How To Make Sure Your Indie Game Is Safe From Content ID

Why Check For Content ID?

Content ID is a headache for every YouTuber. If you want your game to go down smoothly on YouTube, you probably want to make sure you’re not accidentally setting up YouTubers to find out all their videos will get claimed.

Content ID can do the following:

  • Block a video in some countries
  • Block a video in all countries, effectively censoring it completely
  • Display ads on a video intended to be ad free
  • Block videos from being displayed on platforms that don’t/can’t show ads
  • Take some or all of the ad revenue a non-ad-free video would get
  • Mute some or all of the video

Content ID can also harmlessly track video views and stuff, and I believe uploaders aren’t even notified of this sort of matching. It’s not what I’ll be discussing today as it’s benign best I can tell.

Also note there’s no “only match people who upload the whole, naked soundtrack” option. If a song in the game is included and matched, Let’s Plays, streams etc. will be matched all the same as a pure rip of the full OST, Content ID is not a gentle beast.

If you want to ensure your game is safe from the Content ID monster, there’s a quick test you can do to save YouTubers some headaches (and yourself some headaches if they come asking what the deal is). Also, if you didn’t upload content to Content ID but someone else did, that means every video for your game could get Content ID’d, ticking off the YouTuber and sending money to someone who isn’t you, while the YouTuber will probably blame you assuming you did it. So yeah, you don’t want that. Some game devs have even had their own trailers Content ID’d by outside parties. Fun stuff.

If you don’t care or think Content ID is a great thing to have for your game, I just have to say I think you’re vastly overestimating the amount of money you’ll earn from Content ID and vastly underestimating the goodwill and increased coverage and sales a healthy YouTube following for a game will provide. But this is a how-to, so that’s (almost) the last bit of preaching I’ll do for today’s read.

Upload Your Soundtrack to YouTube (Privately)

Finding out if content is Content ID’d is pretty simple. 99% of Content ID matches are in fact audio matches, so all you really need to do is tape together your game’s full soundtrack into a video (every used music file in the game, not necessarily the OST you sell on Band Camp), upload that video to YouTube as a private video, and wait for Content ID to match it (or not). That’s really it!

Make sure you set the video privacy drop down to “private” when doing this unless you actually want to share your OST with the world.

If you’re not familiar with video editing, YouTube has its own guide on uploading music files as a video. But…if you’re going to publish an indie game you’re really going to need to learn or find someone who knows how to edit videos for trailers and such.

Note there’s no real risk to this. A Content ID match is not a mark against your account, and you can immediately delete the video after it does/doesn’t get matched. Since the video will be private and not distributed no one’s going to actually find it for a copyright strike (these are 100% manually dished out).

Review the Claims, If Any

Hopefully, your video will process and you won’t get any Content ID claims. If the video is watchable and it doesn’t have a “this video is still processing so quality may not be the best” warning at the top of the Watch page when you watch it, you’re golden.

You can go ahead and delete the private video, though you could always leave it as a “honeypot” of sorts that will notify you if the game’s music somehow ends up in Content ID without you knowing. Existing videos are frequently checked against all new Content ID content, so it’ll still get claimed even if it passed the upload check.

If the soundtrack does in fact match something in the Content ID database, it should actually be matched before the video finishes processing and is ready to watch on YouTube. The email tied to that YouTube account should immediately get a notice that a video is “sharing revenue” or so on and it should list what track is claimed and by whom (however, a great deal of claims on YouTube are unfortunately anonymous, such as “ad rev for third party”). You’ll then be able to go to “Copyright Notices” in YouTube’s Video Manager and see a screen like this:

Content ID notice from youtube

You can listen to the exact match to find which song(s) are the problem.

You should hopefully recognize the claimant, if neither you nor your artist deliberately uploaded any tracks to Content ID, it was most likely your artist’s label. Many labels now “helpfully” put all their artists’ content into Content ID, even when the work’s licensing doesn’t actually allow it Content ID viability (anything that is not exclusively licensed is not eligible for content ID).

Talk To Your Label

Note that just disputing the match doesn’t do anything of value in this case. Disputes are per-video and despite the reason for the dispute, getting a dispute approved will not remove the song from Content ID. This is why you have to go directly to the company, YouTube literally has no actual tools for you to report content to be removed from Content ID, one of many critical problems with the system. You have to get whoever put the content into Content ID to take it out, and if you have a license to that music and didn’t put it in Content ID yourself it’s basically guaranteed that the music is not legitimately allowed in Content ID so do the world a favor and get them to remove it.

This is where my expertise ends, at this point you’ll just have to have a conversation with your artist/label to find out what’s going on.

Also note that there could be “mistaken” matches, such as someone who uploaded a preview of your game and submitted the preview for Content ID—this is a really big problem, so please try your best to get them to take their content out of Content ID, it is also in violation of Content ID as they’re claiming exclusive rights to other people’s content. It’s often, again, the fault of their Corporate Overlord aka channel network not necessarily the YouTuber themselves however.

Music Rights Out of Your Hands? Give an Option

Sometimes labels just don’t listen, you don’t have the right contacts or rights, and your game just has to ship with music that’s YouTube unfriendly. If your game uses licensed music (even though non-exclusively licensed music is not allowed in Content ID) it might just not be possible for you to fix it at the YouTube side.

But what you can do is fix it at the game-side. You can simply provide an option to not play certain licensed tracks. A few games have already done this such as Quantum Break.

Even if your licensed music doesn’t hit Content ID it might get muted on Twitch—afraid I don’t have a similar private method to testing Twitch mutes, but mutes on twitch are generally considered less significant (Twitch VODs that are actually watched and not uploaded to youtube are a truly rare breed).

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Author: Sir TapTap

Gaming guide writer, content creator, streamer, UX designer, web developer, and a bunch of other stuff.

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