What is YouTube content ID? It allows you to identify, claim, monetize, and prevent unauthorized use of your content. Learn how it works and how you can use it.

What is YouTube Content ID and How Does It Work?

10 minute read
David Dittrich
Director of Marketing

In the current digital era, the need to monetize your works of art while protecting your copyright must be balanced. YouTube achieves these two goals with content ID. So, naturally, before you upload your content on YouTube and start using content ID, it's essential to understand how it works, what it can and can't do, and, most importantly, how you can use it to your advantage. We'll explore everything you need to know about YouTube content ID and how you can use it to protect your copyright.

What is YouTube content ID?

YouTube content ID, also called content ID, is a “fingerprinting” technology used by YouTube to identify and manage all copyrighted content on the platform. The “fingerprint” is a complex code derived from the video's audio and visual characteristics. It’s a way of comparing uploaded content to a database of audio and video files registered by rights holders.

Ideally, YouTube content ID is used by copyright holders like music labels, songwriters and performers, and content creators to protect and manage their intellectual property and royalty payments on YouTube. It’s a way to balance copyright protection and allowing user-generated content on the platform.

How does YouTube content ID work?

Content ID helps content owners manage their content and prevent unauthorized use of their work. The simplest way to think of YouTube content ID is as a copyright protection system specifically meant to ensure that copyright holders get to monetize their work, regardless of who uses it. How YouTube content ID works can be broken down into five simple operations:

Digital fingerprinting

Essentially, YouTube content ID works by scanning every video uploaded to YouTube and comparing it to a database of audio and video files belonging to content owners. So, as a copyright owner, you must submit your audio and/or visual content to YouTube, which “fingerprints” them as reference files. And this brings us to the second step.

The matching process

Whenever users upload their content on YouTube, they’re automatically scanned against the database of content IDs containing the copyrighted material. If there’s no match, and you are part of the YouTube Partner Program, you can proceed to monetize your content with YouTube ads.

However, if a match is detected, the uploaded content is flagged and a content ID claim is placed. We’ll discuss content ID claim in detail later on and what to do when your YouTube upload is slapped with a content ID claim.

Rights holder actions

When you upload content that contains a song or a clip from copyrighted content, YouTube Content ID will detect it and notify the rightsholder. They can then decide what to do with your video – let it stay on YouTube, take it down, or monetize it and receive its revenues.

YouTube content ID monetization

One of the notable features of content ID is the ability for copyright holders to monetize matched videos. Like any other interactive streaming platform, YouTube pays artists royalties, including sync and performance royalties. Ads can be displayed on the video, and the revenue generated is shared between the copyright holder and the uploader. Note that revenue sharing isn’t always guaranteed.

Blocking and takedown

Copyright holders can also decide to block the video from being viewed in specific geographical locations or block them entirely. They can petition YouTube to take it down from the platform.

How to get a content ID on YouTube

YouTube only grants content IDs to copyright owners who meet specific criteria. It doesn’t just give anyone a content ID; for individual artists, obtaining access to YouTube content ID may not be a straightforward process. However, getting YouTube content ID is seamless for established entities such as record labels, film studios, and aggregators. If you want to get a content ID on YouTube, here’s a general overview:

Partner with a third-party service

Smaller, individual content creators who wish to benefit from YouTube content ID can partner with third-party services, usually ones that provide music distribution and rights management. Most of these services offer access to content ID as part of their package.

Meeting eligibility requirements

So, if you don’t want to partner with a third-party service to access YouTube’s content ID, then you must meet YouTube’s eligibility criteria to qualify directly for content ID. This usually involves demonstrating a substantial audience and a track record of original content creation. Remember, YouTube doesn’t just give everyone a content ID.

You can apply for content ID access directly from your YouTube account if you meet the eligibility requirements. The application undergoes a review process by YouTube to ensure compliance with their policies.

If approved, you’re assigned a YouTube partner manager who creates your content owner, giving you access to the content Manager tools in Creator Studio. This is where you upload your copyrighted content to YouTube. It also allows you to monitor and manage your copyrighted material in one place. Note that YouTube also sets explicit guidelines on how to use content ID.

What is YouTube content ID claim?

So far, you already understand that one of the primary functions of YouTube content ID is to protect the creators’ intellectual property. What happens when another user uploads content that breaches this IP? They’re slapped with content ID claims. A content ID claim is an automated notification sent by the YouTube content ID system to YouTube users when they upload content that matches copyrighted music or video. And as mentioned above, the exclusive copyright owners can monetize, block, or track the statistics of the video once the content ID claim is attached to it. Note that content ID claims can be geo-specific. That means if a content ID claim is placed on a YouTube music or video, the rights holder can monetize it in one region and entirely block it in another

What to do if you receive a YouTube content ID claim

Firstly, if your YouTube content is slapped with a content ID claim, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’ll be pulled down. As we’ve discussed, the copyright holder has a few options.

So, what should you do? Before taking any step, consider asking yourself these questions: did you use someone else’s copyrighted material? Are you okay with YouTube putting ads on your content? And, do you mind giving up the potential revenue stream from the uploaded content?

Once you have the answers to these questions, here’s what you can do.

Accept the content ID claim

You can accept the content ID claim if you have used someone’s copyrighted material. Note that if you are a member of the YouTube Partner Programme, having a content ID claim means you won’t be able to monetize that particular content on YouTube.

But the good news is YouTube gives you three options to remove the copyrighted material from your upload without necessarily having to re-upload it. And that means your original URL remains intact. So, you can trim out the contentious segment, entirely replace the copyrighted material, or mute the copyrighted material.

Dispute the content ID claim

You can dispute the claim if the YouTube content ID claim has been tagged to your video erroneously. This may also occur if you didn’t use copyright-protected content or if you have the rights to use the material.

When you dispute a content ID claim in YouTube Studio, the claimant is given up to 30 days to uphold the claim, release it, or let it lapse. And during this period, all revenue generated will be withheld by YouTube until the claim is resolved.

Share the revenue

If you are a member of the YouTube partner program, there are some instances where you can opt for revenue sharing with the copyright holder. This usually applies to cover songs – audio and videos.

Do nothing

If you agree with the content ID claim and don’t want to edit your YouTube content, then you can leave the claim and do nothing. In this case, your content may be blocked in some countries, and you may not monetize it.

YouTube content ID music distribution

YouTube content ID music distribution is a part of the broader content ID system, tailored specifically to musicians, music labels, and content creators in the music industry. It allows these artists to protect the copyright of their musical compositions and recordings.

YouTube content ID music distribution operates within the content ID framework and focuses primarily on the musical aspects of content.

And that brings us to the question, how does YouTube content ID support the work of music rights holders?

YouTube's content ID system plays a significant role in music rights management on the platform. It’s vital in music license management to allow rights holders to manage the usage of their music on the platform.

A key aspect of YouTube content ID music distribution is music license management. A few rights are required for a single song to be played on YouTube, including master rights holders who receive mechanical royalties, public performance rights, and other rights. And since most of these rights may be controlled by different parties, YouTube ensures that the rights holders receive their fair share.

YouTube pays royalties to artists and musicians from a portion of its advertising revenue or subscription fees. Copyright holders of music and musical compositions on YouTube can also earn royalties from both the master recordings and the composition of their songs.

Free music distribution with content ID

As we’ve discussed, YouTube content ID is typically available to established entities such as music labels, film studios, aggregators, and other organizations that own significant copyrighted content. Smaller creators or independent musicians who do not meet specific eligibility criteria might need to work with third-party service providers that offer access to content ID as part of their services. And these third-party providers may be costly.

So, if you want free music distribution with content ID, upload your original music to a third-party platform or service offering free music distribution. These platforms may have partnerships with YouTube or other content-sharing platforms.

Free music distribution with content ID allows you to benefit from exposure and potential monetization opportunities without paying for the distribution process.

How to elevate your YouTube royalties with Talentir?

We understand the importance of empowering artists and creators to maximize their royalties. Talentir is the first platform to turn YouTube videos into an asset you can buy and sell. It lets creators and artists share parts of their videos with their fans, which helps to build a close and authentic community. With Talentir, royalties become scalable, enabling distribution to many  fans. We focus on artists and creators, ensuring a seamless and user-friendly process. Talentir is the backbone, facilitating an effortless experience to make shared ownership and payouts a reality. The more people own and interact with a video, the more popular and profitable it becomes. Got curious about how it works? Explore Talentir now.

The bottom line

For songwriters and performers, using YouTube content ID for music distribution can be a great way to get your music in front of a wider audience and earn money from your content. We’ve covered everything you’ll need to know about YouTube content ID and how it works.

However, be sure you read YouTube’s guidelines for using content ID and familiarize yourself with uploading reference files and managing claims.


What is a "match" in content ID?

A "match" in content ID refers to the system identifying copyrighted material within a video. This match is based on the digital fingerprint generated by the system, which is compared to the fingerprints of copyrighted content in the content ID database. A match is triggered when a significant portion of a video's audio or visual content matches a fingerprint in the database.

Is content ID on YouTube free?

Yes, if your entity is big enough to qualify for it. But in most cases no, as individual creators or independent musicians usually don’t meet eligibility criteria. Suppose content creators are interested in protecting their works with YouTube content ID. In that case, they have to cooperate with third-party service providers that offer access to content ID as part of their service package. And these third-party tools may be quite costly.

What’s the difference between content ID and copyright?

Copyright is a legal framework that grants creators exclusive rights to their original works. It automatically applies to any creative work, giving the creator control over its usage and distribution. Content ID, on the other hand, is a technology implemented by YouTube to manage copyrighted content on its platform. It helps copyright holders identify and manage their content by scanning uploaded videos and comparing them to a database of copyrighted material.