Fair use of pictures for a commentary/culture channel. How do they make a living?


New Member
Someone told me that critique, commentary and educative content wasn't fair use when it comes to using copyrighted pictures.

I'm really surprised because of the countless youtube channels that monetize things like fashion show reviews including dozens of pictures they didn't take in each video, channels like The Art Assignment that include paintings, or people that include movie stills in their review videos. I know most of those people live off this activity and some of them are small channels with little means, so there is no way they get licencing for everything. That would be an extremely long and costly process. Yet, this is a whole industry. So basically they are in illegal territory?

I get a lot of "I think it's fair but I'm not sure". So I have to keep on searching and I haven't come to a clear answer after 2 days. I'm trying to get this answer directly from people that made this type of content for a while, still got no response.
Sorry; but the prior respondent is incorrect if the still images are the sole visual content. Content based on still images, copyrighted or not, has been disallowed for monetization since March of 2018.

The entire Top Facts, Motivational Quotes and Celebrity News genres have found this out to their disappointment; as more and more owners of these channel types are either rejected outright for monetization on initial application, or are demonetized after years of YPP Membership.

Also: YouTube doesn't take Fair Use into account when doing a monetization review. Please read the below excerpt from YouTube's Channel monetization policies regarding Reused Content.

"Content that violates this guideline
Taking someone else’s content, making minimal changes, and calling it your own original work would be a violation of this guideline. This policy applies even if you have permission from the original creator. Reused content is separate from YouTube’s Copyright enforcement, which means it’s not based on copyright, permission, or fair use. This guideline means sometimes, you may not get claims against your content, but your channel may still violate our reused content guidelines.

More examples of what’s not allowed to monetize (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Clips of moments from your favorite show edited together with little or no narrative
  • Short videos you compiled from other social media websites
  • Collections of songs from different artists (even if you have their permission)
  • Content uploaded many times by other creators
  • Promotion of other people’s content (even if you have permission)"