YouTube is defending its users against copyright owners by implementing a new Fair Use Protection program. The program will cover the legal costs of YouTube users who YouTube feels are being unfairly targeted for copyright infringement.

What is Copyright?

Copyright is an automatic right that attaches to original works, usually creative works such as literary pieces, music, photos, videos, etc. The fact that it is automatic means you do not need to apply for and register copyright. The work’s creator usually owns it. Situations where the work may belong to someone else include where the artist created the work under a contract that sets out who is the owner. 

A copyright owner has the exclusive right to reproduce the work, and to license the right to others. People who reuse or republish the work without the copyright owner’s permission are infringing copyright.

Regarding YouTube, a popular video-sharing platform, it is common for users to upload videos using music or video clips to their YouTube account. Generally, users do not seek the copyright owner’s permission. 

What is Fair Use?

In Australia, fair use (an American concept) is referred to as ‘fair dealing’ and is an exception to copyright provided for in the Copyright Act.

Fair dealing exceptions allow a person to use copyright material without the owner’s permission if it is for the purpose of: 

  • Research or study, 
  • Criticism or review, 
  • Parody or satire, 
  • Reporting news, or 
  • Providing legal advice.  

In determining whether a use of copyright material falls under one of the above categories, a court will consider the degree and impression of the use. 

YouTube and Fair Dealing

Until recently, YouTube has taken limited steps to protect its users from copyright owners claiming infringement. In the past, YouTube responded to copyright infringement claims by removing the videos. Users who continued to post the video would have their accounts suspended.

However, the Fair Use Protect program means that YouTube is now changing its approach. Now if YouTube is asked to remove a video because of copyright infringement and YouTube believes it falls under the fair use exception, it won’t remove the video. The program means that YouTube will pay the legal costs of the video maker as they defend the copyright infringement claim.

If YouTube notices that a copyright owner is targeting a video that they believe is lawful for an infringement claim, they will offer the user to join the program. If the user agrees, the video will remain on the site in the United States, and YouTube will provide up to $1,000,000 assistance in legal fees to the user.


Copyright is not a straightforward concept. There are exceptions. However, you should understand what the exceptions to copyright are and whether they apply to your use of copyright material. Fair dealing has been big player in YouTube videos for a long time, and the Fair Use Protection program will change the way copyright owners approach infringement claims, and will assist video makers who genuinely rely on the fair dealing exception.

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