Do YouTubers Have Same Rights as Media?

I love it when media picks up my clip, and I hereby grant any and all media sources rights to use clips with stories (as long as I’m credited, and ideally informed).

Here’s a question for you, though. Obviously we can’t rip a Viacom show and post it on YouTube. But it appears that newsclips are fair game. I am not aware of a video containing news clips that has been yanked. Are you?

When I saw this story about Sarah Palin impersonators, I noticed a video player that has my video. The video was ripped from YouTube and embedded on a player that’s branded ABC News. Again- I’m thrilled to be included in a story that mentions Tina Fey, so I’m not complaining. I’m identified as Kevin Nalts, and although it’s customary to include “YouTube” name or logo on the ripped videos on TV, I’m not sure YouTube cares.

But what if I did have a problem with it? Would I have a case? It would be foolish for me to take action because then media may choose not to use my clips (which I consider free publicity). I’m sure if I did care and contacted ABC News, they’d remove it. But is that the extent of a YouTube creator’s rights? News is usually fair game with excerpts, but in this case the video is played in its entirety.

24 Replies to “Do YouTubers Have Same Rights as Media?”

  1. I wonder if YouTube and ABC News (or any of the networks, for that matter) have “agreements” with each other. Or is there any kind of hidden clause in the YouTube Terms that say that once posted on their site it’s theirs to do as they wish?

    It really doesn’t feel right that they should usurp original content like that… or there should at least be compensation for it of some sort.

    (BTW, in the article in two places they have you as Kevin WATTS — they should AT LEAST get that right!)

    And congrats on a very funny send-up!

  2. I wouldn’t get too up in their faces about it.

    I went to a political rally a couple years ago. I showed up early enough to assure myself a decent sightline and camped out. Just before the candidate arrived the PRESS did exactly that. They pressed into the room claiming the high ground and forcing everyone to give way.

    I began to insist on my right to stand where I choose and thought better of it. Seems that they have those blasted cameras and the ability to focus them on you. Fair or not. That is quite intimidating, I never really appreciated that aspect until then.

  3. Having the experience of producing stuff that goes out “on air” (TV commercials, mostly), I made darn sure that I read up on what you can and can’t do to be within the letter of the copyright laws. So if you want to know what the law gives us as far as rights go here’s what I know*:

    YOUR VIDEOS ARE YOURS – Copyright law is a funny thing. While for written works, photographs, etc, etc, you are supposed to send a copyright application and copy of the material to the library of congress, video is automatically assumed to be copyrighted to the creator in most cases.

    This means that aside from fair use claims and YouTube TOS (I’m getting to these) any videos that we create cannot be used without our consent of some sort, be that consent in writing (such as that in the body of this blog) or by offering the work under a public domain/partial copyright license (a great example of this is creative commons).

    YOUTUBE HAS SOME RIGHTS TO YOUR STUFF – Of course, the first thing abut putting a video on YouTube to remember is that it’s bound by the YouTube Terms of Service you agreed to upon signing up. In those terms (yes-I read them. I do that.) there is a section which specifically states that you give YouTube the right to use anything you upload in any way they see fit. In or near this wording is another part, where you agree to allow YouTubers to use your videos as well, interestingly enough. I think it was added for doing mashup videos and to cover Googles assets with all the video copying on the site. Note that if you take down a video, this no longer applies, and neither Youtube nor individual YouTube members have the right to continue using the clips.

    These licenses do NOT however, give anyone permission to use your stuff off YouTube. If your video were to show up in an episode of a TV show, they aren’t covered by this. Nor would a site that rips and uploads YouTube videos to an off-site location.

    FAIR USE, SUCKA! – Then there’s fair use. News stories get fair use coverage, meaning they can use any copyrighted work they want (even yours) and it’s legal. On the other hand, this is a two-edged sword. If YOU are doing a news story and want to use copyrighted video from a news site, you have that right under fair use.

    Fair use also lets you do some wonderful things, such as parodies, criticism, and a short list of others I can’t recall at this second.

    LET EM USE IT – Finally, sometimes it’s not worth the battle. As a videographer, if you go around suing everyone who uses your stuff, you look like a jerk. You also shoot yourself in the foot, because people will stop even considering you for their stuff.

    Having said that, you are the creator of the work, and you aught to be at least recognized so you get something out of it. It royally pissed me off when I saw that Will Ferrell used one of Kevin McLeod’s music tracks for a video he put online a few weeks ago, and didn’t even credit the guy. Of all people, he should know better. Fortunately Kevin is a good sport about it, as usual when people abuse his immense talent.

    Some call me Jim, and that’s my two cents (overpriced, as usual).

    *Of course, I’m not a lawyer, and my knowledge isn’t the ultimate source of wisdom on the subject. It’s ALWAYS a good idea to speak with a lawyer before you go out and find out ol’ Jim isn’t as smart as he thought he was. There, now I’m legally covered!

  4. And to sum that all up for the ADHD crowd.

    Copyright is good.

    YouTube can whore out your stuff.

    Fair use lets the news companies rip you off.

    Will Ferrell sucks.

    *I’m not a lawyer

  5. Well I don’t even know why you’re complaining about this, since clearly the video in question was done by Kevin WATTS, not Kevin Nalts. Quit trying to claim credit for shit you didn’t do.

  6. Okay to be serious, notice that each time this video gets publicity, it’s introduced by something like “and there’s even one done by a MAN!!!!!” Those are words to remember. Every chance you get, you should make fun of controversial women, in the hopes that you’ll get the same kind of press.

  7. PBS used my clip “Hilary Clinton is Satan” in a package showing how misogynist comedians (Internet and otherwise) are on Bill Moyers show. I wrote them a furious letter that got no response and apparently had no impact whatsoever.

  8. @8

    For next to nothing (along with the agreement to use their firm if you do file suit) you can get a lawyer to send them a letter. Lawyers threatening a lawsuit will almost always get a bit pulled and a nice apology letter.

    On the flip side, this requires selling your soul to the dark side.

  9. It was too long ago for me to care that much now… It didn’t paint me as a mysogynist any more than I did to people who are too dumb to realize I Kicked a Girl was a joke.

  10. @9 I tried to get a lawyer to do this recently and they wanted $800. Ended up making up some company letter head and finding a model letter on the internet and doing it myself.

    But at the gnooze we deal with fair use a lot. There are limitations under the fair use news exceptions. I know you don’t want them to take this down, but I think you’d have a case if you wanted to, just because they use your clip in its entirety.

    It might be worth it to write them and ask they they embed your youtube clip instead, as you’d then get some extra views ($$$) instead.

  11. @11

    WOW! $800. That’s impressive. I need to go into law.

    I asked a lawyer about that once, and he quoted me at $100 to take the case and write the initial request to the recipient. Of course, what he was really hoping was that I’d eventually go after their butts, which I was well within my rights to do.

    Sadly, and probably the main reason I’m dirt poor to this day, is that I have a conscience. I figured if they wanted to steal my stuff, just forget it and move on. Legal issues are almost as much bad press for you as they are for the person you’re going after, and I don’t want to be remembered as the suit-happy jerk. That’s what the RIAA and Viacom are for.

    Now, if I found out that a Viacom network or show was using one of my clips, I’d probably fight that battle to the highest court in the land, just out of principle.

  12. I’m currently in the midst of a dispute related to this. Some dbag downloaded one of our videos and reuploaded it as his own on ebaumsworld. AOL video then featured that illegal copy on the front of We tried to talk to some one to get them to use a legal version, but no one atAOL would talk to us. We talked to ebaumsworld and they took it down immediately, but through AOL video magic it continued to play on AOL. And of course it got over a million views.

    We’re trying to find a lawyer that will help us try to get some justice, but no one seems to want to take on AOL. At least not without tens of thousands of dollars up front. Sigh.

    Know any good lawyers?

  13. Print a letter head with your logo call them and ask for accounts receivable, get the the address – detail what the product is in nonspecific terms (see a hospital bill or department store bill for a guide) send the bill to AOL.Include dates, an account number, and services rendered, this also means the bill will accumulate more money over time. Do this every 4 weeks until they pay.

    After 3 months if you receive no response send a letter with threat of collection. You can look for a sample on line.

    Even if they take it down they still owe you.

    After 6 more weeks and still no response call the department and ask to speak to the accounts receivable supervisor ask her/him why they are delinquent on this bill. Remind them you have been asking for payment now for 4 months.

    Meanwhile contact your local rep in the house, find out if there are any class action suits against AOL for this violation. Get your name on the list.

    If you want payment, especially from AOL you’re going to need a paper trail. That’s just business.

    Most accounting departments who see a legitimate bill will pay it quick, budgets don’t like last fees. <— add that after the 3rd bill

    They used your product, permission or not, you have a right to collect. This happens to artists all the time.

    If you want you can employ a collection agency who work on taking a percentage of what they collect and they usually employ a lawyers to write letters.

    The cost to you are a few headaches and some stamps. You’ve really got nothing to lose by doing this, it’s all legit.

    If tubers were smarter they’d form a Union and employ some of these services and a good lawyer.

    I want you to think, just for a moment, the gobs of money Google You Tube and even AOL is making off the backs of the creator. Why do you think Viacom went after Google? Cause it’s worth it!
    You Tube is nothing without the free labor you provide and they have no responsibility to you because you don’t demand it. You’re just happy they pat you on the head and say here content creator we’ll let you upload, ethics be damned!

    Google/You Tube like some of these failed Investment companies is too big to exist.

    I’m not even going to mention the tax breaks and subsidies they get from you the tax payer.

  14. It’s all about the “freedom of press” under the constitution. I work in media and I get in TONS of places that I couldn’t if I showed up as a you tuber.

    It’s a sad fact but I think if the internet was mandated by the FCC instead of the FTC (who does a HORRIBLE job), new laws might be written to allow tubers the same right as the press. Although it could be bad in some cases too. It would be inevitab;e the FCC would make new rules for internet usage.

  15. @ 15

    That was actually some awesome advice. Kevin you should bookmark this with “butterfly’ so we can find it later if we need it. Not that I ever will, but, you know, other, more appreciated creators. And more talented.

  16. Well I would like to point to a famous case where some local guy was running for a local office and MTV found his campaign ad amusing and used it in their show. Then he uploaded a video showing them showing his video. Viacom had the video pulled. So I don’t think the News likes us using their content. Sucks I know.

  17. I’ve always thought it is “interesting” how YouTube bundles different options together. Particularly this little dilemma.

    Yes, make this video available on mobile phones and TV.
    No, this video should not be available on mobile phones and TV.

    To my mind they are two very different things… What if I want to make my video available on mobile phones and NOT TV?! Obviously I don’t have that option. YouTube are very sneaky like that.

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