YouTube copyright caution for start-ups

The Australian Copyright Council has urged businesses to tread carefully when using YouTube content to avoid copyright infringement.


ACC legal officer Fiona James says there’s a major misconception surrounding online content and copyright, and businesses can find themselves in hot water.


“A lot of people think that because something’s been put up on the internet by somebody that it’s a free-for-all, which isn’t the case,” James says.


“In terms of infringing material, we’re aware that YouTube endeavours to work within the copyright laws … but some material is going to slip through the cracks and there have been court cases involving that.”


“You need to be aware that some user-generated content such as YouTube may infringe copyright and if you go ahead and use infringing content – whether or not you’re aware of it – you’re likely to be liable.”


According to Naked Communications co-founder Jon Wilkins, advertisers in particular are guilty of plagiarising YouTube videos if they fail to credit and pay the authors of any artistic works they adapt for commercial purposes.


“For all of us … who use YouTube for inspiration, that is stealing,” Wilkins says.


James says there is a range of penalties associated with copyright infringement, the most common of which is damages.


If businesses are looking to use YouTube content, James strongly advises them to contact the creator of the material, whose name will often appear alongside the content.

“In doing so, there’s a few things that you need to be aware of. A YouTube video might contain several types of copyright material,” she says.


“The video itself would be protected by whoever created it, but then there might be music or sound recordings in the background, which are separately protected by copyright.”


“In any case, where you get permission from somebody, you need to ask yourself: are they in a position to be giving me that permission?”


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