Last Updated on April 13, 2022
Video content is at record highs on YouTube and other places on the internet today. That’s because more and more individuals, businesses, and recording artists, as well as countless others, have realized the power of video for their online brand and presence.
But, while this phenomenon is a great thing in many ways, it also introduces the problem of stolen content. To help with this problem, artists and musicians can reference to sites like SoundExchange.com. Artists are members of ASCAP and BMI in most cases also, which backs the legal power that Sound Exchange has to help them combat the attempted theft of their material.
In most of these cases, it is evident that someone has stolen or used their song or material without their permission because the lyrics and music are the same.
Copyright law covers these acts in the U.S. and places stiff criminal and civil penalties on abusers of copyright. Reasons that someone could be accused of copyright infringement include:
- Uploading an original song or video and claiming it is theirs
- Performing a derivative work that is too similar to the original composer or performer’s work
- Using more than 10% of a work for educational purposes (up to 10% is allow through the Fair Use clause for educators)
- Creating a derivative work that is similar in ways that detract from the originality of the piece
- Placing a piece for which someone does not own the copyright in any location without the author, songwriter, or videographer’s permission
Notice that in all of these cases, it is evident that someone used, claimed rights to, uploaded, or placed such content on another site without the written permission of the original artist. These would all be clear cases of copyright infringement.
We Must Be Vigilant to Content Theft
As a business owner with original video content, artist, or individual who needs to maintain the integrity and originality of your brand or video, this is a big concern.
You must be vigilant of what other people are putting out, so that you can file a copyright claim if needed, to let the law take care of such issues.
But in some cases, the power of the law seems somewhat weaker, and the line seems more blurred regarding what can and cannot be done.
Is an idea safe?
Recently, the Washington Post wrote and published a story about Buzzfeed regarding many accusations on the part of content producers that Buzzfeed (the Los Angeles content mill), has taken ideas and concepts from content producers and used it on their site without the permission of the original creators.
While this is a travesty, it is important to understand that stealing an “idea,” (unless it is patented or otherwise protected through some other legal process) is not considered a crime. Perhaps it should be. But ideas are much like titles. Think of all of the titles that are out there for books, movies, eBooks, audiobooks and other media. The courts have maintained that the work is considered as a collective whole, which includes the ideas, concepts, writing, and title together. Titles and ideas can be similar to others but not too similar. That is the key. As a basic rule, if you are watching a video on Buzzfeed and it automatically reminds you of one you already saw somewhere else that someone else did, that’s infringement and it would be considered illegal by the courts.
The Beauty of Copyright Law
Copyright law protects anyone who composes, writes, or creates any intellectual work, even if they do not register it with the Office of Copyright in Washington, D.C. In fact, the law loosely holds now that the moment you write or create a work, you own the copyright. It’s that simple.
How to Protect Yourself as an Artist or Content Creator
Your best protection regarding such intellectual works is to take note of the original date that you published it, so that later if someone else claimed to have done it, you could go back to that date in your records and prove that you wrote or created it first.
The Digital Footprint: Exhibit A
Online, there is something known as a “digital footprint.” This holds a great deal of protection as well, by law. Let’s say, for example, that you created an explainer video for your company on July 10, 2016 and published it on your website and YouTube. YouTube and your web server now have a digital record of the fact that you published in on July 10, 2016. Now, let’s say that someone comes along and recreates your video in their own way on August 10, 2016 (one month later), and claims they did it.
All you have to do is to file a copyright infringement issue (as per the terms in the Digital Millenium Act of 1998), and state that the new video content could not be the property of the other party since you created it a month before. In most cases, this is enough to prove ownership.
However, you need to keep in mind, that if you delete that file or take it off YouTube’s server, you may no longer have proof that you created it. That is why it is our recommendation that, when you upload content and you think it is particularly useful (in other words, something others might want to steal), that you keep it on the server indefinitely. You can always take it off your website or even make it “private” on YouTube if you really don’t want anyone to see it anymore. But keeping it on the server is like a virtual time/date stamp that can be your star witness in a copyright claimant case, should you ever have to take a digital thief to task!
These things will protect you from people getting away with stealing your original content. At least, it will give you legal recourse, if you feel the theft is damaging enough to cause your business a financial or potential financial loss.
The court has often held that “the potential financial loss of such acts” is enough to convict on a copyright charge since the person who stole the content has taken away the possibility of income for the original creators, which is just plain wrong. This kind of behavior is no different than an art thief stealing a major painting from the Smithsonian. Theft is theft and art is art, no matter what form it is in.
They Hope You’ll Do Nothing
Remember too, that a thief of copyright go on the idea that you will not do anything about it if they are caught stealing your intellectual property. If everyone who has had something stolen would automatically report it to the Office of Copyright, there would be much less of it.
True, the FBI is not going to prosecute every instance of copyright, but they do as many as they can, and they tend to focus on the ones that could take away the financial security or livelihood of businesses or creative artists, who depend on this revenue for their income.
Since the days of Thomas Jefferson, when he first defined copyright law, it was determined that individuals and companies, artists, and persons alike are protected from theft of their original works under the federal legislation of copyright law.
When an instance of theft occurs that is not as clear-cut as these, that’s when it becomes a bit more of a challenge to protect your interests. But it is possible.
One thing you can do, if you suspect that someone has stolen an idea you had in a video and made it their own, you should first approach them directly about it. State in your email or communication that you have digital proof that your idea was first and that you are going to report them for piracy if they do not take it down.
While courts have ruled that ideas, like titles, cannot be copyrighted, if a judge in a courtroom rules that the work is too similar to another to say it is original, it can be ruled an infringement.
So copyright law covers a lot more than you think.
What You Can Do Immediately
If you suspect that someone has created a derivative work or similar work to yours,
you do have recourse. You can contact the professionals at Takedownpiracy.com and fill out the form to file a claim. They are advocates for artists and businesses, as well as individuals who are in the business of seeking out copyright infringers and taking down the illegal content.
As long as no action is taken, theft of ideas and content will continue, so it is up to all of us as content producers and business owners to take action when we first discover our content has been compromised.
Another important way that we can ensure that it will be harder to steal our content is to make the idea so original that it would be obvious when someone tried to steal it.
One such way to accomplish this is through the use of our professional design team at animatedvideo.com. We can create an original video with the script for you that is unlike any other. Hiring an outside company to do this also gives you another straight edge, in that it provides you with even more proof that you created the idea before someone else did.
Some Closing Thoughts
Protect your content. Be vigilant. Be original. Take action when you see an infringer. Don’t let them get away with it.
YouTube has very strict rules on this, but they have so many content producers that it is a challenge for them to keep up. It is up to us, the content producers and business owners to ensure that the world is safe from the theft of content by watching other media sources carefully for any infractions.