10 Copyright Laws Every Video Producer Should Know About

Have you ever come across the same tweet or meme multiple times on social media but from different sources?

Content on the internet is extremely susceptible to copyright infringement.

Ideas get plagiarized and replicated so many times that the original source is hard to identify and loses all its credibility.

Being the king of content, videos are no different. This is why, as a video producer, you need to be mindful of the intricacies of copyright laws.

There are multiple ways how you could intentionally or unintentionally become wrapped up in copyright issues.

You not only need to protect your own video copyrights but also need to be careful while using other people’s content.

This blog post serves as a guide on how to avoid copyright issues for video production.


1. What does copyrighting videos entail?

Copyrighting your videos essentially means calling dibs on your own work. So, when you share it with the world no one can claim it as their own.

Technically speaking, your videos are protected under the intellectual property law.

This gives you exclusive rights over your video content and restricts other people from copying, recreating, or selling it.

Unless you’ve created every aspect of the video—from images, clips to audio—yourself, or someone has legally transferred the copyrights to you, it is best to be vigilant about copyright laws.


2. What happens in the case of copyright infringement?

If anyone knowingly or unknowingly reproduces or sells your copyrighted work, they can be taken to court. Different countries have different penalties for copyright infringement.

In the US, you could face a fine of up to $150,000. The penalties are bound to be higher if it is proven that you intentionally copied someone’s work.

Video hosting platforms like YouTube also have their own set of rules for dealing with copyright infringement.

If your video violates the copyrights, it is taken down and YouTube issues a strike.

After three strikes, you are blocked from the platform.

This could mean losing all your published content and your subscribers.


3. How can I copyright my videos?

Under the US copyright law, simply by being the creator of the video and putting it in a ‘tangible’ form, you own the copyrights of your content.

Legal documentation is not necessary in this regard.

However, it is always best to add a copyright logo and disclaimer to your content for due diligence.

You can put the following disclaimer at the start or end of the video and the packaging of your DVD:

Copyright (or ©) [year released] by [name of owner]. All rights reserved.

If you want to be more cautious, you can register your video content with the US Copyright Office. This way, should any issues arise, you have a solid proof for your case.

The process is fairly simple and cheap. Visit the Electronic Copyright Office webpage, register with the service by creating a username and password, fill out an e-form, and attach your original video with it.

You can also send them the video on a DVD.

The official processing may take a while, but as soon as you file the form, your copyrights are in effect.


4. How long is my video content copyrighted for?

Any video content produced as of January 1, 1978, is copyrighted for the creator’s lifetime and 70 years after that.

Anonymous content, however, is protected by copyrights for 95 years after publication and 120 years after creation.


5. Can I lose the copyrights on my videos?

It is certainly possible. Sometimes, when you publish your video content to certain platforms or video hosting sites, they may ask you to revoke all or some of your copyrights.

YouTube, for example, asks you to grant it nonexclusive rights to your video content.

It means that while you can do whatever you want with your video, YouTube has the same privilege.

Related: Top 5 DIY Video Production Tools to Create Eye-Catching Videos

As they say, the devil’s in the details. If you’re working with an agency or an online video creation tool, carefully go through the fine print of your contract to ensure that you don’t unintentionally transfer the copyrights of your video.


6. How can I protect my videos on YouTube?

YouTube is arguably the biggest video hosting platform in the world. To protect its user’s content from copyright infringement, it has come up with a content ID match system.

Creators of the video content can upload original reference files to the platform.

If someone uploads your video content, YouTube conducts an automation ‘search and match’ operation and catches the infringer.

Their upload is immediately taken down and they’re sent a breach warning.

Here’s a fun video detailing the process of copyrighting videos by YouTube:


7. Is it still copyright infringement if I credit the original sources?

Copying or reproducing someone else’s video content and then mentioning the original creators’ name does not protect you from copyright infringement.

Mere attribution is still a violation unless you have a legal document proving that you’ve obtained the source’s permission to reuse their work.

Otherwise, you might be vulnerable to a cease and desist order.


8. What is the Fair Use policy?

You are not prohibited to use all types of video content created by others. The Fair Use policy lets you use other source’s work within some limitations.

In the US, Section 107 of the Copyright Act identifies research, criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, and scholarship as examples of fair use of content.

So, if your video falls under these categories you might be able to reuse other’s content in it. However, legally speaking, it is still a matter of walking on eggshells since there are no concrete definitions within this clause.

When going the ‘Fair Use’ route take the following points into account:

  •  Are you using someone else’s material in your video for commercial purposes?
  •  Will your use hurt the original source’s ability to make a profit on its content?
  •  Is the content you intend to use more artistic or technical/informative in nature?
  • How much of the original content are you using in your video?

You’re likely to get away with Fair Use if you don’t use the source’s content to make money and use it for educational purposes.


Fair Use Policy Infographic


9. Why do I need a release form for video production?

A release form for video production gives you permission to film your subjects and use that footage in your project.

When you hire actors, it is prudent to make them sign a release form to avoid any legal issues in the future.

Related: Our Explainer Video Production Process


10. Where can I get royalty-free images and audio?

If you’re using stills, images, or video clips created by someone else, it’s best to obtain their permission in writing. Otherwise, you’re looking at a potential lawsuit.

It’s preferable to create your own images or clips but if that falls out of your expertise you can always buy relevant images from Shutterstock.

It’s even easier to hop onto free stock image websites like Unsplash or Pixabay and download your favorite images. It’s still wise to look at the fine print on there.

The same holds true for any background music or sound effects used in your video. Instead of violating someone’s music video rights, it’s better to create your own.

Alternatively, you can refer to services like Soundsnap, CSS Music, and PremiumBeat give you unlimited access to royalty-free music and sound effects for a nominal fee.

That covers your basis on copyright laws regarding video production. By following these guidelines, you can protect your videos from copyright infringement and ensure that you don’t commit any copyrighting mistakes yourself.

New to video marketing and production? Get in touch with us and we’ll answer your questions!

Schedule a free consultation call with our video strategist


Posted by Komal Munawar

Subscribe to the MotionCue Newsletter

For monthly video and marketing insights from company founder/CEO Osama Khabab

Contact Us

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.