Study: YouTube uploaders don't understand Fair Use

by Eliot Van Buskirk, Listening Post/Wired

Many of the people using YouTube don't understand their legally-protected right to post copyrighted material online, according to a study (PDF) conducted by American University's Center for Social Media and AU's Washington College of Law.

The study found that "College students care about copyright when they upload videos containing others' copyrighted materials to new online platforms, but they don't understand their own First Amendment rights or know how to comply with copyright law."

Since there's so much confusion about what Fair Use is, here's a good summary from

"Fair Use: The right, set forth in Section 107 of the United States Copyright Act, to use copyrighted materials for certain purposes, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair: (1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work."

This leaves a lot of protection for posting copyrighted material without permission. But, as the study shows, people too often accept at face value the entertainment industry's message that no use of commercial content is fair.

If what you create is protected by Fair Use, don't err on the side of assuming that posting it is illegal.

More findings from the study:

· "Nearly 90 percent of the college students interviewed upload Internet videos containing copyrighted material to user-generated video sites don’t receive permission from copyright owners - but 74 percent of them believe it is fair to pay for the use of such material—even though in many cases they should not have to.

· "More than half of respondents (52 percent) combine their own videography with recorded music; 44 percent put together moving slide shows with photos of family and friends; and 20 percent excerpted material from a TV show or movie.

· "The reasons why students upload Internet videos are driven in part by their desire to create and maintain personal identity through location of themselves in a social network. And part of what fuels their social network is shared experience of popular culture, as exemplified in Internet videos.

· "Nearly 80 percent of respondents (76 percent) said the Fair Use doctrine—which permits use of unauthorized copyrighted material under some circumstances-- allows them to use copyrighted material, but not a single student could accurately define the doctrine.

· "While uploaders of Internet videos want to stay on the 'good side' of the law, they are 'making up the rules' about what intellectual property to use and how to do it.

· "Most respondents felt their Internet videos provide a valuable service by giving copyrighted works 'free advertising.'"

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