Your relationship with YouTube starts with a lie, and then your channel gets taken down and all sorts of legal issues come up that you probably could have avoided. Let us give you a summary of all the legal reasons why you could have your terminated account taken down, maybe even a community guidelines strike, but especially how to avoid having your channel removed in the first place. Follow these principles and it’s unlikely that you’ll ever run into legal trouble with YouTube.
This is Jeremy from J House Vlogs. And he is also an attorney who just spoke at an event on the legal side of YouTube, which is something that a lot of people don’t get into at all. Anytime you start a partnership with YouTube, typically we start by lying to YouTube, by saying that we’ve read the terms and conditions and understand it and I agree.
So the terms of service are just, I think, 14 paragraphs. And it can change, so that’s what it is currently. But when you include all of the things that are included in that– the community guidelines and the policies that apply as well– it’s over 120 pages of stuff that you’re agreeing to with YouTube.
So what we want to do with you guys is just walk through some of the things that you agreed to and talk about it in normal conversational English. Because it’s pretty common for creators to violate some of these in seemingly innocent ways. And they don’t even know that they are breaking it and could have their channels taken down or videos removed for what they thought was innocent.
And just to say too, while I am an attorney, this isn’t in any way supposed to be legal advice. I’m just talking about some of the things I’ve learned in looking at the community guidelines from YouTube.
What’s one of the first things we should think about?
One of the most basic things is a lot of YouTubers do giveaways. And there is a policy that YouTube has on giveaways, and there may be laws in your state– there probably are, on sweepstakes. And so those are things that you can easily Google and look up.
And YouTube does a good job of putting in to plain English what is and is not allowed. Like, you need to have official rules that are clearly laid out, so that there’s clear expectations of winners, losers, and how it’s going to work. A lot of people don’t do that. Say that there was a disgruntled person who felt like they got cheated in that, and they took that to YouTube, that video could come down.
And you could have even more serious problems than that
You could get a strike. And again, if you get three strikes for community guidelines, you’re channels gone.
Rules about Sponsorships
There’s also a lot of rules that apply to paid sponsorships. And any of you guys who want to do brand deals, and you want to work with sponsors who pay you to talk about their stuff on their channel, there’s some things that a lot of creators miss. What are some of these things?
Again, YouTube has policies on what specifically you’re supposed to do. If you’re using a sponsored endorsement or a brand deal in one of your content, YouTube says that, you need to notify us of that. And the way you do that is in posting the video, you go to the advanced settings and click a box. And again, you can go into the Help Center of YouTube and I’ll show you exactly what box to push.
There’s also regulations on this in the United States. Like the FTC has rules of how you’re supposed to disclose and what the overriding principles are. And you just can’t be misleading. You can’t be using stuff for free from someone, or using stuff where you’re getting paid to do it, and not let people know that.
What are the rules for unpaid Sponsors?
This is a common thing you guys ask in comments of previous videos on this topic. People will say “well I’m not getting paid, they’re just giving it to me for free, so it’s not really a sponsorship. So I don’t need to say anything”. Is that true?
One of the things that I will say to anybody is, go to the source. A lot of times when people face these kinds of questions, they’ll go to a Facebook page or they’ll just ask people. I like to go to the source.
So I’ll go to the FTC. They have a frequently asked questions page, and they bring up this exact thing. And they say, look, if a brand is giving you something free to incentivize you to promote it, that’s something that should be disclosed. And it’s misleading to not disclose it, because you are being incentivized. It’s something that should be told.
I think the main key is you have to go to the source. And YouTube is the person you have the contract with, and they have their guidelines really clear. You can just Google in community guidelines YouTube, and they have really easy, in English– it’s not in legalese, so it’s understandable– and they lay it down– here’s the things you can’t do. And they have more information and they give examples of what you can and can’t do.
So one of the topics that have is spam and the metadata side. And something that I know YouTubers did a while ago, was they would put in their description box tags.
Yes, or keyword stuff. Like not writing a sentence or anything, they’d just take all the keywords, copy and paste it into the bottom, thinking that that would help their video rank better for those things. Which isn’t how it works anymore.
And YouTubers have had hundreds of their videos taken down from before. And one of the things that you got to be aware of with YouTube is that you can get in trouble retroactively. I mean, if you posted those videos back in 2010 but they now have discovered that, you can be punished for it even though it’s been up for the last six years.
And it’s happened. There have been big creators, with millions of subscribers, who have had their channels taken down because they had been keyword stuffing all these tags into the description and titles and things like that.
So another one of the community guidelines is not showing dangerous content. And people get into trouble with this if they’re showing stuff that is encouraging danger or putting children in danger. And that’s something that they really are concerned about. And sometimes this comes into some of those challenges that you see. You know YouTubers want to put extreme stuff online because people like to see this spectacle.
But if you’re getting flagged because people are saying, this is just too dangerous, or it’s encouraging people to do dangerous things, you could get that video taken down, get a strike. And if you get several strikes, you get the channel taken down.
And sometimes it can be something very innocent, like they have a family vlogging channel– you can check it out, link below– and so in that niche of family of vlogging, sometimes people do things innocently with their kids. A few examples I’ve heard Jeremy give are like videoing your child in the bathtub or like chubby bunny challenges and things that like, because they could potentially choke or something.
There was the challenge that was really popular about putting nylon on your head and kind of doing a tug-of-war. And you’ll see that with a lot of adults. But when kids started doing it, YouTube did respond to some creators saying, hey, that’s risk of choking and we don’t want to encourage people to do that. And so people got in trouble for doing that.
There are guidelines as well on inappropriate adult content. You know, nudity, things like that. But even a family vlogger could get in trouble if they’re posting their kid in the bathtub and not thinking about it. And that can lead to the kind of problems that the community guideline says shouldn’t be in there.
You know, copyright is a huge topic. We could make probably five or six videos on that.I know Tim has some good videos on copyright. But that’s an area that if you’re violating
I know Tim has some good videos on copyright. But that’s an area that if you’re violating copyright of other people– they actually have it as a whole separate category, where if you get three strikes for copyright, it’ll come down. And then the community guidelines are a separate category. But copyright is a huge deal.
Tip: Avoid Using Content you didn’t create.
I personally try to avoid using any content that I did not create myself, unless I can purchase a license to use it for commercial purposes on YouTube. So like royalty-free music, stock video, photos, things like that, where I can get a license. There’s a lot of channels that are based on fair use, we’re not going to get into all of that here. But that is something you really be careful of, and know going into it what you’re doing and what the guidelines are. And maybe even consult a lawyer. It might cost you some money, but its way worth it in the front end, to have that conversation with someone who can really give you some good advice about your projects and your videos that you’re making before you start putting all the work into it and then losing it all.
Another part of the community guidelines that you agreed to is no hateful content and no threats.
What’s hard with some of these is that it can be subjective.
And YouTube is the decider. And that’s one of the things you agree to in the terms of service, is that YouTube made these rules, they can change them, and they are enforcing them and they interpret them. So there’s a lot of power there for YouTube. There have been times where people felt like they were unfairly dealt with by YouTube and they brought lawsuits against YouTube.
And from the ones I’ve researched, they haven’t been successful because the contract is so strong in favor of YouTube. Of saying, look you agreed to these things. If you don’t want to use this platform, then don’t. But if you want to use YouTube, these are the rules and we’re able to dictate what’s going to be happening on the platform.
A lot of people don’t want to face the expense of having an attorney. And they get into really bad situations. They maybe sometimes lose a lot of money and then they wish they would have consulted an attorney. If you’re in a situation where something is happening to you legally and you don’t understand it, that’s the time to have someone who does understand it to give you advice.
Or, in my case, sometimes I go into these things thinking I understand it. Like, oh, I read it, I understand everything here. I always still hire a lawyer to review my contracts and ask questions to. Because it is always so helpful when they come back like, yes, you understood, but what you don’t understand is what they didn’t put in here.
And sometimes the things they don’t include in the contract are actually more significant than the things that are in the contract. And so I’m like, oh, I would have never have known that. So I can go back and say, hey, we need to add this clause that says this and that. And my lawyer takes care of it, and he’s awesome because he really does a good job at teaching. So I’ll put a link to his website in the description if you want to check it out, I’m not affiliated, no kickback. What other disclaimers do I have to give? Full disclosure– I have received no compensation whatsoever. I just think he’s been really helpful for me.
I always recommend for people to go to the source and YouTube does a great job of letting you know what is expected. They have it written in English that’s clear. There can still be those gray areas, though, where there is interpretation needed or you’re not sure exactly what it means. And those are times when it is especially good or important to consult with an attorney to make sure you understand what they’re saying and what’s expected.
There’s very real risks. And there’s things you can do to mitigate those risks. I mean, that’s that’s the way an attorney would say it, but that’s the concept.
So Tim’s whole message– I have watched most of your videos, and have used them to help me with our channel. And you put all this work and all this time into it, and it’s been so sad to see friends or other people lose all that work based on not understanding these legal aspects.
And the legal stuff can be boring. People don’t want to talk about it or deal with it. But simple understanding of reviewing some of these things can make a huge difference in preventing a disaster for your channel.
Us creative people, we just like to make cool stuff that really impacts people. But it is worth the little bit of time investment you’re going to make to learn and educate yourself so that you don’t lose all the hard work you putting into this in the future.
I’m really looking forward to reading your comments below.
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