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How to Avoid YouTube Partnership Rejection (+Fair Use Guide)

DISCLAIMER: I’M NOT A LAWYER, SO DON’T TAKE ANY OF THIS AS LEGAL ADVICE. EVERYTHING YOU LEARN IN THIS ARTICLE IS BASED ON PAST CASES AND SHOULDN’T BE TAKEN AS REAL LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU FOLLOW THESE GUIDELINES, KNOW THAT YOU’RE DOING IT AT YOUR OWN RISK. YOU SHOULD ALWAYS CONSULT A REAL LAWYER FROM YOUR COUNTRY IF YOU’RE IN TROUBLE.

Just imagine how this would feel.

You did it. After many, many hours of dealing with overheating cameras, sucky audio, corrupted video files, and trying to explain to your family who you’re talking to in your room, you made it:

You got to your milestone of 1,000 subs and 4,000 hours of watch time in the past 12 months.

The awaited email

But what you didn’t know is that you used some shortcuts that YouTube does not like…

And you get this dreadful email:

Youtube partnership rejection
The feared email

You’ve worked so hard, only to find out…. You are being denied for ad monetization.

Worst part is that you probably didn’t even know you were doing something wrong.

Don’t let this happen to you. Let me tell you exactly what will get your partnership denied so you can avoid unpleasant surprises.

Don’t worry, you still have the opportunity to fix your mistakes.

You wouldn’t be the first one to get your partnership application denied, just to later have it accepted.

Reasons You Might Get Denied for Ad Monetization

As you should know, if you want to use the YouTube platform to host your videos, you need to comply with their Terms of Service (TOS).

The best way for YouTubers to know if they could be doing something wrong is carefully reading the Community Guidelines.

YouTube Policies

There are 9 main categories of things that you shouldn’t do with your videos if you want to get partnered:

  1. Nudity or sexual content: Pretty self explanatory. YouTube is not a pornographic site. However, they don’t tell you that things like recording in a bikini will also violate this guideline and not allow ad monetization.
  2. Harmful or dangerous content: Dangerous challenges are the first examples that come to mind. Also, pranks like making people believe they’re in real danger, even though nothing is going to happen to them, are prohibited on YouTube.
  3. Hateful content: Racism or discrimination against someone or a group of people.
  4. Violent or graphic content: Any shocking content, including medical procedures where open wounds are shown without explanation or no educational purpose. Same applies for violent crimes.
  5. Threats, Harassment and cyberbullying: You can critique other people, but there’s a line you shouldn’t cross. Public humiliation or harassment incitement will draw that line.
  6. Spam, misleading metadata, and scams: Of course. Anyone with their brains in the right place wouldn’t try to monetize a channel used for scamming and robbing people online.
  7. Copyright: Now THIS is the interesting one. Probably around 80%-90% of people having troubles getting into the YouTube Partnership program have a problem related to this. It’s really hard for people without knowledge about laws to really know if they’re doing something bad. Using any copyrighted content (any image, audio or video that isn’t yours) without permission is not allowed, except under certain circumstances. Keep reading and I will explain you this REALLY well below.
  8. Privacy: Giving personal information from other people is completely against most TOS of any online service. This includes addresses, security numbers,  account names, bank accounts, etc. It’s very dangerous and it can ruin lives. So, please, respect other people’s information or get out of my site!
  9. Impersonation: If you’re trying to deceive people into thinking that you’re someone else that actually exists—it’s okay to create a persona or a character and play it—, you will get into trouble.

Besides these 9 main categories, there a couple more things you should also consider:

  • Vulgar Language: you can use bad language all you want, HOWEVER: your channel will get flagged as age-restricted. This means that when someone wants to watch your video, they will receive a message saying that your content is only for mature audiences. You can potentially lose a huge part of your viewership because of this.
  • You need to be 13 years old to manage your own Google Account in most countries. Kids that are 12 years old or below need to have their account linked to their parent’s through Family Link
  • Finally, encouraging violation of TOS could also get your channel suspended.

Whew! That’s a lot of things, but you should know that most of them are pretty common sense.

However, there is one that is really difficult to get right: Copyright Infringement.

Let’s learn what exactly this means and how to comply.

Copyright Infringement for YouTubers: How to Have a Healthy Channel that is Monetizable with Ads

Everything you need to know about copyright infringement as a YouTuber is right here.

Let’s start with a couple of things I wanted to make clear:

  • You CAN use copyright material in your channel and run ads, but you need to do it the right and fair way.
  • Even if you use it right, you might still get a video claimed, and the monetization deactivated.
  • The way to do it right is under the fair use doctrine, explained below

How to Publish Copyrighted Content Under Fair Use Doctrine

As YouTube clearly states: “Fair use is a legal doctrine that says you can reuse copyright-protected material under certain circumstances without getting permission from the copyright owner.

These “certain circumstances” refer to transformative content.

Most new YouTubers THINK they understand what transformative means, but they generally don’t.

It’s a lot more than simply speaking over a video that isn’t yours.

You need to really make it something completely different to the original.

Ian Corzine, a lawyer specialized in fair use for Youtube, has made a beautifully-put-together video about this. I really recommend you watch this until the end:

These are the main takeaways:

  • The shorter the time you use the copyrighted content, the better. Using it for the entire length of your video won’t most likely let you put ads. General rule of thumb: 80% original, 20% copyrighted.
  • Transform it: comment it, respond to it, give it a new meaning, take it out of context, make a mashup, remix it. The more you modify the original content, the better.
  • Make sure to attribute every copyrighted content you use in each video. Place it in the description. He recommends using the MLA format for this; name, title, website, publisher, publication date, and URL.

If you’re not sure if your complying with fair use, ask yourself:

Is this helping me get my own message across? Or could the message be confused with the original?

The further away you are from the original message, the easier it is to see that you’re under fair use.

Also, remember that simply putting a meme is not transformative enough. If the meme just added some text on a copyrighted image, you are for sure not following the fair use doctrine.

If you don’t use fair use the right way, you might end up with a video monetization claim, or even worse, a takedown.

Difference Between a Claimed Video and a Copyright Strike or Takedown

A claimed video is when the right owners of the copyrighted material detect that you’re using their content in a video, so they will claim the money from the ads that appear in your video.

Most of the times, it happens automatically through a system called Content ID.

After uploading a video to YouTube, this system will automatically detect if you’re using copyrighted material. Music is the easiest one to detect, so most of the time, if you use a popular song, your video will automatically be claimed.

youtube content id claim

That’s the best thing that can happen to you. The worst thing is getting a Copyright Takedown file, which leads to a Copyright Strike:

A copyright strike happens when you get a Copyright Takedown. This is when a company manually fills a form and tells YouTube that your video used their material without permission.

youtube copyright takedown

Your video is manually taken down and you receive a copyright strike. If you get 3 of these, your channel is closed.

The good news is that the strike will expire after 90 days, so you will get back to having 3 strikes available before your channel is taken down.

youtube copyright strike system

This gives you plenty of room for mistakes, so don’t get too scared because of this.

Also, you can always fight this claim if you’re completely sure that your video complies with fair use guidelines, but this is when stuff can get too serious.

Sometimes, angry people will file a takedown against you because they believe they’re in their right to do so. If you, however, are completely sure that you have not made anything illegal, you can file a counter notification.

They will have 10 days to go to court and prove to YouTube that they’ve done so. If they don’t, you get your video back and everything goes back to normal.

If they do take it to court, you will need to hire a lawyer and possibly fight this in court. Most people don’t have the money or the will to do that, so it’s better to just try to do things right so you don’t get a takedown in the first place.

If You Already Got Rejected, What Can You Do To Get Accepted?

When you get rejected, YouTube will send you an email with clues on why this happened to you.

I say clues because sometimes they’re not clear enough.

They might only tell you the guideline you violated, but you will have to find out on your own the video—or videos— where the infringement happened.

You will need to edit out the part where the content violated the guidelines, or completely remove the culprit videos.

Then, you will need to wait 30 days and apply again.

How to Remove Your Problematic Content Without Damaging Your Channel’s Performance

There’s something that you should know before deciding to delete a video with many views.

When you do this, you will lose all the views and engagement signals associated with it, so you might lose a lot of SEO “juice”.

This means that your YouTube channel will look weaker to the algorithm, so it won’t get promoted as often as before.

Because of this, you might want to do this after you’re sure that you’ve achieved the minimum requirements for YouTube partnership with your other videos that don’t violate the guidelines.

If you delete a video with, let’s say, 100k views, and then try to rebuild your channel, it might be harder to do. Your channel will have 100k less views associated with it and it might not get promoted as often because of that.

If you got a video with, for example, 200k views that is made of copyrighted material, most likely, you achieved the 4k hours of watch time mainly because of this video.

Instead of deleting it right away and trying to grind the 4k hours with your other videos, do the following:

  1. Subtract the amount of hours of watch time you got from the culprit videos from your channel’s total watch time
  2. Start publishing more content that is completely compliant with the guidelines
  3. Wait until you’ve surpassed 4k hours of watch time only with your original and compliant content
  4. Delete the culprits
  5. Wait for 30 days minimum after your last request, and fill another request to join the YouTube Partnership

This way you’re taking advantage of that SEO “juice” to boost your other videos’ ranking to get to the partnership faster.

Ta-DA! You’ll get there faster and still comply with the community guidelines the moment you apply again.

This is why I love knowing about SEO 🙂

What if the Content You Want to Produce Isn’t Compatible With YouTube’s Community Guidelines?

There are other monetization methods that you can use in case that your content is not compatible with ads:

  • Affiliate marketing
  • Livestreaming
  • Patreon
  • Merchandising
  • Sponsorships

Your videos might not get monetized with ads, but you can still get your legion of fan and they will support you in other ways.

Channels that make review videos of movies, or popular TV series are the ones that suffer the most from this.

Also, channels where showing a lot of skin and body parts, or swearing a lot is part of the content.

If your channel is like this, I really, really recommend you to start taking your subs to another platform: Instagram, Twitch, or your own website.

Even if you make something in fair use, a company might not see it that way and give you a takedown.

There is a lot of bullying coming from the top companies in different industries and there’s little that a small youtuber can do.

That is why you have to make sure you don’t have all your eggs in the same basket if your content uses a lot of copyrighted content, even if it’s in fair use.

Conclusion (TLDR)

YouTube can do anything they want with your channel and videos that are hosted on their platform.

You can only make videos that are completely compliant with their community guidelines.

One of the main problems is with copyrighted content. Most channels will use at least a small piece of copyrighted content somewhere in their videos.

You can use this copyrighted content, but only if it’s transformative enough to fall into fair use doctrine:

  • General rule of thumb: 80% original content, 20% copyrighted.
  • Transform it: comment it, respond to it, give it a new meaning, take it out of context, make a mashup, remix it. The more you modify the original content, the better.
  • Make sure to attribute every copyrighted content you use in each video.

Even so, you could get your videos’ earnings claimed by a company or, sometimes, taken down. If you get your videos taken down 3 times, your channel will be deleted.

You can file a counter notification if you’re completely sure that your video is completely legal, but this carries the risk of having to go to court to prove it.

If the nature of your content is not compatible with some of YouTube’s guidelines, you can still earn money through other monetization methods.

Will A.

Will is the founder of VloggerPro. He's a YouTube Certified partner and has been reviewing equipment and teaching others how to grow and generate real income on YouTube for the last 5 years.

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