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Attention YouTubers: Beware of Unlicensed Clips Under Fair Use!

It is undeniably convenient to incorporate unlicensed clips into Youtube videos, especially for those YouTubers who have millions of followers hungry for their stream of content. However, this would be the right time to refrain from doing so. Why? See the case of YouTube star Ray William Johnson.

Johnson produces the YouTube series The Equals Three Show, in which he posts programs that comment on viral videos and the events featured in them. The series currently has a following of 10.6 million subscribers. Junkin Media — a company that makes revenue by licensing the clips of the creators of these viral videos to distributors like CNN and NBC –filed a lawsuit against Johnson and his channel.

Johnson was issued said lawsuit by Junkin Media after Junkin sent him a takedown notice to YouTube pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Johnson countered the lawsuit by claiming that Junkin was acting in bad faith and did not consider the protection under fair use that Equals Three videos had.

The judges ruled in 40/40 cases that Johnson’s use of the unlicensed clips did not constitute fair use as the videos weren’t transformative enough to warrant protection. Johnson and Junkin Media came to a private agreement and Johnson and his legal team bowed out of the fight.

Johnson’s material:

Creatives should take these numbers as a sign that simply citing fair use as an excuse for using the content of others isn’t going to be enough anymore. Let’s all abide by the law and stay safe!


Disclaimer: Please note that the information contained within this blog post and site is offered simply as a consideration to visitors who are in the entertainment industry and are seeking to learn more about various areas of entertainment, be it in film, movies, television, music, digital, new media, film financing, merchandising and/or branding. As such, the information so provided should never be construed as legal advice. If you need further assistance or legal advice for your specific matter, please do not hesitate in contacting an entertainment attorney (film, music, digital, licensing, financing) here in Los Angeles, California at The Hollywood Lawyer by(1) emailing us at; (2) calling us at (323) 300-4184; or (3) filling out our online form

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