YouTube’s Copyright Match Tool: What It Is & How To Use It

Today it looks like YouTube is rolling out the long-awaited Copyright Match tool, which will let normal Creators deal with video-stealers. In the past it’s mostly just been larger companies that have been privy to Content ID and other more exclusive tools.

youtube's description of the copyright match process. Create videos, copies of content will be automatically found, and youtube will allow you to act on them.
A basic rundown of the tool, via YouTube

The tool was announced a while ago but (at least for me) just released and was added to the YouTube Studio Beta, where it can be found in the new Copyright section.

How Copyright Match Works

You’ll get an email when you have access to Copyright Match in the new Studio Beta dashboard. It’s not presently in the old Creator Studio.

You’ll be shown something like below, assuming you have any matches. It lists the videos, some metadata on them, and includes links to the video to see it. You should check the video manually to see the exact context it’s used in, though as you can see in the below images, my matches were all 100% direct rips with not so much as a commentary track or video edit of any kind.

Copyright Matches on YouTube
Some good old fashioned content thieves, using videos from my channel

All in all it was pretty simple for me; just 3 videos, all 100% start-to-finish rips of my own videos uploaded as their own, and on channels loaded exclusively with stolen videos. I selected all three, then you’re given a little form to fill out affirming that you’re the content owner:

Of note, the physical address of your channel/self is not given to the other party unless they attempt to sue you. This is a step up from the current process which would require a hard address. Granted, some people simply spoof information in the existing system.

After this form, a real, meat human reviews the case at YouTube, and only after this review is the video actually struck and removed. Theoretically this will reduce abuse, though it’s YouTube we’re talking about here so that remains to be seen.

Removal Options

There’s three main options when you get a match: Archive, Request Removal, and Contact.

Archive simply archives the match (use this when no action is needed), Contact lets you request removal manually or otherwise work things out by talking to the uploading channel without (yet) sending a strike.

Request Removal has two sub options; you can give a 7 day notice, or request immediate removal. With the 7 day notice, the other party has 7 days to remove the video before a strike. This is best used for cases where  you truly do want the video down but for whatever reason don’t believe they channel deserves an instant hit, such as ignorant but not malicious misuse. The instant removal you can use for all your humdrum “yeah I’ll just copy paste this video and claim it as my own” stuff.

Generally speaking total mismatches/fair use/etc should be Archived, rude but not infringing videos should be Contacted (for example, a “react” style video that you’re okay with, except they didn’t even bother to link your channel in the description), and outright copied videos with malicious intent should be Removed.

Why The Copyright Match Tool Is Good

Copyright tools on YouTube have long exclusively been for large companies, like the ever-suing Viacom or “Blocked In Germany” GEMA. Copyright Match is the first time that regular creators will have any form of say in how their videos are used with a meaningfully effective process.

Notably, unlike Content ID not all matched videos are treated the same, since the creator (an actual human) has to review and select an action on each video.

This addresses the issue of Content ID where many people just wanted to claim videos of improper use, but end up netting everyone because Content ID is purely automated and has no concept of fair use. On top of that, many people won’t bother appealing either, as YouTube deliberately makes the process quite intimidating.

Hopefully this tool leads to the removal of a lot of these old scummy channels that have never been hit simply because normal people haven’t previously had a say in YouTube copyright issues. The three channels that stole my content for example were almost immediately identifiable as infringement, being filled with Let’s Play videos of multiple different people, podcasts, and even full episodes of TV shows.

What About Abuse?

Of course any new YouTube copyright tool carries the potential of abuse. I’m quite familiar with YouTube copyright abuses at an unfortunately personal level. But it’s pretty much all good  news in this case due to a rather simple qualifier; you have to have been the first to upload the video to claim it.

This means that you can’t just upload someone else’s video after the fact and claim you’re the real owner; Copyright Match will only ever match newer videos matching an extremely high portion of your video.

Is it impossible to abuse? Well nothing’s impossible. A worst-case scenario I can easily think of would be a movie or game trailer being distributed to press outlets, then someone at the movie/game company deciding to strike all channels that uploaded the trailer they offered for distribution…but that’s not exactly good business sense.

A more realistic fear I have is the potential of recording a short clip of the intro or cutscenes of a video game and very quickly uploading them and potentially matching parts of Let’s Play and other gaming videos that include that segment.

You would have to be the first to do this and manage to trigger the match, then a real human at YouTube would have to approve your claim for it to actually go through. I’m not sure how practical this theoretical attack is, it’s just a potential example. As you can see there’s quite a few stops along the way.

All in all I would say this is at the very least, the most abuse-proof copyright/trademark related tool that YouTube has in their toolbox, considering abuse of their other tools.

In the past their copyright mechanisms have let anyone claim any video and appealing was incredibly difficult. This tool only lets you claim content you have actually uploaded before later uploaders, and lets you be human in your decision to remove it, contact the uploader, or just let it slide.

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