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Being that most of us are career marketers or video professionals, copyright protection, ownership, trademarks, fair-use and other legal matters that relate to the internet can be a bit confusing to understand.  How should one go about copyright protecting video content for the web?  How and when can you use other peoples' copyrighted work in videos withouth infringing on the law?  What can you do when your own material is being used without your permission?

Understanding the answers to these questions is of paramaount importance to those of us that are serious about our future in online video. On this week's creator's tip, Tim talks with a copyright and trademark attorney, Kenneth Kunkle, in order to get answers to these questions and more...

Understanding Video Copyright Law

The law says the copyright (from "right to copy") extends to original works of authorship fixing in a tangible form.  That means if you create any original content – writing it down, creating a video, recording an audio – you own the copyright to that content by default.

While your material is copyright-protected from the moment you create it, in order to enforce that copyright should someone infringe on your work requires you to have it registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.  This will protect your material for the lifetime of the author plus 70 years.

If you want to learn more about US Copyright law and guidelines for registering video and motion picture copyrights, check out this material from the US Copyright Office, titled, "Copyright Registration for Motion Pictures, Including Video Recordings" - here.

Common Copyright Myths & Misperceptions

There is a lot of misinformation out there about copyrights.  Some of these include:

1) I need to put a copyright notice in my videos to prove I own it.

There is no requirement under the US Copyright Law that says you need to put notice within your videos to claim ownership.  However, it never hurts to put it in since there are a lot of people out there who are confused about what is copyright-protected material and it could avoid the time and hassle of sending a Cease and Desist and/or taking additional legal action.

2) Mailing a copy of my work to myself or uploading it to my website proves creation and ownership. 

This is not the best way to protect yourself in the event there is litigation for damages or ownership.  If you are really concerned about protecting your content, spend the $35-$70 and register it properly with the copyright office.  This will be the best evidence for your case.

3) Due to Fair Use, if someone uses my content on their site without my consent, there is nothing I can do about it.

The Fair Use Act does give people the ability to use things without compensating the original provider, however, if someone did use your work and you want them to stop, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act protects you.  It was created to provide online providers a way to deal with claims of copyright-protected material.  If your request to both the party and the hosting provider to take down your material are denied you can then contact a copyright lawyer to send a cease and desist.

Understanding Fair Use

Fair use is a concept that is in the copyright law as part of the statutes.  While copyright law wants to value the artists or people who create things, they also realize we are in a society of free speech.  Because of this, there certain uses of copyright-protected material such as when it’s being used for comment, criticism or scholarly works.

There are four factors the law looks at to determine whether something is being used within fair use.

  1. Purpose and character of the use
  2. Nature of the copyright work
  3. Amount and sustainability of the portion (ie how much did you use)
  4. Effect the use has on the market of the original content

Our own Grant Crowell has written a ton about online video and the law including several articles about fair use in online video.  Here are some good articles to review if you want to learn more:

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