I'm creating my first YouTube video and am a bit disappointed with the licensing options. Ideally, I would want to use a CC BY-NC license because I don't really want others profiting off of my work, but that is not an option in the interface. If I select the standard license, but put something like "Licensed under CC BY-NC, despite what the interface says" in the video, is that able to override the standard license? If not, is there any other way to license my video how I want to?

Edit: Just for the sake of clarity, I mean selecting the Youtube Standard License for my video, NOT the default provided CC license.

  • There's also the option of using something other than youtube, eg. Vimeo, which offers CC-BY-NC as an option. Commented Dec 26, 2016 at 10:35
  • @JonasCz I know, but they aren't quite as popular and I didn't want to have to deal with a completely new interface.
    – Morgan H
    Commented Dec 26, 2016 at 17:53

2 Answers 2


Don't do it

As @Mulvya mentioned, it is not a good idea to attempt to 'overwrite' the CC licence set in the video settings by putting a disclaimer in your video or video description. Apart from the legal implications and ambiguity, there's another problem: You're only changing the human-readable layer of the licence, while the machine-readable layer stays the same (an explanation on the three layers of the CC licences can be found here). What that means is that even though a human watching your video will be able to understand your intent to apply a more restrictive licence, a machine (e.g. an automated web crawler) will not. So your video will still show up in the search results when somebody searches for content licenced under the CC-BY licence. So by setting your video to CC-BY and disputing that claim in your video or video description, you are creating ambiguity for the user. I also doubt a disclaimer that the licence set by you in the YouTute interface does not apply would hold up in court, but IANAL.


Hosting your video on YouTube with the intent to share it for others to adapt, remix and reuse is not a good idea in the first place. The stark compression applied by YouTube will significantly lower the quality of your video. The quality loss will only increase as others download your video, import it into their own projects, reencode it again and upload it to YouTube, where it's reencoded once more. On top of that, YouTube doesn't even offer a convenient way to download user-uploaded videos (though you can use them in YouTube's own video editor, but hardly anyone uses that anyway ...). For more information on YouTube's video compression, read my answers here and here.

Instead, I suggest you upload a high-quality version of your video to a dedicated file hosting service and put your licence terms there. You can also bundle your video file with a text-file containing a description of your licence terms and a link to the online licence. This eliminates all ambiguity and allows everyone to use your video under clearly-defined terms.

If you do this, put a link to the downloadable version of your video in your video description. Also, make sure to select the YouTube Standard Licence for this video. This allows users access for only private, non-commercial viewing purposes (see YouTube terms section 6). This way, you can make sure there's no ambiguity regarding your licence terms. As a sideeffect, this will point people towards the high-quality version, meaning nobody will use a low-quality version ripped from YouTube, in case you care about that.

  • This is kind of what I did. I only really stated that it was under CC BY-NC in the description next to the link, and at the end of the video (on YouTube and on the other version) it states that the version in the description is under CC BY-NC. I kind of hope that YouTube will actually add more CC licenses.
    – Morgan H
    Commented Dec 25, 2016 at 23:05

The University of Edinburgh seems to think that one can override the default CC license by noting it in the description.

See Option C.

Alternately text can be added to the description of your YouTube video stating additional licensing information you may want to provide.

For example, a number of the videos created for Edinburgh University MOOCs which are placed on YouTube have been notated with the CC BY-NC licence and include a link to the licence details.

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