Protecting videos on video sharing sites
The whole purpose of sites such as YouTube or Vimeo is to distribute and share videos. It’s easy to download the files and using software to extract images and re-use them in other contexts. Technically this re-use could be an infringement of copyrights. If only a few images are extracted for the purpose of comment or discussion, then this will be seen as being a “fair use” in most countries. Re-use of longer sections of the video (or the whole film) will require a licence from the creator (s) of the video.
In practice, however, stopping others from using videos can be difficult. Geoblocking, by which access is restricted to certain countries, is becoming increasingly ineffective as it can be overcome by the use of a private network or copying to another site. Both YouTube and Vimeo offer “take down” services under which a copyright owner can request removal of a video from their websites which incorporates copyrighted material. Sometimes a simple letter or email to the person who uploaded the video can be sufficient to inform him or her about the infringement.
It is possible in the United States and in China to register the videos with the local copyright office. This procedure is inexpensive and can be an effective way of demonstrating that the creator of the video is the owner or licensee of the copyrighted material. Registration with the US Copyright Office, costs around USD 55 per item and currently takes about 8 months to complete. The US copyright office will record licenses and transfer of the documents.
Further protection can be often obtained by the use of registered trade marks for the title of the video (assuming that these are sufficiently distinctive) or by registering designs for images, such as cartoon characters in the video.
It’s also a good idea to make sure that you own all of the rights in your video. If an agency creates the video for you as part of a marketing campaign, then you should ensure that you own the copyright or at least have an exclusive licence to use the copyright for the purpose required. A licence needs to be acquired to use background music on the video and any images taken from other websites may also need to be licensed. Such licences are generally easily obtained and are fairly inexpensive. Paying for the licence later, when the infringement is discovered, can be a lot more expensive!
This is only a brief overview of protecting videos and we cannot go into all of the details. If you have a specific question, feel free to contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.