What are Basic Video Copyright Laws?

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  • Written By: Keith Koons
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 03 September 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
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Video copyright laws were implemented in 1976 by the Federal Copyright Act to protect the resale and distribution rights of inventors who hold patents on recorded material. This essentially means that any person who purchases a DVD or Blu-Ray disk is also purchasing the right to watch that material, as long as it is done so in accordance with the creator's wishes. Under federal law, any copyrighted material can not be freely copied or distributed without first obtaining permission from the author, and it would also be deemed illegal to share that material within a public place without prior consent. Under the current video copyright laws, movies, television shows, videos, highlight reels and any other type of media would fall within this category.


Of course, video copyright laws are violated each and every day on the Internet. Just because the authorities do not intervene does not make it legal, and if a person is caught distributing unauthorized media, he could face both civil and criminal prosecution if discovered. Video copyright laws were originally created to protect artists from suffering financial loss, and just having a pirated copy of a DVD or watching an illegally uploaded movie online is considered a criminal offense. It is also important to note that video copyright laws pertain to the entirety of the material, meaning that using small portions of copyrighted work is also against the law if acknowledgment of the author is not provided. To remain in compliance in this instance, individuals can simply place the creator's name next to the video segment so that it is clearly visible to any viewers.

There are numerous exceptions within video copyright laws that would allow users to share media outside of their residence, and most of them apply to instructors. Under the Educational Exemption, teachers are allowed to use copyrighted video within their classrooms as long as the subject directly relates to the coursework being studied. Even in this circumstance, video copyright laws require that the material has to be purchased legally in order to be eligible for the exemption. In any other situation, consent from the creator of the video must be obtained prior to sharing the video with others.

Video copyright laws have been argued since their inception in 1976 by both the creators and the consumer, with neither side fully agreeing on the legalities. For example, if a person were to allow a friend to view legally owned copyrighted material within his residence, that act is unquestionably legal. If that friend were to invite 20 others over to watch the video at the same time, that could be constituted as an unauthorized use. Another popular argument is the ability to replicate copyrighted video for personal uses or to resell original media that was obtained legally; each of these topics falls within a gray area. As a general rule of thumb, if the video copyright laws do not implicitly grant permission for a questionable usage, then the creator should be asked before proceeding.



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