Viacom alleges copyright violation -- Man used VH-1 clip featuring man's webvideo

Sound confusing?

This guy who’s running for school board uploads his campaign commercials to youtube so that he can post them on his webpage. The commercials are “interesting” and attract the attention of WebJunk 2.0, a VH-1 television series. WebJunk 2.0 centers a segment of its show on the man’s campy commercials. Naturally, this segment features footage of the commercials - which are used without the man’s permission (or knowledge). The man then uploads the WebJunk 2.0 segment to youtube (so that he can post it on his webpage), but Viacom has this youtube clip pulled for copyright reasons. Read more here .

Intellectual property gurus – what’s the deal? Was Viacom in the wrong for using the man’s video without his permission? (Note: I could not determine whether the man’s commercial were actually copyrighted – he implies it).

Viacom probably violated his copyright when they used his video without permission (assuming he had copyright). I doubt, however, he actually registered the copyright, so all he can’t claim damages.

Then it gets all gray. Certainly the commentary on the video that Viacom made is under Viacom’s copyright, though. He might have a right to repost his own commercial, but Viacom’s content could be a violation (though it might also be fair use – a court would have to rule).

But, legal or not, Viacom is acting like jerks about it. Most likely, they make blanket request to remove their material on Youtube without see it all or realizing the actual situation.

The man’s commercial is copyrighted the moment it is produced. He doesn’t need to register anywhere in order to assert his rights. That is one of the most fundamental yet most misunderstood principles of US copyright law.

However, I’m sure that the producers of the show would allege that their use of this and other clips qualifies as fair use . That allows the use of copyrighted material “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting…”. Making fun of you tube posts probably qualifies as all three.

The candidate’s re-posting of the VH1 program presumably included not just his commercial, but the comments by their performers. That’s clearly a copyright violation.

Unless he was using the material for purposes of criticism, comment and/or news reporting.