How to Copyright a Video – The Definitive Guide [2021 Update]
Table of Contents
Protecting your content is very important in professional broadcasting. When most people think about keeping their videos safe, their first thought goes to password protection, top-of-the-line encryption, and other similar security practices.
In addition to these security measures, you should pay attention to your video copyright.
Today, we’re going to explore a few aspects related to video copyrighting. We will define copyrighting, explain what you need to know about copyright video content, how to copyright your video with the U.S. Copyright Office, and when you may lose rights to your video. To wrap things up, we will cover how to copyright a YouTube video.
Table of Contents:
- What is Copyrighting?
- Video Copyrights: What You Need to Know
- How to Copyright a Video
- Can You Lose Your Video Rights?
- How to Copyright a YouTube Video
What is Copyrighting?
When you create something, whether it be a video, book, product, or other intellectual property, you likely want the rights to your creation. By copyrighting your creation, you are establishing that you own it and nobody else has the right to reproduce or use it.
There are some implied characteristics of copyrighting that are assumed upon the materialization of your creation, but this varies by the medium. For example, video is automatically copyrighted, so these things automatically apply.
These characteristics include exclusivity, designation, duration of protection, limitations on applicability, and international adherence.
Exclusivity in copyrighting means that the owner of the content (and copyright) have sole rights that cannot be claimed by any other person or organization without explicit permission.
Copyrights can be traded, bought, and sold. That means that you can transfer ownership of your content to another designated person, or you can receive rights to another person’s content with their permission.
Please note that the owner must assign ownership to another person. Somebody cannot just take someone else’s ownership without permission.
Copyrights vary in access duration from country to country. Under U.S. Copyright Law, copyright protection extends for your lifetime plus 70 years. Other countries have different copyright laws, but the United States has treaties with most of them requiring mutual recognition of each other’s copyrighted works.
Thanks to a number of treaties and laws that are respected at the international level, copyrights typically have reciprocity across borders.
There are some laws in place that allow people to use copyrighted materials in some situations. These “Fair Use” laws apply to people who are using copyrighted material for criticism or commentary.
For example, if someone is reviewing a movie, they can legally use clips or quotes from the movie. The same applies to written work and audio, as well. However, the owner of the content believes that the person using their content is wrong for doing so, the owner has the liberty to legally dispute the use.
Video Copyrights: What You Need to Know
From the time that you have created your video and put it into a “tangible form,” the video is legally yours. This applies to a file on your hard drive or a file uploaded to the Internet. A video is protected by copyright law from the moment of its creation.
You have the option to register the work with the Copyright Office, but this is not a legal requirement.
Although registering your video with the U.S. Copyright Office isn’t necessary or required to have it covered by copyright law, it is a good idea to take the extra step to protect it. This is especially true if you’ve spent a lot of time and money creating a specific video.
The fastest way to copyright a video is to register it on the U.S. Copyright Office website. Registering it with this official entity removes any ambiguity about the copyright video status. It provides prima facie evidence in any lawsuit you may bring for copyright infringement, and it makes collecting damages in such a case much easier.
How to Copyright a Video
Copyrighting a video in the United States is easy. Here are the simple 5 steps to copyright a video and retain video rights to your content with the U.S. Copyright Office:
- Go to the Electronic Copyright Office website and click on “Log in to eCO.”
- Sign up by choosing a username and password.
- Fill out an electronic form registering your video.
- Upload a copy of the video file and attach it to your completed form. You can also mail it afterward on a disc.
- Pay a fee of $35.
The Copyright Office is powered by the government, so processing your registration may take a while. The Copyright Office says to allow up to eight months.
Video creators also have the option to mail their videos to the Copyright Office in disc format.
If you submit a paper registration, it will take longer to process. The fee is also higher, at about $85.
However, if you find yourself in a legal conflict, immediate completion of the registration process by the Copyright Office isn’t necessary. Once you’ve filed your registration, you’ve exercised due diligence.
If by chance you need to take legal action in regards to the specific video, the court should recognize your effort to copyright the content even if the Copyright Office has not processed your registration.
We’d like to reiterate that registration with the Copyright Office is not necessary to copyright your video. Your content is automatically yours upon the creation of your video, but registration provides clear evidence to use if you need to take legal action against infringement.
An Alternative Method to Copyright Video
If you don’t copyright your video, we recommend making sure your right to the content is recognized and protected. The most basic way to go about this is to include a copyright notice in the first minute or so of your video.
The standard form of the copyright notice is structured as follows:
Copyright (or ©) [year released] by [name of owner]. All rights reserved.
As an example, if a fictitious broadcaster named John Smith is releasing a video in 2015, the notice should read “© 2015 by John Smith. All rights reserved.”
This is the most minimalistic style most broadcasters would use. You can also add further language such as “No part of this video may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without the written permission of the copyright holder.”
That additional verbiage reiterates the point and makes it clear that the broadcaster does not grant permission for transmission or reproduction from unauthorized users.
Can You Lose Your Video Rights?
Many free, consumer-grade video hosting services require that you forfeit some or all of your rights to your videos. The terms of an agreement on each platform spell out those details, so it is important to completely understand what you are getting yourself into.
Some streaming platforms take more rights to your video than others.
No matter which way you go, it’s wise to read the fine print on any agreement a platform wants you to accept.
How to Copyright a YouTube Video
YouTube automatically copyrights your content as you upload it, so there is no extra action that you need to take on your part. However, this requires you to grant them a non-exclusive right to do almost anything they want with your video.
“Non-exclusive” means that you still own the video and can do whatever you want with it, too, but you must allow Google the same privilege.
YouTube also is pretty strict about using copyrighted content in videos that are posted to their platform. That means if you use music or a video clip within your content that you don’t have rights to, YouTube will either remove the sound or take your video down.
If you are worried about your content not being recognized as your own, we recommend adding the copyright notice that we mentioned above to give yourself that standard layer of protection.
When you stream live video, the desire to maintain the rights to your own content is a no-brainer. Luckily, your content is automatically copyrighted after producing and saving it as a file.
There are additional steps you can take to ensure further protection, but this is only necessary if there is the possibility that you might need to take someone to court for infringement.
If that’s the case, it’s useful to register your video with the U.S. Copyright Office. It’s easy to do, and not very expensive.
The main thing to remember is that as the video’s creator, you are the owner of all rights to it. As with any other property, you can inadvertently surrender those rights to another party.
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