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Putting Your Music Online Does Not Make It a Free-For-All

by | May 11, 2020 | Uncategorized

Music industry is like a game of cops and robbers

Too many Indians, no chiefs

Old School New School, LL Cool J

YouTube is a great way to share content in a way that’s free and convenient. It’s websites like YouTube where pop sensations, like Justin Bieber, have been discovered (for better or for worse). A small video can make huge wave for musicians to get recognized whether that’s more fans at concerts or a record deal. But does posting your content on YouTube mean that anyone can use it? What are the limits and dangers of posting on YouTube? In the next couple of years, it is estimated that videos will account for 82% of Internet traffic, making stealing music, lyrics, and ideas inevitable for almost anyone posting.

If you are an artist wanting to post on YouTube or any site, it’s important to consider where your ideas are coming from and if they are your own; and if the ideas are not completely original, knowing the difference between inspiration and theft.

The safest route a musician can take is copyrighting their sound and lyrics. That way the only individuals that can use your content are those who you give a license to do so. If there is a copyright, users on YouTube may submit a copyright takedown notice to request removal of the unauthorized videos. Posting without a creator’s permission could result in copyright infringement that varies on its damages. On YouTube the policy is that the video must be taken down, and at worst, the infringer gets a strike against them that can eventually suspend their account. If you do not have a formal copyright, on websites such as YouTube, Vinmeo, and Instagram, once you create a video, it is automatically copyrighted—meaning you have the full rights to it unless the respective website states differently.

If the music or video you are posting is your own, you can post it on your website. The general rule of using music that is not your own is that you can enjoy it privately but must ask for permission from the creator to use in a public manner (posting it for your own benefits whether they be monetary or not). But what about posting a video on your website or social media? Is that legal?

If the video contains images of individuals under the age of 18, you will need to get permission from those individuals’ parents or legal guardians.

YouTube has created a simpler way of knowing whether a video can be reposted. On YouTube, there are two types of copyrights. The first is conventional copyright where the creator has the full rights to the content, and you must get permission from the creator to post this video or use it in another way. The second is creative common CC BY copyright which allows for the creator to give permission to use their work by giving them credit for it—these are the videos that you can post on your website or blog, even if your website is for business.  To find creative commons copyrighted videos, one must use a Creative Common Search Tool (this is similar to searching “label for reuse” in Google Images). This search will reveal videos that may be posted on your website without asking for permission from the creator.

Hyperlinging—or posting a link—to a YouTube video is not copyright infringement because technically the video will not appear on your website. Hyperlinking takes a user from your site to the YouTube posting.

Embedding a video on your website can be copyright infringement depending on the copyright of the YouTube video. Therefore, searching whether the YouTube video is a creative commons copyright is essential to know before posting a video on your site.

If your videos are being used without your permission you may contact the individual posting without your permission and try to negotiate a license or ask them to remove the content entirely. A consultation with one of our lawyers may provide insight on what route you want to take when you find out your videos have been infringed. Know your rights! Review your copyright on your YouTube videos.

Aleksandra Syniec, who wrote this article, is a second-year law student at Seton Hall University School of Law. She is also knowledgeable in landlord-tenant law and the information technology. 

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