Over recent years, YouTube has grown from a virtually unknown website to an Internet phenomenon that today spawns celebrities, hit programs, and huge earning potential. There’s no doubt that YouTube has changed the way the entertainment industry works– viral videos or series now have the potential to turn unknown, everyday people into overnight celebrities. That being said, while YouTube is a gateway for those looking to break into the industry, it can also provide a gateway for artists’ rights violations.
Every day, YouTube users post unauthorized material of artists performances, thus violating the artists’ rights. To counter this, YouTube has protections in place for artists. An artist can submit a “copyright takedown notice” to YouTube if he she claims that his or her work has been posted without authorization. Follow this link for more information. This type of infringement has become such a common occurrence, that YouTube has been the subject of major lawsuits over the years by artists. In December 2014, Time.com reported that superstar artists such as Pharrell Williams, the Eagles, and others had threatened You Tube with a $1 billion lawsuit if it did not remove about 20,000 videos that the artists claimed violated their rights. Read the full article here.
If remedies sought through YouTube itself do not resolve the issue, as an artist you’ll be happy to learn that the federal government has also anticipated these issues and, as a result, enacted its “Anti-Bootlegging Statutes.” [see below] Any actions found in violation of these statutes are subject to federal prosecution. So as an artist, know that you are protected, and as a YouTube user, “beware of bootlegging.”
Federal Anti-Bootlegging Statutes
The Federal Anti-Bootlegging Statutes, 17 U.S.C. 1101, protect against “Unauthorized Fixation and Trafficking in Sound Recordings and Music Videos.” “Fixation” is a legal terms that means making the image stable enough to be perceived or transmitted. In laymen’s terms, “fixation” equates to “recording.” The Anti-Bootlegging Statutes prohibit without authorization “Fixing (recording) the sounds or images of a live performance, and transmitting (sharing), selling, renting, distributing, etc. them.”
In other words, going to a concert, recording the performance, and posting it to YouTube technically violates this statute and is, by definition, illegal. This is why an artist can successfully petition to have these videos removed from YouTube, and YouTube issues warnings to all of its users regarding the posting of unauthorized videos. Still, both you and I know that most of the videos that we see on You Tube involve this sort of posting. Most users are not aware that their behavior is contrary, while most artists, unless they have someone monitoring YouTube, are unable to keep track of this activity. On the other hand, there are some artists that simply don’t mind their fans sharing their performances. As an artist, it’s up to you.
Next week, we will continue this discussion and what you can do to protect your rights.
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