Concerned about video copyright laws? You should be. One copyright infringement may cost you up to $150,000.

When you’re ready to learn how to avoid infringing on copyrighted material and save yourself loads of cash, read on.

Some videos fall under the public domain, and you may use these without permission. These are the general rules for videos that fall under the public domain:

  1. If the video was published before March 1, 1989, and didn’t comply with at least one of the required formalities.
  2. The period of the video’s copyright protection ended.
  3. The copyright holder put it in the public domain under the Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication.

Other videos aren’t copyrightable, so you may use them at your leisure. They include the following:

  • Facts
  • Works not fixed in a tangible form of expression
  • Words, phrases, or familiar symbols
  • Ideas, concepts, discoveries, or principles
  • Works created by the US government

Similarly, you may use the video if you’re using it in a way that doesn’t implicate the rights of copyright holders. These are numerous and varied. It’s usually better to simply avoid videos that are already copyrighted.

  • Rights of reproduction
  • Economic rights
  • Substantial similarity
  • Rights of Public Performance and Display
  • Moral Rights

You may also use it if it’s permitted by a user’s right or if the use falls within an existing license.

Whenever you use a video that’s copyright-protected without the express permission of its creator, you’re committing copyright infringement. In other words, you’re using someone else’s video and passing it off as your own. Worse, the creator of that video didn’t agree to your blatant theft of their property.

Here’s what YouTube copyright laws infringement say about the matter. If you infringe on someone’s copyrighted video and are found liable, you may face damages up to $150,000 for each infringement. If your act of infringement is willful, your penalty may be even steeper.

3. Sound Bites

Of course, you need an audio component for your video. It would feel empty without it. That’s why you scour the net looking for music, sound clips, and even sound effects.

They’re available out there, so they must be free, right? Unfortunately, the answer is usually no. If you use these sounds without express permission from the owner, you run a high risk of copyright infringement under YouTube copyright policy.

Audio copyright policy works just like the video copyright policy. If you’re caught and found liable in a court of law, you’re then fined from $200 to $150,000 for each infringement.

The simplest way to avoid this is to create your soundbites. High-quality sound equipment is now available for a pittance. And you can pick up professional sound editing software for free online.

Create your sound clips and sound effects yourself. Though music is much more difficult to produce, you can often speak to local bands and ask for a short demo to use on your video. So long as you give them credit in your video, most are happy to do the trade.

You can also find “buyout” soundbites and music online. Essentially, you pay a one-time fee for unlimited use of the bite or music.

4. Fair Use Video Clips

This is where things get a little tricky. Did you know that copyright-protected works are sometimes permitted for unlicensed use if that use is considered a “freedom of expression?” You can find more details under Section 107 of the Copyright Act, but here’s the Cliff Notes version.

A judge determines Fair Use by analyzing each of these four factors:

1. What’s the character and purpose of use? That includes whether such use is for commercial or nonprofit educational purposes. Courts focus on whether the user adds some new meaning or expression to the work or whether it merely copies the original.

2. What’s the nature of the copyrighted video? Fictional works are less likely to fall under the Fair Use doctrine than factual works.

3. How long is the video snippet compared to the overall length of the original video? Small snippets are more likely to fall under the fair act laws than large snippets. Unfortunately, if that small snippet is considered to be the “heart of the work,” it’ll weigh against a Fair Use ruling.

4. What effect’s will the unauthorized use have on the copyrighted work’s value? If it harms the copyright owner’s potential profits, that weighs against a Fair Use ruling. Parodies are sometimes considered an exception to this rule.

The something around Fair Use doctrine is murky at best. To discover more about the effects of Fair Use on your particular circumstances contact a professional.

5. Fair Use Myths

Plenty of misinformation is floating around on the net that may mislead lead you into believing you’re covered by Fair Use doctrine. Know that if you use copyrighted material without the express consent of the owner, no silver bullet will guarantee your protection. Courts will weigh your case using the 4 criteria spelled out in the section above.

Myth #1: If I credit the copyright owner in my video, it falls under the Fair Use doctrine.

Remember, you’ve got to add new expression or meaning to a work for your use of a video to fall under Fair Use doctrine. Just because you use phrases like “all rights belong to the author,” or “I don’t own” doesn’t mean you’re using Fair Use.

Myth #2: When I post a disclaimer on my video, it falls under Fair Use.

Once again, no magic words will get you out of the 4 criteria laid out under Fair Use doctrine. Posting “no infringement intended,” or including the 4 Fair Use criteria in your video won’t protect you. If you think they will, go back and reread the 4 criteria because you’re missing the point.

Myth #3: Non-profit and entertainment fall under Fair Use.

For fair use to apply, one must fulfill all 4 criteria. “For entertainment purposes only” is unlikely to sway a judge that even one of the criteria is met. “Non-profit” is mentioned in Fair Use analysis, but it’s not considered an automatic defense by itself.

Myth #4: If I add my material to someone else’s copyrighted work, then my use is fair.

Even if you added original content, you might not be eligible for this defense. Courts will consider all 4 factors in the Fair Use test, including the quantity of material.

What’s Next?

Now you know how video copyright laws may affect your YouTube channel. Once again, if you have questions about your situation, don’t assume you’re covered by Fair Use doctrine. Contact a lawyer to ask for advice.

If you found this information helpful, skip over to our insanely huge library full of other discerning articles. So long and good luck!

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