YouTube’s Content Matching

To save me time, this is pretty much how YouTube’s content matching works:

Spot the difference representation of YouTube's Content Matching Service

There are 8 differences....

YouTube compares existing content on the database against a reference copy from the copyright holder.

So here’s what happens. A copyright holder, or their representative, provides YouTube with a copy of their material. YouTube crunches it using a super secret technique that allows it to be cross checked against existing content on the database and any new material being uploaded.

The content is given a digital fingerprint which provides a number of pieces of data that can be searched against in a similar fashion to forensic fingerprinting. Anyone who’s watched CSI will have seen them search the fingerprint databases for a ‘match’.

Essentially when searching content the YouTube algorithm is not going to be set to only find 100% matches since usage of some materials may be small in the overall content of a video. This can create false positives (although rare) where legitimate content gets flagged for potential copyright infringement.

Content that is matched to the content match database on YouTube will either automatically have the artist name and a link to buy the track included in the description area:

How Content Matched content looks on YouTube

Some artists/copyright holders understand the power of free advertising (like Lady Gaga above) and so they allow their work to be flagged in the manner above. Others will instruct YouTube to automatically disallow their content from being reproduced – this will result in either the video having its audio stripped (in the case of an audio match) or the video being removed immediately and a Copyright strike made against the uploaders channel. A copyright strike can only be removed if it was implemented in error, that is, only in cases where an uploader has permission to use the content, or is the copyright holder.

So what about non-matched content, cover versions and live versions? Good news and bad news. You’ll be able to use those without any trouble…… until the copyright holder gives YouTube copies of those recordings to content match against.

All this relates to both video and audio content too. The fact is, YouTube is owned by Google. Google are very good at doing search related things. They’re also a business. Copyright infringement is bad for business so they’re not going to be interested in fighting your corner with regard to copyright issues.

If you’re a YouTube Partner, and you upload an infringing video, it’ll be set to private and you get a nice message telling you to sort your shit out. Everyone else gets the video removed and a copyright strike until such time as you can provide proof that you have permission to use the content.

My advice to anyone out there is to avoid using other peoples material altogether. Sure, there are a million songs that are begging to be used. And any forward thinking artist would love to have their material reach a wider audience, unfortunately business comes first, which means the copyright hammer hangs over everyone who uses other people’s material, no matter how apt or well intentioned.

(yes, there are exceptions and allowances within copyright law….. YouTube is not interested in those. If you want to argue points of law then you’ll have to set up your own ISP and host those vids yourself thanks to the DMCA and EUCD)

Peas and loaves.

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Find me on PSN – MrCheapKills

David Nicol is Articles Editor for, YouTube gaming commentator and blogger based in the UK.

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2 thoughts on “YouTube’s Content Matching

  1. 1. the barn door
    2. one of the trees
    3. one of the flowers
    4. the hub of the tractor wheel
    5. the side paneling of the cart
    6. one of the patches on the cow’s back
    7. the tractor hood
    8. the artist was too lazy to draw the squiggles on the sheep in the lower right

    AND the ninth difference is…
    9. It’s sad when you’re 30 and can’t resist doing these things, but when you’re 6 it’s just fine.


    (Yes, I read the rest of the post. I didn’t just get distracted by another “squirrel”.)

    • Well, the good thing is that these comments are at the end of the post otherwise I’d have to do a *SPOILER ALERT* at the beginning and end of your post.

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