Basic Rules To Using Third Party Content in Your Own YouTube Videos

I’m not a lawyer, but I’ll play one on YouTube just to fuck with you.

Here is a list of websites you ignorant little turds might want to get familiar with (you know how to operate an iPhone but don’t have any courtesy for the content creators or the critical thinking skills to seek that knowledge… that’s utterly ironic… translation: fail).

http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html
http://creativecommons.org/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_domain

DISCLAIMER: I WANT TO EMPHASIZE AGAIN THAT I AM NOT A LAWYER, BUT I BELIEVE I HAVE BASIC UNDERSTANDING OF COPYRIGHT LAWS. FOR THE MOST PART, THESE LAWS EXIST TO DISPUTE INTENTIONAL ABUSE OF PEOPLE’S RIGHTS TO PROFIT OFF THEIR OWN CREATIVE CONTENT. THAT’S POSSIBLY A UNIQUE AMERICAN CAPITALIST MENTALITY. YOU PUT YOUR HARDWORK AND SWEAT INTO PRODUCING SOMETHING, THEREFORE IT IS IMMORAL FOR SOMEONE ELSE TO STEAL IT AND PROFIT OFF IT. SO USING THAT AS THE BASIS FOR MY OWN INTERPRETATION, HERE IS MY UNDERSTANDING OF IT AS IT PERTAINS TO YOUTUBE.

How do I know when I can use someone else’s work in my own YouTube videos?

First rule of thumb: when in doubt, don’t use it. Unless you are certain you know the author won’t sue the living daylights off you, don’t risk it. The fact that you had to ask means you don’t know, so if you really are compelled to make a YouTube video, sit yourself down in a chair and talk only about yourself. Don’t sing lyrics from your favorite song, don’t play the latest Lady Gaga track, don’t cut in video of Britney Spear’s cootch. Just talk about yourself and nothing else (this is to prevent defamation, but that’s for another post for another day).

What is fair usage?

Fair usage is a clause in copyright law that allows people to use content they did not create for the purpose of criticizing, reviewing, or making an artistic statement about that particular content. You might also be able to use third party content for parody, but even this is hard to define. For example, you can’t composite yourself into a video of yourself dancing with Steve Urkel and the gang doing “The Urkel” and claim it’s a parody because you don’t own the Family Matters footage. However, you might be able to recreate the scene and hire your own actors and physically film it as an homage to the dance sequence. That would be a true parody, as long as it’s clear it is a parody. Then, you might even be able to show a quick clip of the actual footage to show what you’re basing the parody on, which would then be fair use. Do you get it? You didn’t misappropriate the footage, because one way of using it is perceived as though you’re taking credit for it (by using it as your background video), and the other is acknowledging that you didn’t create it and won’t profit from the original (which would be stealing the owner’s right to profit from their creation). However, this too can be abused, and you might end of plagarizing or pirating the third party’s content. Again, when in doubt, don’t do it.

Here’s another example: Brian McKnight recently released a silly, dirty song teaching young women how their genitals work. You can’t upload the entire song as your own, claiming you wrote it, performed it, own it, etc. But if you played a clip of it and had some criticism of it, like a review of how well McKnight sang it, or how dirty the lyrics are, or how the song might affect your community, then it would fall under fair use. As long as you don’t play the whole song and try to get away with saying it’s fair use because viewers need to hear the whole song to know what you’re reviewing/criticizing. Sometimes, it just has to do with common courtesy rather than trying to exploit the technicality of the laws. Maybe play a tiny snippet, talk about that snippet, then provide a link to the official file. Something like that.

What is Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a licensing philosophy recently created by the Wikipedia Foundation. They want you to have access to free media you can incorporate into your YouTube videos as long as you give the content creators credit. There might be other criteria you must agree to, too, but for the most part, the creators want credit. They’re helping you by providing that media and you’re helping them by promoting their name. Always read the license before you use it in your YouTube video. Sometimes the content creator won’t allow you to make a profit off it, which they’ll denote as “for non-commercial use only”. Commercial use means you make money off the content whether you created it or not. So make sure the creator allows you to use it for “commercial purposes” or makes it clear that it’s free to use for anything, especially for making money. Sometimes, they probably won’t even ask for credit, but it’d be nice to give it to them as a courtesy. Isn’t that good manners? They give it to you for free and it helps you, so why not?

What is public domain content?

Public domain content is anything that technically doesn’t have a copyright protection anymore. Usually, when a content creator registers their creation with the copyright office, they get something like 20-50 years of copyright protection. That means they get the first right to profit from it. It’s like the chicken little metaphor where she bakes the cake all by herself, only to have all the freeloaders eat it up and not leave her any. If chicken little got copyright protection it’s like hiring a couple of body guards to protect her cake while she goes outside with a huge sign trying to attract streetwalkers to come inside and buy a piece of cake. You see, so she didn’t put all that effort into making the cake and not get anything out of it.

So if after, say, 2 hours and she made a profit or not, then the bodyguards have no obligation to protect the cake anymore, and chicken little can either refile for protection, otherwise the cake is left for the flies and whoever to do with whatever. This is where you come in.

Most content 50 to 70 years prior to now do not have copyright protection anymore. Those copyrights may have expired. That means that it has entered public domain. You can use those old black and white movies, redub them, CG in lightsabers, whatever. As long as you make sure that it has in fact entered public domain, it’s free for you to do whatever. You can even resell it.

Final thoughs

So there you have it. For the most part, these laws exist because of all the disputes in the past. If you can’t come up with the music or the fancy imagery, then you shouldn’t steal it from someone who worked really hard to create it. And if they are giving it to you to use, then it’s courteous to give them credit. In any society, laws exist to settle conflicts. If you are respectful of other’s rights, then it’ll make it easier for everyone to enjoy their right to expression and spare a lot of headaches.

If you didn’t create it yourself, don’t use it. If you want to use it, find out from the creator if you can. If you are allowed to use the third party content, then have the courtesy to credit the creator. And if you really need it bad enough, buy the rights to use it. But if you’re a cheapskate, there are free alternatives in Creative Commons licensing and public domain content.

Hope you learned something, kids (and ignorant adults older than me). And have fun expressing yourselves on YouTube. You might not be so lucky in the future. Heck, it wasn’t so easy in the past (no venue existed for you to express yourself in such an easy way). Thank the government/military for giving the public the Internet.

Final Disclaimer

I AM NOT A LAWYER, SO DON’T BLAME ME IF YOU DO SOMETHING ILLEGAL AND GET SUED OR GO TO PRISON BECAUSE YOU BASED YOUR ACTIONS ON THIS POST. REMEMBER, WHEN IN DOUBT, DON’T USE SOMEONE ELSE’S WORK.

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