How does youtube work, ethically?

As far as ownership rights, what is okay to view/listen to on youtube and what is not?

For example, there is a retired Christian group called Barlowgirl that I want to listen to on youtube, and their songs are on there.

But how are they getting reimbursed for their songs on there?



If they have an official YouTube channel, they get paid per view if they have over a certain number of viewers / subscribers because of the ads that YouTube run.

If it’s a fan channel they don’t get paid.

If you’re worried about them being reimbursed, why aren’t you buying the music?

The last sentence does not reflect how youtube works. Youtube has agreements with some music publishers to let people listen to their music even if it appears in “fan works”. This agreement makes use of two technologies called “Content ID” and the “Standard Youtube License.”

Content ID is a piece of software that runs in the background when users upload videos to youtube. It is similar to apps like Songify or Soundhound in that it can identify a piece of music by listening to just a snippet of it. The Content ID software scans each uploaded video and checks if there is a copyrighted song in it, even in fan works. If it finds a copyrighted song, it hands the video over to another piece of software, the Standard Youtube License.

The Standard Youtube License is partly a legal agreement with musicians and publishers. It stipulates that some music can be played in third-party videos, and the musician or publisher is not responsible for the visual content of the video or for any part of the video containing audio that the publisher didn’t produce. (This is in case the video Contains copyrighted music, like in a montage, but isn’t a “music video.” Some movies include copyrighted music, for example, but also contain a lot of other audio that the music publisher has nothing to do with.) If the Standard Youtube License contains an agreement with the publisher of the song identified by the Content ID software, then youtube allows the video to be uploaded and places a marker in the video description. That marker marks it as adhering to the “Standard YouTube License” and can usually be found in the video description underneath the “Category” label and just to the right of the “License” label.

In Barlow Girl’s case, her publisher appears to be a group called Word Label Group. They have an agreement with Youtube to let her songs appear on the site, including in fan works, and they are not responsible for the visual content of fan works or for other audio appearing in these videos that is not produced by them. The publisher gets reimbursed by the ads that occasionally run when you listen to one of Barlow Girl’s videos.

BTW in recent times, it seems to me like almost every music publisher has an agreement with youtube to allow their music on their site, but I have occasionally run across musicians who do Not have an agreement, and the music, in that case, is automatically muted by youtube so that you can’t hear it.

I hope my response above answers your questions. Barlow Girl’s publisher has an agreement with youtube to allow her music on their site. Her publisher is reimbursed by the ads which occasionally play before you listen to a song, and Barlow Girl’s publisher supplies her with a paycheck in part from the revenues they get from these Youtube ads. So it’s fine to listen to her on youtube. If you want to check if any other artist has such an agreement, just find one of their videos, click the video description “show more” button, and look for a label that says “License: Standard Youtube License.” If that label is present, then that musician or their publisher has an agreement with Youtube and it generally means it’s totally legal to listen to any of their songs on youtube, because musicians usually just have one publisher and the label means that publisher has an agreement with youtube.

I hope that helps. God bless!

I believe that copyrighted content usually has ads before it plays. I could be wrong, but I believe that the ad revenue goes to the rightful owner. In other cases, the copyrighted content is taken down.

I’ve talked to my priest about watching copyrighted stuff on YouTube, and he mentioned something along the lines that if it’s up there you should be able to watch it unless it’s not moral for a Catholic to view. :thumbsup:

Just out of curiosity, may I ask why one would need a priest’s input to come to such an obvious conclusion?

I asked Father because I was rather confused about the morality of watching copyrighted videos. I saw some posts on here that seemed to insinuate that watching copyrighted content on YouTube was equivalent to stealing. I’m pretty bad at understanding what’s what in regards to sin and the like.

Fortunately, Father really cleared it up! :thumbsup:

Many artists have official YouTube channels…and they are reimbursed for this. It’s perfectly legal.

Yes some posters have implied such on past threads. They don’t understand how YouTube works.
I also think the analogies to stealing a physical CD is a poor one. Yes piracy is intellectual content theft and it’s wrong, but as you are literally duplicating content rather than removing content (as in the case of stealing a physical object) I see it as a less grave species of sin- even if it’s the same genus.

Thanks dmar, and everyone. That helps.

I also, have seen a post or two on Catholic Answers that has confused me about this issue, when I’m not at all savvy about such things to begin with.

Ok so Artists/record labels have “their channels”…

But they are not the only ones who say post songs there.

That is an aspect not sure on.

(how does one know the copyright holder of the music is fine with those…?)

YouTube is supposed to monitor that sort of thing. I don’t think it’s reasonable for the end users to have to research the license agreements for any given video. I personally watch YouTube in good faith. Occasionally I click on a link and get a message that YouTube has removed the unauthorized content. YouTube is a corporate service. It’s not a free for all.

Usually ads will appear before the video. Some people however upload content they have no rights to upload, such as full episodes of shows, songs, etc.
I’m a “YouTuber”, and one of the rules to upload is that you own the content or have rights to use it. However, a lot of people disregard this rule

I think there are some mistaken understandings there. Read youtube regarding copyright.


Hence my question above.

I think that is answered in the reply by @dmar198 :

Every time a YouTube video is downloaded, it is checked by software. If the software detects copyrighted material, a message is sent to the holder of the copyright.

If the copyright holder is part of a YouTube licensing agreement, the copyright holder gets paid.

If the copyright holder is NOT part of the YouTube licensing agreement, an ad is played and the copyright holder gets a portion of the ad revenue.

Did I get that right?

Hum…not sure that is correct…(edit - it is not quite correct-- see below)

…and still not clear to me about what is not “agreed” by the copyright holder.

They have various stuff there about copyright too.

Seems it is not “checked” in general (how could one do that?)- unless there is a “take down notice” (owner realizes -hey they stole my stuff and uploaded it" or a “content ID match” (when the owner have already submitted a match - and told youtube what to do if someone uploads it).

This is correct.

No not completely.

Seems it is* not “*checked” in general (how could one do that?)- unless there is a *“take down notice” (owner realizes -hey they stole my stuff and uploaded it" or a “content ID match” *(when the owner have already submitted a match - and told youtube what to do if someone uploads it).

What do you mean how could one do that? I don’t understand what you’re saying.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit