YouTube’s Terms & Conditions – The Scary Truth

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We recently wrote about the importance of creating a proprietary web ecosystem for artist as monetization and aggregation tools, but many of the questions we received related to the alternative, YouTube.

YouTube provides value to countless creators globally, creating a whole new class of celebrity, the viral online star. But in today’s digital streaming society, the biggest challenge has been margin, which has left many demanding larger revenue share or alternative monetization solutions.

But what are the limitations of YouTube? What do artists need to know before planning their content strategy online?

The devil is in the details, and we decided to analyze the YouTube Terms and Conditions to gain some clarity. Here is what stood out:

 4. General Use of the Service—Permissions and Restrictions You agree not to use the Service for any of the following commercial uses unless you obtain YouTube’s prior written approval:

  • the sale of advertising, sponsorships, or promotions placed on or within the Service or Content

Artists and creators are not allowed to sell advertising, sponsorships, or promotions within their own content. This is likely because Google, YouTube’s active sales team, is selling the same ad space, and any additional sponsorship sales could conflict with the Google efforts. As a manager trying to maximize digital revenue for my artist, how do I know Google is looking out for my best interests? How do I know that they are giving me some of the premium ad campaigns to run against my content rather then giving it all to Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, or PewDiePie? Why can’t I set the value of my artist content?


  • the sale of advertising, sponsorships, or promotions on any page of an ad-enabled blog or website containing Content delivered via the Service, unless other material not obtained from YouTube appears on the same page and is of sufficient value to be the basis for such sales.


Followed by no ad sales or promotion within the content comes the inability to sell ad space around the content. This is Google’s subtle way of telling content creators that they aren’t allow to sell ads on the same pages there is a YouTube embed without their permission…which to me would be the same thing as Facebook telling me I can’t paint the walls in my house blue.


  • You use the Embeddable Player on your website, you may not modify, build upon, or block any portion or functionality of the Embeddable Player, including but not limited to links back to the YouTube website.


Any website owner can attest, keeping an audience engaged throughout any viewing session is a difficult task. The ones that do it well see significantly higher time spent, page click through rates, and overall site traffic. Artist benefit from producing, non arguably, the most engaged content online (VEVO accounts for significant amount of YouTube’s total traffic, and that doesn’t include Warner Music Group who distributes through YouTube direct and other 3rd party vendors). It would be behoove artist to remove hyperlinks routing to third party websites, driving engagement away from their site, brand, monetization tools, and tracking mechanisms.

 5. Your Use of Content In addition to the general restrictions above, the following restrictions and conditions apply specifically to your use of Content.

  • The Content on the Service, and the trademarks, service marks and logos (“Marks”) on the Service, are owned by or licensed to YouTube, subject to copyright and other intellectual property rights under the law.


Signing up to YouTube grants YouTube a license all logos and trademarks to YouTube, allowing them to exploit them however they see fit. I don’t think we need to explain why this might not be a good idea for artist and creators.


  • You understand that when using the Service, you will be exposed to Content from a variety of sources, and that YouTube is not responsible for the accuracy, usefulness, safety, or intellectual property rights of or relating to such Content. You further understand and acknowledge that you may be exposed to Content that is inaccurate, offensive, indecent, or objectionable, and you agree to waive, and hereby do waive, any legal or equitable rights or remedies you have or may have against YouTube with respect thereto, and, to the extent permitted by applicable law, agree to indemnify and hold harmless YouTube, its owners, operators, affiliates, licensors, and licensees to the fullest extent allowed by law regarding all matters related to your use of the Service.


Two things stand out to us with 5(b). The first part states that YouTube isn’t responsible for the safety of your intellectual property. This is followed by a clause that grants YouTube the ability to run any content they want in front of your content, including offensive or indecent content. Doesn’t sound brand safe to us.

 6. Your Content and Conduct

  • You shall be solely responsible for your own Content and the consequences of submitting and publishing your Content on the Service. You affirm, represent, and warrant that you own or have the necessary licenses, rights, consents, and permissions to publish Content you submit; and you license to YouTube all patent, trademark, trade secret, copyright or other proprietary rights in and to such Content for publication on the Service pursuant to these Terms of Service.
  • For clarity, you retain all of your ownership rights in your Content. However, by submitting Content to YouTube, you hereby grant YouTube a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the Content in connection with the Service and YouTube’s (and its successors’ and affiliates’) business, including without limitation for promoting and redistributing part or all of the Service (and derivative works thereof) in any media formats and through any media channels. You also hereby grant each user of the Service a non-exclusive license to access your Content through the Service, and to use, reproduce, distribute, display and perform such Content as permitted through the functionality of the Service and under these Terms of Service. The above licenses granted by you in video Content you submit to the Service terminate within a commercially reasonable time after you remove or delete your videos from the Service. You understand and agree, however, that YouTube may retain, but not display, distribute, or perform, server copies of your videos that have been removed or deleted. The above licenses granted by you in user comments you submit are perpetual and irrevocable.


By agreeing to terms of service, you license to YouTube all patent, trademark, and copyright rights. 6(g) goes into further detail about the license that is granted to YouTube, which are in perpetuity…or FOREVER!

The main take away is that a YouTube deal is a licensing contract with a social community. However, it is not a true monetization technology meant to drive the highest monetary value from content distribution for artist. If artist, labels, and management companies want to start generating new revenue streams for their talent, they need to start by re thinking their content strategy, and focus on the development of need monetization and tracking technologies drive more value from direct fan engagement with their brand.

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