The legalities around producing and publishing online video can be very boring frankly. It is definitely not the reason any of us set out making online video and it definitely ranks in the top 2 annoying things about making a video (the other one being exporting of course!). Unfortunately, it is a serious element of making online video and ignorance of copyright will only lead you to the path of getting bitten on the backside by that which you have chosen to ignore!
The major concerns can be divided into two categories. Firstly, how and when you can use other people’s material legally. Secondly, how you can protect your own work against unfair use. In this post, I am going to focus on protecting your own work.
This short video gives some background to general UK copyright law relevant to online video copyright:
How can I prove I own my work?
You actually own the copyright to your work from the moment that you create it. It is not necessary to put a notice on it or to make copies and send it to yourself (an old myth). However, putting a notice on your work will act as a deterrent to anyone who is thinking about using your work.
However, if you are reasonably concerned, the best thing to do is to copyright the work legally by registering it. You can register your work with the UK Copyright Service and in the case of any legal dispute, this will provide evidence about the content of what you have produced and the date it was created.
Other useful evidence to keep, or to register, is any documentation that demonstrates the evolution of your idea. So, in terms of your videos it might be scripts, storyboards, and rough cuts.
What if I have worked with someone else?
If you have collaborated with anyone else on your video, be sure to outline where you stand in terms of who owns what. The Copyright Service offers some guidance on drawing up an agreement.
Does ‘fair use’ mean anyone can use my material without permission?
‘Fair use’ operates as a principle because of an appreciation free speech. It means that there are particular uses of copyrighted material that are acceptable. These loosely fall under using work for comment, criticism or in academia.
What work falls under online video copyright protection?
Copyright applies to work that has been recorded in some way, as oppose to ideas that someone has had. Examples of work that fall under copyright protection include music, literature, films, and sound recordings. Your online video could therefore include or encompass a number of different artistic elements that copyright will apply to.
Do you only need to register copyright for your work if it is worth something?
Given that you work is technically copyrighted from the moment you make it, copyright is only really relevant if you feel your work is worth something and therefore it is useful if someone infringes your copyright. Often we don’t know what a piece is worth in the first instance. However, value isn’t measured solely in financial terms. If you want to be recognized for your creativity and avoid others taking credit for your work, you need to protect it. For this reason the safest option is to protect your work by registering it and to keep evidence of your ownership of it.