What is YouTube's Content ID (and other video sites content watchdogs)?

Content ID is the scary watchdog that makes sure YouTube is safe from it’s content creators illegally using copyrighted content they didn’t have a right to use. It's an automated process that scans all videos uploaded to their service to make sure there is no offending material embedded in the videos they host. On other platforms, such as Twitch, and Vimeo, they use a system by Audible Magic. It works in a similar manner as YouTube's Content ID.

What Does Content ID Do?

Content ID allows publishers and rightful owners of music to claim it as their own. Once registered, that owner is notified when their music or content is detected in a video uploaded to YouTube, or other video streaming services. If you get dinged by Content ID, the person who owns the content gets notified, and they can act against you video by removing the offending video from YouTube, muting the audio track, or hijacking your monetization. While this seems a little unfair and annoying, it’s a necessary step for Google to take in order to keep their services running. It also has cushioned their service from the already aggressive RIAA’s legal ban hammer.

How Does Content ID work?

Content ID works through an automated process that YouTube and companies like Audible Magic have honed over the years. It analyzes a video on the video streaming platform sometime after it has been uploaded. It takes samples of the video and audio, and tries to match it against registered content in their database. When it finds a match, its notifies the requisite owners of the found content that it matched their content in a video that is not theirs. Since the process is automated, it sometimes incorrectly flags videos that haven't offended any copyright laws. When this happens, it is on the owner that was flagged to handle this, unless its escalated to Google or the requisite platform to resolve the issue. 

What Happens If Content ID has flagged my video to a publisher or artist?

The best way to deal with Content ID and its difficulties is to know who you are buying rights from to use a piece of music. The musician frequently won’t cut it if the recording isn’t owned by the artists. If it’s being published by a third party or catalog, then the artist might have registered it.

A music catalog, such as Pond5, Epidemic Sound, and others will guarantee some or all of their music has been cleared. Bard will do it best to filter this on the top level, to make sure your buying experience is transparent.

When there is a conflict, its best to deal with the library you purchased the music from, as they have different directions and methods for dealing with a conflict. Below is a handy list of links to take you to the content libraries Content ID help page.

What Else Do I Need to Know About Content ID?

Content ID can get a bit difficult because it is an automated system, and sometime a piece of music or content can have multiple registered owners. The complication is that an music artist might register their own music to Content ID, then have a publisher like TuneCore register it on behalf of them.  This means two separate companies might have a claim to a possible copyright infringement. If you legally got it from one, and not the other, then you are forced to arbitrate in order to free up your video.

Additionally, a site like Epidemic Sound gets exclusive publishing rights to artist’s music, and register’s their content with Content ID as well. If the song is from multiple contributors, then a piece of music might have additional artists also claiming a piece of music independently of the music publisher. Much like the above example, it forces you to arbitrate before you can free your song. 

In some cases, the content library will go to bat for you. Companies like Epidemic Sound, or Pond 5 have published content that has been pre-vetted to varying degree. The content library is so confident of their provided license that they will arbitrate for you if there is a ContentID or copyright conflict. 

In an ideal world, only one person claims the piece of music, and can be dealt with directly to resolve a dispute. In reality, multiple parties can own a piece of music, and multiple parties can grant license to use a piece of music, causing confusing conflicts that require the different parties to arbitrate between themselves to resolve the problem.