Copyright Strikes on YouTube Thumbnails

Hero image: Copyright Strikes for YouTube Thumbnails
Article last updated on:
March 11, 2024

This guide answers one of the most common questions about YouTube Thumbnails.

Let’s check it out.

Can I get copyright strike on thumbnail?

Yes, you can get a copyright strike on a thumbnail using someone else’s copyrighted content. This doesn’t happen often, but it’s always better being safer.

Reasons why you may get a copyright strike:

How to Avoid Copyright Strikes on Thumbnails

To avoid getting a copyright strike for your video’s thumbnail, make sure you design them yourself. Stay away from any controversial combinations of text + logos, as they often lead to strikes.

Let’s break this down.

Step 1: Use Original or Licensed Content

Example of a YouTube Thumbnail with Text - Video By Donut Media
  • Create your own graphics, screenshots, or gameplay footage (with permission if needed).
  • Find images and videos in the public domain or with Creative Commons licenses that allow use with attribution.

Step 2: Look out for Copyrighted Material

  • Avoid copyrighted content: characters, logos, or artwork.
  • Use screenshots and game footage cautiously. Check the terms of service for guidelines.

Useful Advice: How to spot copyrighted content.

Step 3: Quality over Clickbait

  • Focus on eye-catching thumbnails that are relevant to your content.
  • Don’t use misleading or clickbaity elements that violate YouTube’s community guidelines.

Example of a great thumbnail + title combination:

MrBeast's Example of a "Versus" YouTube Thumbnail

See what it does? Raises your interest, but not in a “clickbaity” way.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can you get a copyright strike for a picture?

Yes, you can definitely get a copyright strike for using a picture in your YouTube thumbnail if it’s copyrighted and you don’t have permission to use it.

Here’s why:

  • Thumbnails can be copyrighted works, especially if they contain original photos or creative elements.
  • Copyright owners have the right to control how their work is used, including public display. Using their work in your thumbnail without permission is copyright infringement.
  • YouTube takes copyright infringement seriously. If the copyright owner files a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown notice, YouTube may remove your thumbnail and even issue a copyright strike against your channel.

2. Can you use any image for a thumbnail on YouTube?

No, you can’t use just any image for a YouTube thumbnail due to two copyright and YouTube’s guidelines.

  1. Copyright: Uploading an image that infringes on someone else’s copyright can lead to a claim or strike against your channel. This applies to images containing copyrighted characters, scenes, or even certain fonts.
  2. YouTube’s Community Guidelines: Thumbnails violating these guidelines, like showing nudity, violence, or misleading content, won’t be allowed.

So, while you have some freedom in choosing an image, make sure it respects copyright and adheres to YouTube’s content guidelines.

3. Which thumbnails can lead to a copyright strike?

If you’re unsure about whether something is copyrighted, it’s always best to safe on the side of caution and not use it.

  1. Using Copyrighted Images: If you grab an image from the web that’s copyrighted and use it in your thumbnail without permission, that’s a no-go.
  2. Movie or TV Show Stills: Slapping a screenshot from a popular movie or TV show onto your thumbnail without clearance can land you in trouble.
  3. Artwork and Illustrations: Using someone else’s artwork or illustrations, even if you modify them, without getting the green light from the creator can lead to a strike.
  4. Logos and Branding: Dropping logos or branded elements into your thumbnail without permission can be a problem, especially if it suggests endorsement or affiliation.
  5. Video Game Content: Using screenshots or artwork from video games can also be tricky, depending on the game publisher’s policies.


This guide just took you through everything about copyrights + thumbnails.

Thank you for reading this,

About the author

David is the head of the editing team at ThumbnailTest. With his help, the editorial team is able to provide you with the best free guides related to YouTube thumbnails and A/B testing.