Video Copyright Laws

By Holly Cameron

Copyright laws prohibit unauthorized copying or reproduction of original audiovisual works. In today’s digital world, videos exist not only in a physical form, but also in electronic formats online. Both viewers and creators of videos should have a basic understanding of copyright laws set out in Title 17 of the United States Code. Breach of copyright can lead to substantial fines.

Definition of Audiovisual Works

Section 102 of the Copyright Act protects original audiovisual works of authorship. The Copyright Act defines audiovisual works as consisting of a series of related images that are intended to be shown by use of projectors or electronic equipment. The creator of a video owns the copyright for that video. Anyone who sells, distributes, copies or otherwise reproduces all or part of the video breaches copyright laws.

Public Performance

Copyright law allows individuals to watch videos or DVDs in their own homes in the company of friends and family. The law does not permit public performances without the permission of the copyright owner. Section 101 of the Copyright Act defines a public performance as one for people outside the normal circle of family and friends, or at a venue that is open to the public. If you want to show videos in a public place, you should purchase a license from the copyright owner.

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Fair Use

The fair use doctrine allows individuals and organizations to use copyrighted material, including videos, in certain circumstances such as news reporting or education. A school teacher, therefore, may show a legal copy of a video to a group of pupils as part of a classroom lesson. The video should relate directly to the course that the pupils are studying. Most educational establishments have their own guidelines for using videos.

Creating Videos

If you create a video, you may want to include elements of copyrighted material such as music or images, mixed into the final work. The fact that you own a CD or any other form of musical track does not mean that you have the right to use that music except for personal or home use. You can, however, include copyrighted material if it is incidental or accidental. For example, if you video a couple’s first dance at a wedding and include the wedding music, this will not constitute a breach of copyright law.

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Copyright Laws & Video Games


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What Are the Copyright Laws for Images?

Digital cameras and social networking sites have led to an increase in the volume of images across the media. Anyone who uploads images to a website, or who downloads or copies images created by others, should be aware of the importance of copyright. Copyright laws protect the creators of original works from unauthorized reproduction or copying and penalize those who fail to respect others’ copyrights. Chapter 17 of the United States Code contains the Copyright Act and the relevant laws.

Sheet Music Copyright Laws

If music stores or orchestra leaders could simply buy one copy of sheet music and photocopy it for all their customers or band members, the composer and publishing house would not be able to make a living and create more unique music. Copyright laws protect composers and music publisher's rights; it is a violation of copyright law to reproduce sheet music without permission from the copyright holder.

DVD Copyright Rules

United States copyright law is designed to protect the rights of people who create artistic work and those who purchase the right to use such works. DVD copyrights may be registered through the U.S. Copyright Office, but a DVD does not have to be registered to be copyrighted. Copyright protection immediately flows to an item the moment it is created in some tangible form; a DVD is considered a tangible form.


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