YouTube is a great place for sharing your creative, original work with the world. Sometimes, you may want to include a movie clip or a song snippet in one of your videos. However, copyright crackdowns can put your videos in jeopardy if you don’t know the rules. The legal doctrine of fair use protects and promotes the freedom of expression by allowing you to use copyrighted materials unlicensed in your own creative work.
Here’s what every YouTuber needs to know about fair use.
1. Fair use only applies in certain circumstances.
Fair use comes out of Section 107 of the US Copyright Act, which identifies certain sets of circumstances in which fair use applies. These categories include news reporting, commentary, scholarship, and research.
So, if you were to go to a movie theater and film the last few minutes of the latest superhero film to put at the end of your vlog, you would be breaking copyright law. However, if you were to use a few clips in a movie review video, then you’d be protected under fair use because that video fits under commentary.
2. Creating transformative work is your safest bet.
If one of your videos was to get taken to court over a copyright claim, then the court would carefully consider the purpose and character of your use of the copyrighted work. They would determine if you used the copyrighted material for financial gain, if it was for educational use, etc.
Since most YouTube content is commercial, you’ll be safest if you only use copyrighted material to create transformative work. You can add something new or give the work a different purpose or character. Basically, if you transform the material into something original and new, then you’ll most likely be protected under fair use.
The popular channel Music Video Sins is protected under fair use because, although its videos include copyrighted music videos, the mocking nature of the channel’s creations transforms them into something entirely new.
3. Use copyrighted material sparingly.
Copyright courts will also look at both the quantity and the quality of the copyrighted material that you used. For example, using an entire Selena Gomez song in the background of your video will get you a copyright strike, but just using a short snippet as a transition is more likely to be protected.
As far as the quality of the material, it’s best to stay away from the “heart” of copyrighted material. If you’re making a video about Harry Potter, then you probably wouldn’t want to include a clip of the scene in The Deathly Hallows where Harry defeats the evil Voldemort once and for all. It would be better to use smaller snippets from less important scenes and just describe the major plot points you want to talk about.
For more information on fair use, check out the video below or this link.
Fair use is a legal protection that benefits content creators like you. By learning the rules of copyright, you’ll better equip yourself to create both original and transformative work.
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Kristen Harris enjoys listening to a wide range of music, from Taylor Swift to, on occasion, Celtic instrumental. She also spends her time writing, reading, and baking.