Video Marketing and The Law - What You Should Know

Video Marketing and The Law   What You Should KnowMark Rosenberg was recently published in Affiliate Summit's FeedFront magazine with his article titled "Video Marketing and the Law." We have the article for you to read here and Mark shares with us the basic proactive measures that all video marketers should be aware to to avoid common legal pitfalls, including: right of publicity issues, copyrights, licensing, contracts, and receiving proper consent.

Videos can be a very effective Internet marketing tool. Yet, this tool comes with several hidden legal issues. These pitfalls can be avoided if the video marketer is aware of them and takes proactive measures.

Right of Publicity issues with online video

The most overlooked issue in video marketing is the right of publicity. This right relates to a person's ability to control whether and how his or her name, likeness and voice are used. In order to avoid right of publicity disputes, affiliate marketers should have all persons appearing in their videos sign a release granting the marketer the right to use that person's name, likeness, image, etc. in connection with the recording, display and distribution of the video.

Get consents in writing

These consents must be in writing. That is because some states do not recognize oral consents even if the consent is recorded on video. Everyone appearing in the video should sign a release, regardless of whether the person is an employee, family or a friend. That way, if an actor has a change of heart after the video is taped or after it begins to be displayed, the marketer is protected. Otherwise, the actor could potentially bring a lawsuit for a monetary award and an injunction prohibiting the use of the video.

Copyright issues with online video

Copyright law also plays a major role in video marketing. Preliminarily, in almost all cases, using video images copied from YouTube or from a television network's or a show's Web site without consent is a copyright violation. While the basics of copyright infringement are usually obvious, the concept of copyright ownership is not. As a result, affiliate marketers are often not aware that just because they pay someone to create a video, they do not necessarily own the copyright in that work.

In many cases, the person who actually creates the video is considered the work's author and the owner of its copyright. In fact, everyone involved in the creation of the video, including the script writer, the director and the production crew may own a portion of the copyright in the finished video and possess the legal right to determine whether and how the video can be used.

This issue can be avoided by having all persons involved in the creation of the video sign a work-for-hire agreement before production commences. These agreements are written contracts which specify that entity which commissions the video owns the entire copyright in it.

Background music is an additional copyright issue in video marketing. This issue is often overlooked. Unless the video uses only original music created by the affiliate marketer, the marketer must obtain consent to use the music. Otherwise, there is a potential infringement issue.

By employing these basic measures, you can avoid many of the legal issues raised by video marketing.

About Attorney Mark Rosenberg

For some background, Mark J. Rosenberg is Of Counsel to Sills Cummis & Gross P.C. where a significant part of his practice focuses on legal issues relating to ecommerce. I've interviewed Mark twice for ReelSEO on right of publicity issues with online video, and overall legal considerations with online video marketing. I've also shared a panel with Mark in December 2009 at the Search Engine Strategies conference in Chicago, where we both presented on legal issues with affiliate marketing. Mark can be reached directly at mrosenberg [at]

Thanks to FeedFront publisher Shawn Collins for allowing us to reprint the article here at ReelSEO.

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Posted in Video & The Law
About the Author -
Grant Crowell is a veteran “social video stylist” working in video marketing since 2005. He has worked in the online marketing industry since 1996 providing digital strategies and development to enterprises and entrepreneurs of all sizes, including Video SEO, YouTube marketing, video UX best practices, performance testing, legal issues and ethics. Contact Grant @ View All Posts By -

What do you think? ▼
  • William @ DIY Video Marketing

    Great, useful post. The music bit should be highlighted for anyone who opens up iMovie... I don't know how many online videos I've seen that lift music like it's all free. I'd also like to see what Mr. Rosenberg has to say about location releases, as some states like New York & Georgia are free and easy and others (California) have quite stringent rules.