- Do social media platforms have copyright grounds to take down your videos?
Social media platforms actually have an obligation under federal law to take down videos that may violate copyright law. According to the U.S. Copyright Office, “copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner.” The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) allows online service providers like YouTube and Facebook to avoid being held legally responsible when a user commits copyright infringement – but only if the online platform takes certain steps to cooperate with copyright owners to quickly and easily remove content that violates that owner’s copyright. YouTube’s “copyright strikes” system and Facebook’s intellectual property reporting process are essentially designed to comply with this law. YouTube provides various copyright management tools to copyright owners to help them police their content. Software like Content ID and the Copyright Match Tool relies on algorithms that scan the platform for content that includes sounds that match certain copyrighted material. The software flags the content and the owner can choose to block a whole video from being viewed; monetize the video by running ads against it, sometimes sharing revenue with the uploader; or allow the owner to track the video’s viewership statistics.
The DMCA also requires online platforms to have a registered agent to receive copyright complaints. The provider must promptly remove content after receiving a complaint and have a counter-notice system which allows for the person whose content has been blocked to respond and have their content reposted. The social media platform must also have a way of dealing with “repeat” infringers, including removing the content they’ve posted after the provider has received multiple complaints or terminating their use the platform.
- Can I use an artist’s music for my social media videos?
You must have valid permission to use the music of another artist in your videos. Based on the complex nature of federal and international copyright law, it’s possible to infringe the copyright for a song even if you give the person credit in the video, you have not monetized the video, or you are using your own cover version of the song. Using another artist’s music in your video generally requires a licensing agreement. One or more individuals may be full or partial owners of the copyright to a musical recording. The process will require consent from everyone who holds a copyright on that specific song. The parties may sign a licensing agreement and they may agree to royalty payments, which are fractions of the revenue that your video generates that you distribute to the copyright owner as compensation for the right to use their song. While some recordings are available through royalty-free music companies where users can pay a fee to license music for a limited purpose, more extensive or ongoing use of an artist’s music may require tracking down copyright owners of the music to formulate a more detailed agreement.
- What do I do if YouTube or Facebook takes down my videos?
Your options will differ based on the reason that YouTube or Facebook removed your video, such as (a) one or more terms of service violations; (b) a Content ID match; or (d) a DMCA take-down notice. A review of the site’s terms of service and community guidelines may provide a basis for responding to the removal and requesting reconsideration about the alleged violation to get the video restored. YouTube has an appeals process which allows you to challenge takedowns based on the company’s Community Guidelines. A removal based on a violation of the Terms of Service on YouTube or Facebook is somewhat more difficult to address given that the removal is subject to the company’s discretion. If YouTube’s Content ID tool flagged your video with a match, you can file a dispute with YouTube to have the video reposted. Once you submit a dispute, the copyright owner can continue to push the Content ID claim and reject the dispute or release the claim. At this stage, if your account is in good standing with YouTube, you can appeal the rejected dispute.
The copyright owner also has the right to file a DMCA takedown notice rather than pursue a Content ID match claim on YouTube. You have a right to file a “counter-notice.” A proper counter-notice must include certain information under the DMCA to be valid, including your contact details, a statement under penalty of perjury that the material was removed by mistake or misidentification, and your consent to the jurisdiction of a federal court in the district where you live (if you are in the U.S.), or your consent to the jurisdiction of a federal court in the district where your service provider is located (if you are not in the U.S.). If you send a counter-notice, your online service provider is required to replace the disputed content unless the complaining party sues you within 14 business days of your sending the counter-notice. If the copyright owner is serious about pursuing their claim, the copyright owner must sue you within this timeframe to keep the video from being reposted.
A copyright lawsuit involves significant risk because federal copyright law provides the party that wins with many advantages, including a right to recover actual damages (the value of what the copyright owner lost as a result of the infringing party’s use), disgorgement (where the losing party is required to turn over all of the profit he/she obtained from using the copyrighted material), attorney’s fees and fines.
You should consult a qualified copyright attorney with experience in copyright and intellectual property law infringement issues with social media platforms before submitting anything to any social media platform. You want the best chance at resolving the issues before you damage your standing with the platform and lose all of your following and content by having your account taken down. As a content creator, you have worked really hard to gain exposure and create intentional content that will increase your following and your revenue streams. At the Benkabbou Law Firm, we understand the hard work that goes into creating social media content and the amount of sweat equity required to grow your social media accounts.
At our Tampa law firm, our Tampa attorney, the Millennial Business Lawyer® is well versed in these social media copyright issues. Since copyright law is federal in nature, we are able to handle copyright issues with YouTube and Facebook nationwide and even engage international counsel on your behalf, if international copyright issues are raised. We are here to assist our clients with the compassion and understanding required to achieve the result that’s in their best business interest.
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