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Attorney Steve’s Top 10 Tips for YouTube Fair Use

Posted by Steve Vondran | Aug 06, 2018 | 0 Comments

Fair Use Lawyer explains Top 10 Tips to stay out of Copyright Infringement Lawsuits on Youtube.  From Attorney Steve® The Video Lawyer™ 

VIDEO:  Click on the image above to watch Attorney Steve® explain his fair use tips to help build your online video channel.  Make sure to SUBSCRIBE to join over 41,500 other people who love our videos!!

NEW FOR 2023Fair Use Webinar for your Creative Team.


Trying to build your Vimeo or YouTube channel is no easy task.  It's not always easy to CREATE video, music, and sound clips.  It could take forever.  Many times it's easier to just find something online (whether a paid stock photo or video site) or a free public domain site to get the content you need to make your Creative Works.  Other times, you are looking for specific types of clips, or digital content that helps you tell your story, or make your point.  In theses cases you may need to “grab” or “rip” content from other websites to use in your videos.  Obviously, you need to be very careful in what you are doing for this could violate federal copyright laws.  However, there is a provision in the law known as “FAIR USE” and Fair Use is NOT INFRINGEMENT.  But sometimes it can be like walking a tightrope and it can keep you up at night.

This blog talks about my top 10 tips to try to “Keep it Legal” while building your online blog, podcast, or video channel.

What is Fair Use?

1. Fair use is a legal RIGHT.  It's built into the Copyright laws at 17 U.S.C. 107.  This section specifically states:

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section,

for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research,

is not an infringement of copyright.”

Fair Use Factors

In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole;


(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

We will talk about these factors in a VIDEO we will be launching shortly which more easily explain how the fair use defense works in real life, with real case examples.

The Four T's of Fair Use defense explained in this podcast

copyright fair use podcast steve vondran

PODCAST:  Click on the image to hear this podcast on fair use law.

Attorney Steve Top 10 tips to avoid online copyright infringement claims on Youtube

Alright, now that you have a basic idea of what fair use is and how it works, let's get down to my top 10 tips to avoid online copyright infringement by using and applying the fair use LEGAL RIGHT.

  1. In your productions, try to us as much of YOUR original work as possible (perhaps 7080% of the video is YOUR ORIGINAL CONTENT).  This shows it is YOU that is crying to create something new and not just borrowing everything.
  2. If you are using movie, sound effects, or music clips, KEEP IT SHORT.  I would not use more than 1-5 seconds.  Just use what you actually need to make your point.
  3. Use multiple sources (Mix it up so to speak), don't just focus on using the digital content from one company as they may get tired of seeing this happen and want to do something about it.
  4. Always provide credit where you can (for example, in the end of your movie provide attribution for creative content that you used in your video).  This avoids the claim that you are trying to “pass off” their creative Works as your own, and actually gives them a Plug.
  5. Go through a fair use analysis as to each piece of content you are using.  Is your use of the Work “transformative”?  Document your reasons and put it in a folder.  You always want to have notes showing you truly thought about fair use (this could lead to a claim of “innocent infringement” if yo have a problem later on (innocent infringement will usually be a much lower settlement amount than let's say willful copyright infringement)
  6. Comment and Criticism are two really common fair use types, and these work best if you are MAKING A POINT, TRYING TO MAKE AN ARGUMENT, or ILLUSTRATING YOUR CRITICISM of something.  But make sure you are commenting on the work at issue.
  7. If you have a really big project (a video you do not want to have to take down, or need to get insurance so that you can distribute the film), consider getting a formal “fair use opinion” letter from a copyright lawyer.
  8. Use a Fair Use Disclaimer at the start of your videos (this puts the world on notice that parts of your video are considered a fair use).  This may also reduce the number of people who seek to file a DMCA takedown notice, or who seek to monetize your video on Youtube for using their protected Works.
  9. Remember that parody is a RIGHT (its built into the law), and the concept is to “promote the progress of science and the useful arts.”  The reason for Fair Use laws was to strike the balance between First Amendment freedom of speech, and copyright protection.  If everything was copyrighted and you could not talk about it, show it or comment on it would be a sad world.
  10. So things that promote free speech in a fair way may qualify (Make arguments or express your opinion).  For example, satire, parody, product reviews, response videos,  movie reviews, critique, teaching, research, etc.

Remember, being TRANSFORMATIVE is the key,  your work should create something new in the marketplace without robbing the Copyright holders of their marketplace for their Works.  This requires striking the proper balance.

So to SUM IT UP fair use is situational and contextual.  There are three simple keys, what I call the “Four T's”:

  1.  Take only what you need
  2.  Transform into something new
  3.  Thank the original Artist or Creator
  4.  Take time to document your reasons

Also, make sure to stay up on the latest copyright laws involving fair use.  If you SUBSCRIBE to our popular legal YouTube channel you be updated when we discuss new fair use cases.  Education is Power, of Course.

Also, make sure to support Copyright Policy Institute, a Washington D.C. Copyright Watchdog® and Fair Use Advocate.

Contact a Youtube Fair Use Video & Entertainment Lawyer

We can help with the following types of IP legal issues:

  • Cease and desist letters
  • DMCA law (takedown letters)
  • Copyright licensing
  • Music, video, a nd voice clearance
  • Counter-notifications
  • Fair Use opinion, responses and analysis
  • YouTube appeals (ex. account takedowns, and copyright strikes)
  • Monetization issues
  • Federal court copyright and trademark lawsuits (representing both Plaintiff and Defendants)
  • Account takedown issues (ex. Three Strikes)
  • Right of publicity (model release)
  • Other

For more information or to discuss your case, call us at (877) 276-5084.  You can also send a message through our contact form. 

About the Author

Steve Vondran

Thank you for viewing our blogs, videos and podcasts. As noted, all information on this website is Attorney Advertising. Decisions to hire an attorney should never be based on advertising alone. Any past results discussed herein do not guarantee or predict any future results. All blogs are written by Steve Vondran, Esq. unless otherwise indicated. Our firm handles a wide variety of intellectual property and entertainment law cases from music and video law, Youtube disputes, DMCA litigation, copyright infringement cases involving software licensing disputes (ex. BSA, SIIA, Siemens, Autodesk, Vero, CNC, VB Conversion and others), torrent internet file-sharing (Strike 3 and Malibu Media), California right of publicity, TV Signal Piracy, and many other types of IP, piracy, technology, and social media disputes. Call us at (877) 276-5084. AZ Bar Lic. #025911 CA. Bar Lic. #232337


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