What is YouTube’s Content ID and Why All Content Owners & Creators Should be Using it

Are you taking control of your original videos, and maximising revenues on YouTube through using Content ID?



Content ID allows you to identify your videos anywhere on YouTube – whether they’ve been uploaded by you, or without your permission by someone else. It does so by matching your videos against the audio and visual for every upload on YouTube. You can then decide what actions should be taken for any of your videos that have been uploaded by other users – monetise, block, or track. Content ID enables you to take control of your videos, and efficiently protect your intellectual property by managing your rights on YouTube at scale.



To be an approved user of content ID, you must own the exclusive rights to a significant amount of original content, and provide evidence to prove your ownership. If you don’t have worldwide rights, you also need to show the geographic locations for which you have exclusivity. Ultimately, anyone with a significant amount of original video content should be protecting their copyrights with Content ID  → think brands, YouTube creators, broadcasters, production companies, sporting bodies, gaming companies and more.



At the heart of it, Content ID enables you the rights holder to control your content, and protect your intellectual property and copyrights. You’ve spent time and money creating your content, so why let others make money from it? Content ID lets you monetise content you own that others have uploaded to their channels. If you are not using content ID, you are leaving money on the table, AND letting others control the content YOU own



The Content ID system is based off reference files. These can be either videos you’ve uploaded to your YouTube channel, or videos you upload into the content ID system (if you want to protect the content, but not have it publically available for the world to see).


The system is quite simple. YouTube identifies ANY content that matches your reference files, and returns a % match so you can review it and decide on what course of action you’d like to take.


Below you can see an example of this in practise. The clip at the top has been identified by Content ID as infringing against the reference file below it. 97% of the infringing video has been taken from Season 2 Episode 2 of ‘Highway Patrol’ and that represents 22% of the total reference file. There have been 32k views of the infringing content and the decision taken is for a takedown.


Content ID shows the exact snippets of infringing audio (blue) and video (orange), so that you the content owner can easily play them alongside one another to determine what outcome you’d like to enforce.



Previously users could make subtle changes to your videos in order to trick content ID into missing the infringing content. This could include things like slightly cropping the video, or speeding up or slowing down the audio. People will constantly look for ways to get around content ID so that they can monetise your content. But equally, YouTube are staying a step ahead of the game and now use video heatmapping and audio fingerprints to catch this content too.



Once Content ID has matched your content, you have the following options available to you:


    1. Monetising the content by re-routing the adsense revenue. The video stays up and 100% of the revenue is taken by you the content owner (unless the clip contains content from multiple rights owners in which case you take a % share – but more on that later).
    2. Blocking any use at all which results in the content being taken down (and sacrificing any adsense revenues). Depending on how close a match there is, this can be actioned within 5 minutes in some cases.  
    3. Tracking the content, which essentially leaves the content live, and tracks what you could be making if you chose to monetise – just in case you change your mind!

Let’s call this system
‘match-and-decide’ – it matches infringing content, and let’s you decide what outcome to take. This enables you the rights owner to take complete control of your content, and prevent lost revenue through others using your content without permission.


Fortunately, monetising and blocking can also be set by territory. This is handy if you have the rights to content in some places and not others. And even better, Content ID allows you to setup custom ‘match policies’ to save time. So you might have the rights for the world excluding Australia for all the content on your channel, in which case you can set this up once and keep reusing it – rather that setting it up for each and every clip.



Just because you as a rights owner have made a claim for some of your content, doesn’t mean that it automatically becomes yours. In some instances, the infringing user may choose to dispute your claim. They may believe they own the clip, the system misidentified the video, that the content is public domain or fair use, or you have previously cleared their usage.


However, once a dispute is raised it comes back to you the rights owner to decide on the outcome. You have 30 days to respond after which, if you’ve done nothing – you lose the claim. You have the option to release the claim (if you agree with their dispute), uphold the claim, or take the video down.


Below we can see an example of a disputed claim. The infringing user has wrongly claimed that this instance is fair use because they have translated it into Arabic. Rather than takedown their clip, the decision was made to monestise it – because an arabic version of this content does not exist, and therefore this is a new revenue opportunity.



If the infringing user feels you have mistakenly upheld their dispute, they can then appeal your decision. Not all users can make an appeal though – it depends on several factors including the age of the user’s account, and whether their account is verified. You now have another 30 days to respond and your options include:


  1. Do nothing, let the claim expire (the video will remain live)
  2. Release the claim i.e. you agree with the appeal (the video will remain live)
  3. Request immediate removal of your video
  4. Schedule a takedown request for your video


If both parties want to monetise the video in question YouTube will hold this money separately during your dispute – and once it has been resolved, it will be paid out to the appropriate party.


YouTube have recently hired 10,000 new employees to help with claims that involve manual intervention, covering all major languages. Because sometimes the system gets it wrong – and in those cases you need a human to review and decide.



One common complaint in previous years was that rights owners simply couldn’t keep up with the deluge of users uploading infringing content. Everytime a new infringing video was uploaded, the rights owner would have to find it manually, and issue a takedown notice. And for popular branded content – music for example – this became almost impossible to keep up with.


That’s no longer the case. Once you have a reference file in place, and you’ve set your rules for each clip via the ‘match and decide’ process described above, monetisation and tracking are automated, and blocking simply requires a confirmation.


For example let’s say that the rights owners of a new TV show want to have their latest episode available via their official YouTube channel as soon as it finishes airing on TV. And they decide they want to monetise any infringing videos uploaded by other users. They would upload the episode to their YouTube channel (and this becomes the reference file), and set their rules to ‘monetise’. From then on ANY matching content that is uploaded would always be monetised from that point onwards. Of course this could be changed to ‘block’ or ‘track’ if they’d like to change their approach as time goes on.


However, whilst monetising and tracking are automated, blocking content for takedown involves a manual intervention by you the rights owner. Everytime a piece of content that has been set to ‘block’ is identified, it comes to you for confirmation of takedown.



Let’s say there is a clip of a YouTuber giving his round-up of what happened on some TV shows this week, and he includes footage of specific TV shows that are owned by different rights holders. Not to worry! Content ID enables you to still claim, and you will receive revenue based on how much of the clip your content appears on. However if any one of the rights owners decides to block the clip, then no one is able to monetise it, because the whole clip will be taken down.



You can’t use content ID to protect all content. First make sure that you have sufficient rights (which you YouTube helps you determine here). And remember – don’t abuse the content ID system. If you do, YouTube could disable your Content ID, or even terminate your YouTube partnership.



Content ID is a fantastic system that enables you to take control of your content – but it takes dedicated time and resources to manage the process, especially if you have high quality branded content. As a Youtube MCN (Multi-Channel Network) Valleyarm specialises in managing YouTube channels and Content ID in particular. And as a YouTube preferred partner, Valleyarm gets more functionality and control within Content ID.


Content ID is the start of understanding how to monetise your content and protect your copyrights on YouTube.
Want help protecting and monetising your content? Valleyarm can help!


Ronan Mason About the author
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