Is it okay to use affiliate links on YouTube when you talk about various products and services in your video? Like, your Amazon Associates link or otherwise? Most people say affiliate links are not allowed. However, after some research through YouTube's Terms of Service, their policy, help section, and consulting with a lawyer, I feel as if it IS okay to use affiliate links. Here's why.
In YouTube's Terms of Service, section 4.D., it says, "You agree not to use the Service for any of the following commercial uses unless you obtain YouTube's prior written approval: … the sale of advertising, sponsorships, or promotions placed on or within the Service or Content…"
I consulted with a lawyer who specializes in working with online creators. His opinion is that, "The sale of promotions," is vague as to whether an affiliate link is considered a sale.
The problem I see with this is that MCNs actually make the bulk of their revenue from promoting other brands across their network. Brand integration is becoming more and more common.
YouTube's Partner Program Policy Guidelines says, "Do not embed third party advertising, sponsorships, or promotions placed on or within your video content. YouTube does allow you to upload paid product placements provided you give us notice first."
The first part of that is spelled out in more detail on the Paid Product Placements help page. It means that you cannot create your own pre-roll or mid-roll ads and permanently make it a part of the video file when a comparable YouTube ad unit already exists. To me, this seems to be an example of what section 4.D. of YouTube's Terms of Service is referring to.
The second part of the Partner Program Policy explicitly states that paid product promotion in your videos is totally fine as long as you give them notice first. When you upload a video to YouTube, it gives you a box to check to let them know that the video contains paid product placement. According to their Help section, this is how you notify them of paid product placement.
What is considered product placement?
"Paid product placements are defined as pieces of content that are created specifically for a sponsor and where that sponsor's brand, message, or product is integrated directly into the content. A typical example of a paid product placement is one in which a marketer pays a partner to specifically mention their product or brand in what would normally be the editorial part of the content."
It makes sense to me that affiliate links would be considered paid product placement, so check that box and you should be set.
Remember, I'm not an authoritative voice on this matter. This is just what I think based on the research I've done. If you use affiliate links, you do so at your own risk.
YouTube's Terms of Service
Policy Center: Spam, deceptive practices, and scams
YouTube Help: Paid Product Placements
YouTube Partner Program Policies
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Thanks to Jay Nolan for editing this video! Jay is in the Seattle, Washington area and does freelance video production. http://jaynolanfilm.com/