Regarding images, Wikipedia requires either the approval of the owner or to have a license which allows free usage.

Does the "Standard Youtube License" allow to use a screenshot or "frame capture" of a video on Wikipedia? If not, would the approval from the creator be enough?

2 Answers 2


The "Standard Youtube License" or TOS reads

You shall not copy, reproduce, distribute, transmit, broadcast, display, sell, license, or otherwise exploit any Content for any other purposes without the prior written consent of YouTube or the respective licensors of the Content.

That stipulates no "free usage" and as such, you cannot use a screenshot ("Content") without permission or license from the copyright owner anywhere in your own work or on a platform such as Wikipedia that requires permissions from the copyright owner.

You are legally OK with (preferably written) approval and license from the creator for use of a screenshot on Wikipedia, because such an written agreement will satisfy Wikipedia's requirement of owner approval for the use of another creator's work on Wikipedia and gives you written permission and license to use the work on Wikipedia. Simply contact the copyright owner and ask for permission.

If you do not have the owner's permission and still use a screenshot, and are confronted with copyright infringement by the owner or Wikipedia, your use of a screenshot may fall under Fair use. The important qualifier is may. You being able to prevail with a Fair use defense - worst case, if taken to court, or at very least, Wikipedia taking down the screenshot under a DMCA request - is not guaranteed, because a judge would make that decision, based on the evidence of the usage and their determination if, in fact, a screenshot is Fair use.

Fair use (Chapter 1 - Circular 92 | U.S. Copyright Office) stipulates that usage is legally permissible when

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole

is not considered to be substantial enough is an infringement of copyright of the whole work. Who determines what is what is "substantial enough"? A court. The court could take into account

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

in determining your usage is Fair use, or damages if the court rules against you.

You do risk copyright infringement without clear permission from the copyright owner, and you risk Wikipedia being send a DMCA takedown notice. Whether or not you are the subject of a copyright infringement lawsuit is up to the copyright owner, and if that happens, whether you prevail is up to the court.

  • 1
    My take on the Wikipedia policy is that it is its policy not to have to rely on fair use for its images.
    – ohwilleke
    Jul 23, 2018 at 20:51
  • That's interesting; I didn't realize that until I looked more at Wikipedia's editorial guidelines. Jul 24, 2018 at 2:25
  • Do note that in most jurisdictions it is perfectly legal to take a screenshot of a video and re-distribute it, if you need it as reference, e.g. because you are criticizing the video or commenting on it. You have to attribute correctly, though. Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France all have special provisions for the so called "Bildzitat" (image quote). Its a shame that an international resource like Wikipedia is hampered by US law in this regard.
    – Polygnome
    May 26, 2020 at 8:45

Although you have an answer and you have selected it as the correct answer, I'll tell you what is the real world situation.

Although, the "Standard Youtube License" or TOS reads

"You shall not copy, reproduce, distribute, transmit, broadcast, display, sell, license, or otherwise exploit any Content for any other purposes without the prior written consent of YouTube or the respective licensors of the Content."

you can use it fairly, if it isn't meant for commercial gain for you and you use less than 10% of total content. taking a picture of a video, say 10 minute long video, is definitely less than 10%

Everything is below the law of a country. Each and every country has some law called "fairuse" of copyrighted material. It's there to allow any body to use a fraction of original copyrighted material and not to face jail time for doing that. Thereby, the TOS of youtube is bullshit if it doesn't say anything about fairuse and is just there to inform you and most accurately "scare" you to prevent using the material unfairly.

For an instance, what if an icecream shop owner actually write a TOS, "After eating the icecream, you must jump over a cliff", is it fair? is it right? is it following any government imposed laws? no right? But he can write it in her/his TOS, just to inform some bullshit he wants to convey to the customers. No one needs to follow anything written in the TOS or agreement if it doesn't abide to the laws imposed by the country's government.

The truth is you can use it fairly and the general legal point of view is if someone creates something original and no body else should ruin the ownership and benefits such as fame, financial gain etc etc which is supposed to receive to the original creator.

In my point of view,

Violating copyright examples

  1. Getting a 10 minute video, taking 1 screen shot, and saying that this is a screenshot of your own video, making others believe that the owner of the original video is yours or you created this image (not revealing the screenshot you're showing is of an actual video which someone else owns)
  2. someone created a drawing and videoed it and you took a screenshot and calling that this is a drawing you created or exposing it to public that the original creator of the video only wanted to share the video with his choice of people.

Not violating copyright examples

  1. Getting a 10 minute video, taking 1 screenshot, and tracing or cropping something specifically commonly found in nature, such as a 1 apple tree out of the 20 other apple trees of your screen shot from the video.
  2. Someone created a drawing and videoed it and posted it in youtube for public viewing and you took a screenshot and posted it on facebook by saying "Hey I found a great video of a drawing, here's the original link to the actual video" with the link.
  3. Getting a 10 minute video which is available for public viewing, taking 1 screenshot, and tracing or cropping something in the screenshot and using it to educate your child or group of children in the school upto grade 6.

Most important thing to keep in mind.

  1. Copyright law is there to prevent and give a good lesson to the crappy people from using someone else's property unfairly.
  2. Fairuse law is there to prevent and give a good lesson to the crappy owner of an actual original content to show that she/he can't just own everything and restrict people from using it fairly.

Thank you and no need to select this as an answer. Just wanted to increase the intelligence of people.

P.S: I don't mind getting negative votes, as I have revealed the truth about real world.

  • 1
    The majority of this answer is either wrong generalisations, correct but badly reasoned (and therefore misleading) or repeats a number of common myths about copyright.
    – user4657
    May 26, 2020 at 8:19
  • 3
    Fair use is a specific term in USA copyright law, defined very clearly by 17 USC §107. It is emplaced with other sections that deal with copyright, referring directly to them; there is no "separate laws". Your resort to abuse does not defeat the fact that this answer demonstrates significant misunderstanding of copyright law, both of particular regions and in the world generally.
    – user4657
    May 26, 2020 at 8:31
  • @Nij ok, tell me the actual definition then in your words. Anyone can google and provide a link. But did you understand what the meaning of the actual law is? if so, explain it. You won't be able to define the fairuse. May 26, 2020 at 8:33
  • Indeed, if anyone can google, you should explain why you don't use the only legal definition of any relevance, instead of rewriting it poorly in your own words or demanding others do the same.
    – user4657
    May 26, 2020 at 8:36
  • 2
    I'd argue against the 10% rule of thumb you put forward, and against the TOS example. The latter is governed by contract law, where unconscionability and illegality may be raised. It's hard to make those arguments fly with respect to YouTube's terms.
    – Pat W.
    May 26, 2020 at 11:17

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