I would like to use sombodys content from a youtube channel which has a copyright. The general advise is to "ask for permission" to do so. I wonder now what the implications are if the person says "yes".

Is this now like a legal contract depending on the juristication?

Can the permissions later be revoked?

Since there are many details that are not clear like on which platforms I gonna publish, what kind of content I do, etc etc, what does this all actually mean what I can and cannot do?

2 Answers 2


Yes, this is a contract

In common law jurisdictions, a licence to use something is a type of contract (in civil law jurisdictions they are their own animal distinct from contracts).

The terms are whatever you agree with the owner. Things like whether the licence can be revoked and when and where you can use the material all need to be worked out between you and the owner.

If you don’t work them out and you latter get into dispute, the court will look at the context of your agreement and imply terms that give effect to what a reasonable person would understand was agreed.

  • 1
    -1 A license may be a contract in a common-law country. If the copyright owner receives no consideration it is not a contract. That is, if the owner simply makes a gift of permission, it is not a contract. Apr 23, 2022 at 18:03
  • I'd reword the first line to "It's a License" - which would fix the critic that it isn't always a contract.
    – Trish
    Apr 23, 2022 at 19:28

A license may or may not be a contract in a common-law jurisdiction. If the copyright owner charges a fee, it is a contract. If the owner demands some promise from the licensee, such as the use of a particular text as a credit line, it is a contract. It the permission is essentially a gift from the owner, then it is not a contract in a common-law country such as the US.

A license can be for a fixed period, or an indefinite one. It may be subject to cancellation at the will of the copyright owner, or only under certain circumstances.

(Under US law the owner has an absolute right to cancel a license during a five-year period that starts 35 years after the work was created, or in some cases 35 years after the license was granted. No license may lawfully waive or cancel this right; any attempt to waive it is void and of no effect.)

The license may, but need not, specify where or in what venues (platforms) the licensee may publish the work. It may, but need not, specify whether the licensee is permitted to charge for the work, and if so, how much.

The license should specify whether the owner is charging for the license, and if so on what basis and how much. This might be a flat fee, a per copy fee, an annual fee, a percentage of receipts (aka a royalty), or on some other basis.

Normally the copyright owner drafts the license, and the prospective licensee accepts it or not. But either party may suggest the terms of the license, and if the other accepts, it is a deal. The parties may discuss back-and-forth until they come to an agreement.

A license may, but often does not, permit the licensee to create modified versions (derivative works) of the licensed work.

It is a very good idea for the license to explicitly spell out all these options: whether it can be canceled and if so, when and under what circumstances; whether it expires; whether a fee is charged and if so on what basis; whether there are limits on the uses that the licensee may make; any specific form of attribution required; any other requirements or restrictions; what country's law the license is issued under. If any of those are missing and the issue later comes up and is disputed (and the dispute is taken to court), a court will fill in the missing terms based on what the court thinks the parties' original intent was. It is much better to have a clear agreement at the start, and no need to go to court later.

If you ask permission from an author to use one of that author's works, the author may well have a standard license that s/he insists on. Or the author may be vague, in which case the prospective licensee may well suggest terms.

In most countries a license need not be in writing, but it is a very good idea that it is in writing, and signed, and that each party has a copy, and that measures are taken to show that each party agreed, such as having the document setting out the license witnessed or notarized.

The license should describe specifically what work or works it applies to, often with an attached image or recording.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .