How do I Copyright a Video?

G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen
Man holding computer
Man holding computer

You can copyright a video that consists of original material that you have recorded on some type of physical media simply through the process of making the recording. Any original work of art or artistic creation is protected by copyright law at the moment of creation, and as the creator of that work you would own the copyright simply by recording the video. You cannot, however, establish a copyright on a video that is a recording of something else that someone owns a copyright on, such as a video recording of a movie. While you can copyright a video simply by creating it, you may also want to register your copyright officially for greater legal protection in case of infringement.

To copyright a video, all you have to do is simply create a video by recording images and any appropriate sound onto a physical medium. You can edit and alter your recorded video and make any other changes, and you will still own the copyright on that video. Copyright law extends protection of intellectual property at the moment of creation for a work of art or artistic creation. This means that you copyright a video as soon as you make it, regardless of if it exists on videotape or as digital media on a computer.

Key to this concept, however, is that you must actually record or create a video in some way to actually copyright a video. You cannot copyright an idea for a video or a concept; you have to actually create something to own a copyright on that creation. This also means that your video has to be an original creation that you are the effective “author” of and that you have done for yourself. You can create a video that someone has paid you to create, and the work you create for hire may be owned by the person who has paid you.

It is also worth noting that you cannot copyright a video that consists of someone else’s work on which he or she already has a copyright. You cannot record a video of a movie someone else made and attempt to claim a copyright on that; nor can you typically edit someone else’s work and try to copyright the creation since it would typically be seen as derivative of the original work. Once you copyright a video by creating it, you may want to register your copyright with an appropriate government or private agency for greater legal protection. Proving that you own the copyright on a video can be difficult, but official registration through an agency such as the US Copyright Office can legally establish your ownership of that copyright.

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