YouTube Shorts Permissions – What It Is and Why YouTube Dropped the Ball

A few “short” weeks ago, a strange option started showing up in creator’s video settings. A small section that was titled “Shorts Permissions”. The short paragraph explanation was finished off with a bold, already checked check box that clearly stated “Allow people to sample this content”.

Well the mysterious appearance of this on creator’s video settings and in their upload flow got quite a few creators a little hot under the collar. The immediate hot take revolved around two issues:

  1. the box was already checked
  2. YouTube were seemingly giving their content to anyone to use

YouTube forums, Facebook groups, sub-Reddits and other online communities were filled with people confused, asking questions and jumping to all sorts of wild and wonderful conspiracy theories. Clicking the “Learn more” option on the feature seemingly didn’t offer too much in additional information. One thing we did know, is that it had to do with Shorts – a relatively new feature on YouTube, introduced to Indian creators back in September 2020 in response to the banning of rival TikTok by the government of India. YouTube saw an opportunity and took it – wanting to go head-to-head with the short-form video platform, and ceasing on the opportunity to capture that massive market. India got the Shorts camera soon after.

More recently, YouTube rolled out the Shorts camera to US creators. It was announced back in March 2021 that all US creators would have access to the creation tool within a month, and by April, they had the feature, with a flurry of information, regular Shorts updates in the form of a regular online newsletters and announcements. It is in these announcements that the meaning of this “Shorts permissions” check box is revealed – way before it actually arrived.

In the first of 4 videos, I break down what we knew (at the time of recording), and did some speculation about what it all meant.

It was surmised that the permission was related to sampling audio from other Shorts, from both the Shorts shelf and the video watch page (I was part right). The end of the video discusses YouTube’s lack of clarity/communication on this feature as being the primary reason people were getting upset about this.

Well, it turns out, we were all slightly wrong on this point. As we swing into the second video, we learn that back in that March 18 announcement about bringing the Shorts camera to the US, it was also explained that new creative features were coming to Shorts – the ability to sample other Shorts AND long form content already on YouTube.

The audio only feature allows creators to sample audio from Shorts (already in place at the time of writing), and the ability to sample audio from long form video on YouTube proper (not yet available at the time of writing).

YouTube spruiks this as a way to put “your own creative spin on the content you love to watch on YouTube and help find it a new audience”. Some creators, it seems, are not convinced.

At this point, some creators remain skeptical of the feature, adamant they didn’t want their content “sampled” by other creators. OK, then they can uncheck that box right? Sure, but that’s a tedious process to go into many videos and uncheck the permissions box. Would YouTube have a solution for this? We didn’t have long to find out. In early May, we finally heard directly from YouTube about this in the form of an YouTube Help Community Post by YouTube staffer Camilla.

In the article, Camilla shares what the feature is (as speculated, the sampling of audio from long form content), and how it works. Any video that is sampled has a special Shorts page created that features the original video and any and all shorts created from that video’s audio.

But what about creators who are not keen on having their videos sampled? Feat not, Camilla has the answers! In the coming weeks, Youtube will both add the option to the default uploads settings (so you can set future videos how you prefer), and they are also building a bulk opt-out tool so creators don’t have to go into each and every video to uncheck the box. In video #3, I explain in detail:

As video number 3 came to a close, I pointed out the elephant in the room in regards to remaining questions over the Shorts Permissions and the audio sampling feature. Copyright.

We were able to get some answers via @TeamYouTube on Twitter on this count. My friend and mentor Daniel Batal as Team YouTube the following question:

“In the new Shorts permissions feature, if we capture an audio sample from an enabled video on another channel & that audio includes music licensed by that creator (but not us) are we opening ourselves up to a copyright claim?”

Great question!!

In short, the answer is YES!

Like any other piece of content, it is subject to the same copyright rules that applies to any other piece of content on YouTube and other platforms. What does that mean for people sampling audio from long form content for their Shorts? BEWARE!

In video 4, I dive into the copyright implications that I see in regards to this specific Shorts feature and the larger Shorts creation tool.

How did YouTube drop the ball? Well, we can clearly see that adding the option for Shorts Permissions in creator’s video settings without an immediate corresponding communication caused much angst and frustration among the creator community. It lead to days of speculation in the community, lots of hot takes and ultimately some anger towards Youtube.

Thinking that the mention in the March 18 rollout announcement would click with creators was a mis-step, and assuming no one would notice until they could actually post about it on May 6, was short-sighted.

Here’s hoping YouTube will learn something from this, and plan better to clearly communicate their plans and new features to creators in a timely manner in the future.

We can only hope!

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