by the video owner. If the claimant upholds the content claim but allows the video to remain on YouTube, adverts may be attached to it and the revenue from these paid to the claimant.

Read more about Content ID claims on YouTube.

Find out more about YouTube's copyright and rights management.

We hope you find this Making Music resource useful. If you have any comments or suggestions about the guidance please contact us. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the content of this guidance is accurate and up to date, Making Music do not warrant, nor accept any liability or responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the content, or for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information contained in it.