YouTube has exploded in recent years as not just an entertaining way of catching up on news, information and ridiculous cat clips, but also of a way to creatively express yourself online. Many people do so purely out of love of a hobby, but it’s also perfectly feasible to make money out of a YouTube advertising partnership, providing you have enough viewers, and, critically, all the rights to the content you’re putting up online.
Recently gaming behemoth Nintendo made an interesting move with regards to fan-created videos appearing on YouTube. Many copyright holders have taken aggressive stances when it comes to online video; as an example, it’s rare for any performance or music featuring pop artist Prince to last on YouTube for anything longer than a few hours.
So what did Nintendo do that was so particularly radical? Instead of insisting that videos featuring Mario, Donkey Kong and a plethora of other characters be taken down, Nintendo’s instead taken to claiming all the advertising revenue generated by those videos itself.
YouTube videos can generate income via advertising that appears either as a pop-up while the video plays, or as a separate ad that usually runs at the very start of a video playback. If you upload enough videos and get enough traffic through, YouTube may invite you to “monetize” your videos — which is to say, allow YouTube to put ads in the videos, for which you’ll receive an income stream. For some YouTube content creators — including a number of Australians — that can be a considerable amount of money — unless the copyright creators come calling.
Now, what’s fair in this situation? It’d be tempting to say that there’s fair use if you’re using a small clip for the purposes of criticism or review, and in many cases that may be true, but then YouTube takes a very conservative line indeed when it comes to fair use. (http://www.youtube.com/yt/copyright/fair-use.html). Specifically, it really won’t take any line at all, noting that “When a copyright holder or their authorized representative notifies us of a YouTube video that infringes their copyright, we remove the content promptly.”
Or in other words, it’s up to you to prove that you actually do have the rights, either granted from a copyright holder, or under general copyright provisions — and that can quickly get costly to enforce. Nintendo’s broadly within its rights in its own case, although the makers of many of the videos aren’t happy as they viewed them largely as “free advertising” for the company regardless.
Now, you may not be interested in creating video-game based YouTube clips, but it is something that can be highly rewarding — both intellectually and financially if you hit upon the correct video format, or if something you’ve created goes viral. So what’s the best way to protect your own videos?
The first, and most obvious thing would be to ensure that you (preferably) include as little content that somebody else might have a claim to as possible. That’s not just video clips, but also music, even words. To throw up two examples of my own, in one instance a video I uploaded to YouTube covering Foxtel’s Go service included (inadvertently) a split second of an unrecognisable concert. That got flagged; I edited the video down and the complaint was removed. In another instance, somebody else grabbed a review I’d written and used it complete as the script for a video; I complained, and it was pulled down.
YouTube’s attitude is clearly one of limiting its own liability, and that means challenges always result in a takedown first, and the complex legal arguments later. If you keep that in mind — and shoot and edit your video, whether captured on camcorder, tablet or smartphone with an eye to making sure all the content captured is your own original work, you’re going to be a whole lot more secure.