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  • Writer's picturePeter Lamont, Esq.

Fair Use for YouTube Creators

In the ever-evolving landscape of YouTube, where content is king, understanding the intricacies of copyright law is crucial for creators. One area that often leads to confusion and, unfortunately, copyright strikes is the concept of "Fair Use." This blog post aims to demystify Fair Use for YouTube creators, offering an in-depth explanation, real-world examples, and a discussion on YouTube's copyright strike and claim system.

fair use for youtube creators

What is Fair Use?

Fair Use is a legal doctrine that allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holders. It serves as a defense against copyright infringement claims and is codified in Section 107 of the United States Copyright Act of 1976. While Fair Use is a U.S. law, YouTube applies this doctrine globally.

The Four Factors of Fair Use

When determining whether a particular use of copyrighted material is "fair," four factors are considered:

  1. The Purpose and Character of the Use: Transformative uses, such as commentary, criticism, or parody, are more likely to be considered fair.

  2. The Nature of the Copyrighted Work: Factual or published works are more likely to be deemed fair use compared to creative or unpublished works.

  3. The Amount and Substantiality of the Portion Used: Using a small portion of a copyrighted work is more likely to be considered fair use, but even a small portion can be infringing if it constitutes the "heart" of the work.

  4. The Effect of the Use on the Market Value: If your use deprives the copyright owner of income, it's less likely to be considered fair.

YouTube Footage: What You Can and Cannot Use

What You Can Use

Commentary and Criticism: If you're reviewing a movie or a product, you can use short clips or images as long as your work is transformative and doesn't replace the original work.

Parody: Creating a parody of a popular song or scene from a movie is generally considered Fair Use, especially if you're making a critical or comedic statement.

Educational Content: Using copyrighted material for educational purposes, like in a tutorial, can be considered Fair Use.

What You Cannot Use

Entire Works: Uploading an entire movie, TV episode, or music track is a clear violation.

Unedited Clips: Using unedited copyrighted material that can easily be accessed elsewhere is not considered Fair Use.

Monetized Content: Even if you give credit to the copyright owner, using copyrighted material in monetized content is risky and likely not Fair Use.

YouTube Strikes and Copyright Claims

YouTube has a system in place to deal with copyright infringement:

  • Copyright Strikes: If a copyright owner formally notifies YouTube that you don't have their permission to post their content, you'll get a copyright strike. Accumulating three strikes will result in the termination of your channel.

  • Content ID Claims: Some copyright owners use YouTube's Content ID system to identify and manage their content. If your video contains copyrighted material, you may receive a Content ID claim, which could result in your video being taken down or monetized by the copyright owner.

Fair Use as a Defense

If you believe your use of copyrighted material falls under Fair Use, you can submit a counter-notification. However, the copyright owner can still take legal action against you, so consult with a legal professional before proceeding.


Understanding Fair Use is vital for YouTube creators who want to avoid copyright strikes and legal complications. While Fair Use provides a defense, it's not a one-size-fits-all solution. Each case is unique and subject to the four factors outlined in Section 107 of the Copyright Act. Therefore, when in doubt, it's always advisable to consult with a legal professional to assess the risks and implications of using copyrighted material.

Do you have questions about the legal issues discussed in this post? If so, contact us today at our Bergen County Office. Call Us at (201) 904-2211 or email Us at


If you would like more information about this post or if you want to discuss your legal matter with an attorney at the Law Offices of Peter J. Lamont, please contact me at or at (201) 904-2211. Don't forget to check out and subscribe to our podcast and YouTube channel. We have hundreds of podcasts and videos concerning a variety of business and legal topics. I look forward to answering any questions that you might have.

About Peter Lamont, Esq.

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As with any legal issue, it is important that you obtain competent legal counsel before making any decisions about how to respond to a subpoena or whether to challenge one - even if you believe that compliance is not required. Because each situation is different, it may be impossible for this article to address all issues raised by every situation encountered in responding to a subpoena. The information below can give you guidance regarding some common issues related to subpoenas, but you should consult with an attorney before taking any actions (or refraining from acts) based on these suggestions. Separately, this post will focus on New Jersey law. If you receive a subpoena in a state other than New Jersey, you should immediately seek the advice of an attorney in your state, as certain rules differ in other states.


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