As a YouTube Creator, there are several ways that your hard work and content are protected from being copied and reused by others without your permission. Some of these protections are inherent in the law, meaning you are protected by default. Others require some additional steps after you publish your video.
If you appear in the video
If you appear in your own video, you have protections under the Right of Publicity. Right of Publicity is the right to use your name, image or likeness in a commercial setting for profit. This means that you are protected if a Third Party uses your video for commercial purposes.
Last week, we talked about the rights people have that appear in another creator’s YouTube video. In that, we discussed the Right of Privacy, which is the right that certain private facts remain private. In the case of publishing your own video, you do not have privacy rights because you allowed yourself to be in the video and then you uploaded it to YouTube. This means, that you “consented” to the use of your image and likeness in the video.
YouTube Terms of Service
When you upload a video to YouTube, you are bound by and protected by the YouTube Terms of Service.
Section 6 of the Terms of Service, “Your Content and Conduct,” Part C states (in part):
For clarity, you retain all of your ownership rights in your Content. However, by submitting Content to YouTube, you hereby grant YouTube a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the Content in connection with the Service and YouTube's (and its successors' and affiliates') business, including without limitation for promoting and redistributing part or all of the Service (and derivative works thereof) in any media formats and through any media channels. You also hereby grant each user of the Service a non-exclusive license to access your Content through the Service, and to use, reproduce, distribute, display and perform such Content as permitted through the functionality of the Service and under these Terms of Service.
This means that you retain ownership of your content when you upload it to YouTube. But you are not automatically given a registered Copyright for that content. It also means that YouTube can use your video to promote YouTube in just about any way it sees fit.
The best practice for creator is to copyright their work. To be able to sue in Federal Court for copyright infringement, your video must be registered with The United States Copyright Office. The act of recording the video, editing the video and uploading it to YouTube are what make the video your own work and give you the ability to copyright it, but this is not a right that is automatically given to you. (Remember Gigi Hadid’s copyright issues for posting to Instagram a photo a paparazzi took of her and the paparazzi owned the copyright).
We have detailed the process to registering a copyright in the resources section of our website. The process to register a copyright is sometimes pretty technical from a legal standpoint, as it is best practice to have a lawyer do this for you so that your copyright is valid and there are no mistakes in the registration.
Can you register multiple videos at a time?
The US Copyright Office allows you to register a group of works together, but this generally will not apply to YouTube Creators. This is because for motion pictures, the publishing date (the date the video was uploaded to YouTube) needs to be the same date for groups registered together. In addition, copyright protections are slightly stronger for each work registered individually, as each is considered a standalone work. In practical terms, this means that if someone were to steal or copy part of your video, you have a stronger protection under Copyright laws for the single video that the stolen content is coming from.
In conclusion, YouTube Creators have several protections when they upload a video to YouTube by default. If you are uploading videos for fun or as a hobby, these default protections are probably enough. However, if this is your business, you should treat it like a business and follow best practices and register a copywrite of your work.
Based in the Los Angeles area, Pfeiffer Law Corp focuses on the representation of influencers.