The Four Big Myths About Copyright And Online Video

The Four Big Myths About Copyright And Online Video

As a video content producer, I consulted an attorney before starting my business, and she was worth her weight in gold. She advised putting two key phrases in to all my agreements. One of the phrases leaves no question that - even though my client paid me to produce the work - I retain full licensing rights to the video. The other phrase gives me some protection against a copyright infringement lawsuit.

Copyright protection has certainly changed from a practical standpoint since the age of the internet. While the laws protecting creators have strengthened since 1996, the practicality and ease of using copyrighted images and videos makes protecting your work a constant challenge. There are so many questions that need answers like “if I use a Google image in a video or in a blog post, what types of ramifications might there be?"

Myths About Copyright and Online Video and Images

There are so many assumptions about copyright and the use of video or photo content that rightly belong to others. Let's take a look at the big four:

The Four Big Myths About Copyright And Online VideoMyth #1: One, if a photograph or video is on the internet and free and available to be seen by anyone it’s completely in the public domain, and is not protected by a copyright.

False. The creator of the work owns the rights to it unless that creator has explicitly given up all rights or the copyright has expired.

The Four Big Myths About Copyright And Online VideoMyth #2: Using just small amount of a copyrighted video in your work constitutes as fair use, right? What if I wanted to highlight something, or use an example from a video for a news story?

Not necessarily. Fair use covers critics, the news, and educational uses. If you use copyrighted material in your promotional video, you may be committing copyright infringement.

The Four Big Myths About Copyright And Online VideoMyth #3: Three, in the age of the internet, no one is really going to enforce copyright protection. After all, the internet is full of videos and images that everyone uses all the time. 

False. Attorney Steve Hill, who specializes in intellectual property, trademark, and copyright law, says “web hosting companies don’t want to be part of a copyright infringement case. So, they are quick to follow the law and take down an offending website.”

The Four Big Myths About Copyright And Online VideoMyth #4: If a copyright notice is not given, the copyright doesn’t exist. I can't really be expected to track down a copyright claim every time I want to use a video clip can I?

False. No notice of copyright is required. The creator of any original work has an implied right to that work even if no notice is given. This issue was addressed in 1989. That said, it’s not a bad idea to put the copyright notice on your video, because that makes it more challenging for an offender to claim they didn’t know the work was protected.

Copyright and Video: Where Do You Stand?

There are many more issues and questions involved in copyright protection and the internet. For instance, what types of statements in a creator’s agreement should be explicity stated? How do video producers protect their rights to a video that clients are paying for? Are video producers liable for using a copyrighted image, if that image is provided by the client? What are the best practices for protecting your rights and making sure you are not infringing on anyone else’s copyright?

Since 1996, the courts have continued to rule in favor of content producers and have not eroded copyright protection just because the internet makes that protection more challenging. So, if your video is on youtube.com or on a customer’s website, and available for free to anyone, it is not considered “in the public domain” unless you specifically give up your rights. The work is still protected whether you have a copyright notice or not, states Steve Hill of Hill, Kertscher, & Wharton, LLP.

What about if YOUR content is stolen, what can you do? Hill says you could end up taking down the offender’s website entirely. Keep in mind, that could also happen to you if you are not respectful of copyright laws.

Learn From the Experts

With the help of Reelseo.com, and sponsors such as Coytalk, a video transcription company that specializes in closed captioning transcripts, and Tony Hill of Performance PC, who builds live streaming systems, the Atlanta Internet Video Marketing Association or ATIVMA, is offering a live consultation with a copyright and trademark attorney with an impressive client list, including “Hooters”. Steve Hill will speak to the group and answer questions both from those in the audience and those joining us via live stream.

It’s a great opportunity to consult with an attorney without the expense of a one hour consultation fee. Hill is donating his time because he believes video producers should stay informed of court decisions involving copyright protection, such as the recent case involving Aereo, a company distributing copyrighted television shows and movies by selling antennas directly to consumers. Though the Supreme Court sided with broadcasters, Hill thinks content creators should learn how these types of decisions can affect anyone in the business of creating and protecting their content.

While he will tell you that the courts are in favor of protecting copyrights, he will also tell you, one should consider take practical steps in the world of the web and dvd ripper and screencasting software. “Television stations and movie studios used to be the only distributors of video content, and now everything has changed with the way people use and distribute copyrighted works”, said Hill.

What types of things should you have in your contracts? What practices could get you sued? How do you protect your rights? These questions and many more will come out when Steve Hill speaks on copyright, video, and the web. It’s coming up on July 17th @ 7pm EST, and you can join it live with your questions. Those who register will also have access to the archived video. ReelSEO is proud to sponsor this event and help its members learn more about protecting their work. To register, go to www.meetup.com/ATIVMA. The fee to watch live and get access to the archived video is $10. Other in kind sponsors include Van Gogh Video, the Atlanta Marketing Association, and the Atlanta Interactive Marketing Association.


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Posted in Video & The Law
About Our Contributing Author - Donna Davis
Donna Davis is the founder of the Atlanta Internet Video Marketing Association. As owner of Marietta Video Productions, she founded the organization to help Atlanta video producers stay on top of all the latest video marketing trends. You can see examples of About Us videos on her site.

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Please Note: Opinions expressed in this article are those of the contributing author and not necessarily that of

Become a Contributor: Occasionally, we like to offer experts within the online video industry the chance to write a post for ReelSEO. We like it because it offers you readers great content, and it comes directly from those in the field that are working on the technologies to power this online video revolution of sorts ;-) If you are interested in becoming a contributing author, please feel free to let us know. Read our post on becoming a contributor for additional information.

What do you think? ▼
  • Grant Crowell

    Glad I founded the "Video and Law" category on this site in the early years of ReelSEO, and nice to see my post on this particular topic is still popular: http://www.reelseo.com/copyrighted-music-in-video/

    • donnadavis

      Grant, yes, it's a really important issue, and I think a lot of video producers don't realize how important until there is a problem.

      • Grant Crowell

        You're right, Donna. Unfortunately my experience is for those who are not with an established agency, video producers and marketers tend to not think about legal issues until after the fact (i.e., when it happens to them). It's one of those unpleasant things that they'd rather not deal with, especially if they think it gets in the way of their publishing and promoting content.

        However I think the best people like you and I can do is give them these reminders, and show examples of what happens when they don't take precautions. Something as simple as hiring an attorney for initial consulting can be a good start for being mindful of these issues. I tell my clients to look at it more as "insurance," but a competitive advantage.

        Tube Responsibly: Think Before You Shoot! :-)

  • Celine MILOT

    Hi Donna,
    I completely agree with you.
    The points you raise are very fair and I also noticed this kind of false beliefs in my own work. It happens so often that I have to explain the ins and outs of video, picture and music copyrights to companies.
    I will definitely share your article, thank you for this.