When you share content online, most viewers appreciate it as intended, but others might copy it for future unauthorized distribution or modification. Copyright laws exist, but can be challenging to enforce in cyberspace.
Most content creators accept this, but it’s particularly painful when a video you made got ripped off. Far more effort goes into shooting and editing a good video than writing a blog or taking a photo. What can you do about video copyright infringement?
Understanding possible intent
It’s easy to understand why a random internet user might want to download a clip of a sports event, TV show, or celebrity performance, and repost it as their own. These video resources appeal to a mass audience. Thus, stealing them can easily lead to more likes and views, which are the currency on most social media platforms.
But if that’s not what your content is about, why would someone infringe on your copyright? The reasons vary greatly. The bottom line, though, is that original content has the potential to be more exciting and attract more viewers. Even if you cater to a niche audience, there might be related blogs that could benefit from lifting a sequence out of your interview with an industry expert, for instance.
If your video has a high production value, clips taken from it could be repurposed as stock footage. This might not always be done with malicious intent. Online creators might believe that their actions fall under the exceptions defined for fair use purposes. Examples include the production of reviews, news, or parody videos.
Staying on the alert
Knowing when your video has been infringed can be a tricky matter. Technology allows the embedding of multiple data tags for video court reporters to quickly search and index footage; it’s certainly possible for you to add a digital watermark.
But a knowledgeable end-user can stream and record it with screen capture software. Once it’s been downloaded onto a device, you can’t find that video until it emerges somewhere else, possibly heavily edited and modified.
If your content was uploaded to a social media platform such as YouTube or Vimeo, they have algorithms that periodically check for duplication and potential infringement. You can also use a third-party service to monitor specific keywords across social networks. There’s a good chance that anyone reposting your video will also be using the same hashtags. Vigilant users on social media can also alert you when someone has uploaded content identical to yours.
Finally, if your content was being hosted on a dedicated website, your CMS can help you track viewers. Check with your website administrator for any information they can unearth on who viewed a particular file.
If you can confirm that your video content has been reposted without your permission, your first option should be direct communication. As you’ll recall, the person responsible might be misinformed or under the impression that what they did with the footage falls under fair use.
You can take a different view of the matter, and resolving this conflict quickly should be in the best interest of both parties. Clarify your position as the copyright owner. Give them some options to either take down the material, attribute it properly, or pay for a license. Often, users who had no intention of infringement will comply without further ado.
In case that doesn’t resolve the matter, you can report the user to the social media platform or blog host where they’ve uploaded the offending material. And if that still doesn’t yield any progress, it’s best to consult with your lawyer on sending a DMCA takedown notice, as well as any further steps you can take.
Cover your bases
As a content creator, it’s easy to feel confident that your material is 100% original, and aggrieved when someone rips off your work. But before you consider taking legal action against someone for potentially infringing on your video copyright, you’d do well to ensure that your own copyright bases are covered.
Anyone who appears on-camera should have signed a release form. The same goes for footage recorded at a private property. And you must have appropriate permissions to use any audio or stills that you didn’t personally create. Again, though, this can be subject to fair use exceptions.
One more valuable precaution you can take is to register your copyright. This makes you potentially eligible to be awarded statutory damages and attorney’s fees. They can go as high as $150,000 for willful infringement and give useful leverage in settlement negotiations. Registration has a fee, though, so be sure to take this step if you feel your video is more valuable or likely to be the subject of infringement.