(Mainly based on US copyright laws) Although YouTube is an amazing platform for social activity and gaining the approval of the public, it is also subjected to a wide variety of copyright infringement practices. Users are suspended and videos are banned on a regular basis as many people use copyrighted materials to make their videos. However, there is a method in which certain materials can be used for specific purposes. When you hear the term “fair use” when it involves YouTube or any other video hosting service, it means that the material follows a certain guideline that releases the user from legal obligations involving the use of this copyrighted content.
1. News Reporting – Channels that focus on reporting news about a specific niche could use copyrighted material as “fair use” as long as the channel is offering a substantial form of reporting about the material. Simply stating that you are reporting on the new song by a specific artists doesn’t necessarily release you from infringement if a case can be made that your motives for using the content are other than news related. If the content you use is longer than the length of your news content, you could be liable.
2. Educational – Portions of copyrighted material can be included in educational videos if it is obvious that there is something to be learned from the experience. For instance, a college theater course could use segments of a movie in order to demonstrate a particular style of acting. Classes involving 3D animation could use a clip from animated movies such as Shrek to demonstrate how computer imagery can effectively tell a story. Tutorials regarding pieces of software or other copyrighted materials can be created as they are used as a teaching tool for the specific product. In this case, the odds of being sued are negligible as you are actually helping the copyright holder by demonstrating how to use the product.
3. Non-profit – Many instances of non-profit organizations may use copyrighted materials if they can prove there is no income created from it. As long as the material doesn’t provide a basis for commercialization, there is a possibility that “fair use” will protect the developer. However, this can be a very controversial method as the material can be demonstrated in a negative light which may prompt the copyright holder to sue regardless.
4. Reviews – Segments of copyrighted material can be used under “fair use” in order to critique the material in question. As long as the material’s length is reasonable, one could critique game play, acting, or musical prowess of the originating artist. However, featuring a 90-minute full-length video with a five minute review at the end may still get your account suspended and the video removed as it may be “unreasonable” to show the entire movie in order to feature a short review. Your personal content should be three to four times longer than the clip you are using. This isn’t a rule, but it’s a way to help prevent yourself from being on the end of a lawsuit.
It’s always safer to maintain your own personal distance from using copyrighted material whenever possible. Unless you are operating a review or educational channel of some kind, using this material could get you and your channel banned – not to mention sued by the license holder for a great deal of money and possible jail time. You should always develop your own style and material to avoid complications down the road.
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