Managing your rights on YouTube: “The Anatomy of a Claim”

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I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that if you’re reading this you know there’s money to be made on YouTube. And, as a platform, it sets the standard for individualistic expression while still respecting intellectual property.

But did you know that the entire system that allows for this expression and rights enforcement is based on the simplest of devices? Almost every cent of the billions of advertising dollars that flow through YouTube each year is due to one thing: The Claim.

What is a claim on YouTube?

It’s a simple concept: Rights can only be enforced if copyrighted content can be identified and linked to its respective owner. That’s precisely what a claim is: a link.

A claim is the link between a video and a particular copyrighted asset. And the function of a claim is to allow the owner of the linked asset to assert ownership over, and apply policies (monetize, track, block) to, the content of the videos that contain that asset.

A claim consists of three parts:

  1. The Video
  2. The Asset
  3. The Reference

The Video

A video on YouTube is a digital file that contains one of two kinds of content: partner-uploaded and user-generated.

Partner-uploaded content is a video you upload to a YouTube channel that you own. Your claim to the video is made as you upload and apply a usage policy to it.

User-generated content (also known as UGC) are videos that other people upload to their channels. When the video contains content that you own (as determined by a Content ID match or a manual claim), you claim the video and apply a match policy to it. The match policy determines where and how the video is available on YouTube.

The Asset

An asset is something that a content owner provides to YouTube for rights management purposes. Assets are not YouTube videos; they contain information that refers to a piece of intellectual property, including various metadata (such as title, artist name, album, and ISRC for a sound recording), ownership information, claims, policies, and a reference file (which we’ll get to in a second).

There are multiple types of assets:

Sound Recording — A Sound Recording asset represents an audio recording, and has metadata like ISRC, artist, and album. In it is embedded one or more Composition Share assets (see below), and it may in turn be embedded in a Music Video asset.

Composition Share — Represents an ownership share of a musical composition.

Music Video — Represents the official music video for a sound recording.

Art Track — Represents the video of a sound recording that doesn’t have a premium music video (for instance, it may just display the album cover while the video plays).

Web — Represents YouTube original video or other types of video content not covered by the other asset types.

Movie — Represents a feature film.

Television Episode — Represents an episode from a television show.

A “policy” lives within each asset and is a set of rules that specify how a content owner wants YouTube to handle a claimed video.

As an owner, you choose whether users can view the video and whether YouTube displays advertisements with the video. You say how you want YouTube to handle the video by associating a policy with it.

Basic policy types:

Monetize: This policy allows users to view the video and displays advertisements that create revenue for the asset owner.

Track: This policy allow users to view the video without advertisements, but will collect statistics about video views.

Block: This policy will not allow users to view the video on YouTube.

The Reference

A reference allows the asset to match and claim content found within user uploaded videos. It is an uploaded file of the actual content being represented by the asset. So if your asset is a sound recording, then your reference will be the actual sound recording file.

Managing rights

YouTube’s system for managing your intellectual property consists of three major components:

  1. The YouTube rights management system identifies the owners and administrators of your intellectual property and defines the policies used to enforce your rights.
  2. Content ID automatically scans YouTube videos for content that matches your intellectual property and applies the defined rights policy to the matching video.
  3. YouTube videos are the (optional) public representation of your intellectual property, available to users on youtube.com.

So, when you upload a piece of intellectual property to YouTube, it is represented in each of these three components separately as an Asset, Reference, and Video. The asset lives in the rights management system, the reference is used by the Content ID system for matching, and the video is what contains your intellectual property on youtube.com.

And what connects all three of these together so that they can do their job and protect your intellectual property? THE CLAIM.


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  • Kirsty Malone

    “A claim is the link between a video and a particular copyrighted asset.” But surely the video is an asset too? If I take any video and add my music to it and upload it to YouTube in a bid to monetize my musical assets, surely I’m contravening copyright law if not YouTube policy?

    • Nicholas

      Hi Kristy, The term “Asset” in this context, is referring to pieces of copyrighted material that are uploaded via the Content Management System and specifically be used within the YouTube content ID process. These assets are official representations of that intellectual property that YouTube can then use to identify the use of that material across their platform. When you upload your own original intellectual property to YouTube via a video, you have every right to that material and the revenue earned from views in accordance with YouTube policies. The difference is that YouTube will only monetize your song for that one instance that it appears in your video. In other words, your video will be scanned by the content ID system to determine if it contains any copyrighted material, but the system will not attempt to match the content you’ve uploaded in that video to any other videos throughout YouTube. So, in general, your music can be called an asset when its present on a digital platform. But, for the purpose of this conversation I am only using the term “asset” as it’s defined by YouTube and the Content ID process.