Video copyright

Fact sheet P-29

Issued: 6th April 2020
Last amended: 6th April 2020
Fact sheet P-29: Video copyright

Image of person operating a video camera.Film-making from a copyright perspective.

  1. Copyright ownership

    A video is subject to copyright from the moment of creation (the moment it was recorded). The owner at the point of creation is called the ‘first owner of copyright’.

    By default, (without an agreement/contract), where a video was created during the course of your normal employment, the employer will typically be the first owner of copyright. In other cases, the first owner will be the person that created the video (the person that made the recording).
    If there are any contracts or agreements in place at the time that cover copyright ownership, these will supersede (replace) the default ownership arrangements.

    Copyright can be sold, given away or otherwise transferred, just like any other asset; copyright ownership of a work can change over time.

    Copyright in a video will last a minimum of 50 years, and normally far longer, depending on national laws (see our fact sheet P10: Copyright Duration for more details)

  2. Your rights as the copyright owner

    The copyright owner of a video has the right to control who can do any of the following acts:

    • copy the work,
    • rent, lend or otherwise issue copies to the public,
    • perform the work in public,
    • adapt the work.

    These are referred to as ‘restricted acts’.

    Carrying out any of these acts requires the permission of the copyright owner. The exception being where the national law allows the use under a fair use exception (typically this will include uses such as by a teacher within a school for educational purpose, news reporting, etc. but will depend on the national laws).

  3. Legal considerations of the video/film maker:
    1. Filming permissions:
      • Model release forms

        If people appear in your videos, then you should get them to sign a release form consenting to your use of their image before you publish your video. The release form should be worded to give you permission to use the video of the person for commercial and non-commercial purposes. This will protect you against legal issues later on if the person changes their mind and tries to object.

        A release is not needed if the person being recorded was part of a crowd, and, they were filmed in a public place, and, the person was not the main subject of the video.

      • Location

        Filming in public places (streets, public parks, etc.) is generally fine, as long as you are not invading people’s privacy, but you would need permission to film on private private property.

    2. Other people’s work
      • Artwork, video clips, and written works

        If you use video clips, artwork (e.g. photos, paintings or other images), or display the content of literary works that have been created by others, you should obtain permission from the owner before publishing to avoid the risk of complaint or legal action later.

      • Music and audio effects

        Other people’s music or sound effects will belong to them, so should not be used unless permission is given, or there is an explicit license in place that allows your use.
        If you are seeking to use other peoples music in your film-making PRS for Music have a range of licensing options. There are also a large number of organisations offering royalty free one off licenses; so a simple Google search for Royalty Free Music should give you plenty of choice.

      • Fair Use

        Most national laws have a concept of ‘Fair Use’, or ‘Fair Dealing’ that allows re-use of a copyright work under specific situations without needing the permission from the copyright owner. You should note however that these will vary from country to country.
        Please see our fact sheets P-09: Understanding fair use and P-27: Using the work of others for more detailed information on this point.

      • Incidental inclusion

        Where another work is inadvertently included it should not normally be considered infringing.
        For example, if you are filming a street scene and there happened to be posters on some of the walls behind the actors, or a distant street performer was playing music and that was captured as part of the general background ambience when you recorded the actors.
        The idea is that the law should protect rights owners from deliberate wrong doing, but not restrict the creativity of others.

  4. Protecting your copyright
    1. Mark your videos with a copyright notice.

      This acts as a deterrent against infringement and names the copyright owner (so people know who to contact if seeking your permission to licence the work).
      See our fact sheet P-03: Using Copyright Notices for full details.

    2. Register your work.

      Registering your work with our service is a simple and relatively inexpensive process. Registration creates an independently verifiable, record of of the content of your video as it existed at the time of registration. This will act as compelling evidence of your prior claim to the work if someone later tries to copy your work and pass it off as their own creation.

      In most cases our online service is the fastest and cheapest way to register your work.

      • Online registration requirements

        We recognise that video files can be large and have tried to accommodate this as far as possible. You will be able to use the online facility to register your work if the following applies:

        • The total file size you have to deposit is no bigger than 20GB.
        • Individual files are no bigger than 4GB (40496B)

        If you have files which are above 4GB you may be able split your files into smaller chunks before uploading, either using your video editing software, or perhaps using an archiving program like WinRar or Rar, or the Split utility on Unix systems

        Go to online registration

      • Postal registration

        For larger works, or works that you are unable to upload, you may instead submit a copy of your work using a postal application form.

        Our postal registration forms

  5. Copyright infringement

    The copyright owner has the exclusive right to take action if/when someone infringes copyright by carrying out any of the restricted acts without permission. Normally the aim in an infringement case is to get the infringing copies removed or destroyed, and, where applicable and practical, to try to recover financial damages to cover any loss of income that occurred as a result of the infringement.

    The typical course of action would start with a ‘cease and desist’ letter sent to the infringing party in which you explain the reason for your complaint and specify an acceptable solution and timescale.
    If this fails to illicit an acceptable outcome, then you can escalate matters via a solicitor, smalls claims court, or IP Enterprise court (UK).

    Further details can be found in our dedicated copyright infringement fact sheet.

  6. Why register your copyright?

    If the other party claims that they created the work then, without proper evidence to back you up,  your claim can quickly descend into a case of ‘your word against theirs’.
    Registration means that there is a dated, independently verifiable record of your prior claim, this can help to speed up or even completely avoid legal claims.

    See our 'How registration helps' page for details.

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