When an active YouTube user infringes on copyright laws, there are serious consequences. YouTube takes the breaches seriously and will remove all infringing videos upon receipt of a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) notice. It will also penalize the offender with a “strike”. If the offender receives three strikes, their account and monetization efforts will be suspended.

Our online reputation management specialists in Toronto, Ontario have received many questions and inquiries about YouTube account suspensions and DMCA requests in recent months. The number of inquiries has increased as YouTube’s community guidelines and terms of use policies have become more stringent. The following are 5 important tips YouTube video creators can follow to protect themselves from copyright claims and avoidable account suspensions:

Who Owns the Copyright

If you take a video with your phone or camera, the copyright belongs to you. If you upload content (e.g., videos and images) created by someone else, the copyright belongs to that person, and you must have permission to do it….otherwise that person may end up successfully issuing a DMCA request to YouTube.

Under U.S. law, copyright in a photograph or video is the property of the person who presses the shutter on the camera. It is NOT the person who owns the camera, and not even the person in the photo or video. Unless a written agreement exists that makes the photo a work made for hire, any person you ask to take your picture or video with your camera owns the copyright in that photo — not you.

As soon as the work is created so is the copyright. Since 1992, there is no longer a renewal process. Copyright lives with the creator — and even lives on for a period after the death of the creator.

How to Avoid a Public Relations

The following is some advice that our Online Reputation Management team has compiled for YouTube video creators to help them maintain a clean online reputation:

1. Attribution Does Not Absolve You of Copyright Claims

When people use other people’s work and claim it as theirs, the infringement is blatantly obvious. What many video creators do not realize is that attribution and giving someone credit for the content does not absolve them from copyright claims. Attribution is still considered a breach and can earn you a strike by YouTube. Permission to post is needed.

2. Fair Use of Copyrighted Materials is Complicated

YouTube recognizes exceptions to video creators who post videos for fair use reasons. These exceptions will protect you from any copyright claims and DMCA requests made by content creators. The Center for Social Media’s Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video has identified six uses as being probable fair use:

  1. Commenting on or critiquing of copyrighted material
  2. Using copyright material for illustration or example
  3. Capturing copyrighted material incidentally or accidentally
  4. Reproducing, reposting, or quoting in order to memorialize, preserve, or rescue an experience, an event, or a cultural phenomenon
  5. Copying, reposting, and recirculating a work or part of a work for purposes of launching a discussion
  6. Quoting in order to recombine elements to make a new work that depends for its meaning on (often unlikely) relationships between the elements

It is important to note that just because you think your work is protected under the fair use laws does not mean that the owner of the copyrighted content cannot sue you. They may still report you as violating copyright law and try to get your video taken down. If you are sure that you are in the right under fair use then you can counter their take down notice and try to explain your side and work things out with them to keep your video online.

3. YouTube Algorithms are on the lookout for Copyright Infringement

Content owners do not necessarily have to submit a DMCA request for YouTube to accuse someone of plagiarism. YouTube continues to refine its copyright detection system. The system includes sophisticated algorithms that scan every uploaded video and compare it to similar uploaded content, looking for matches with music, video, or pictures. It seems music gets detected the most. Even if it is background music, you may get sanctioned. Should YouTube see that every video that you post is not your original, it will suspend your account for Community Guideline violations…and 3 strikes you are out.

4. Avoid Using Music from Big Labels

Do not use music from big music labels as they will benefit from your content upload. They have copyrighting notices in place that redirects any revenue you earn to their Adsense account. Opt to use royalty-free music for your videos instead. Royalty-free music is copyright free, meaning that once you buy or get the track, you can use it for free in a video without being charged for the music. A good resource where you can get royalty-free music is the YouTube Audio Library.

5. When in Doubt, Don’t Do It!

If you are unable to decipher whether you abuse copyright law or not, the simplest way is not to upload. It is not wise to think that your violation would not be caught by the owner or YouTube. This is the simplest way to be completely safe and use YouTube for your business. Original content has nothing to do with copies, legal or not.

We hope that these 5 tips help remind you that digital copyright laws remain relevant to ensuring that content creators are properly incentivized and protected in creating the content that we all enjoy. Did these tips raise other copyright related questions or concerns you have? If so, please don’t hesitate to contact us!

iRISEmedia | Online Reputation Management Agency | Toronto

iRISEmedia.com is a Toronto based Digital Marketing Agency specializing in social media management, digital marketing, online reputation management and online branding. Our team helps clients manage and grow their online presence and branding to increase qualified web traffic and online leads. We service clients in Toronto and throughout Canada and the U.S. Contact our Online Reputation Management division for a free quote and analysis.