Is It Copyright Infringement To Embed An Infringing YouTube Video On Your Blog?

from the questions,-questions,-questions dept

While there has been a great deal of discussion (and a few lawsuits) concerning the legality of YouTube hosting infringing videos, one question where we haven't seen very much discussion is the legal liability for people who embed infringing YouTube videos on their sites. One of the great features of YouTube was that each video provided a line of HTML that would allow you to embed the video directly into your site -- exactly as we've done a few times. However, is that act -- of putting the HTML embed code on your site -- copyright infringement if the video is infringing? After all, the actual video is still hosted by YouTube. The person who uploaded it is someone entirely different. All you've done is put a single line of HTML on your page -- but it's not hard to see how some might see that as infringing. In fact, we may have an example of exactly that. Ronald Lewis let us know about a typical cease-and-desist letter he received from a lawyer because he had some blog posts that embedded YouTube videos of musician Michael McDonald. Lewis didn't upload the videos. He's not hosting the videos. He simply put a single line of HTML (provided by YouTube for this specific purpose) on his website, and it would then display the video. There are plenty of other questions raised by this as well, such as whether or not the videos really infringe, why a lawyer would want to stop someone from promoting the music of someone (since it's unlikely that anyone would stop buying music because they saw a video on YouTube). There's also the fact that Lewis claims he's been friends with McDonald for a decade to make the whole situation awkward. But, honestly, the much more interesting (and rarely discussed) question concerns the liability of those who embed infringing videos. My guess is that it won't be long before we start seeing a lot more threats and lawsuits over embedded videos from bloggers who have no idea they're putting themselves at risk simply for putting a line of code into a blog post.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2007 @ 4:16pm

    Update A Worn Out Cliche

    If a blog infringes content but there's no one there to read it, does it cost a copyright holder anything?

     

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    Benefacio, Jul 3rd, 2007 @ 4:22pm

    The obvious answer is maybe.

    It really depends on whether the html code is designed to rebroadcast or is just a navigation link. Infringement is more about intent than actual use and is not always easy to decide.

    As usual the rights listed in the Constitution are only protected by the quality of the layers hired to defend those rights.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 3rd, 2007 @ 4:22pm

    How is it that these videos remain on YouTube even after they are identified as being infringing?

    That said, even though that's not getting at the source of the problem, I am a firm believer in placing responsibility on individuals. If achieving that means scaring them to make sure they aren't posting links to content they shouldn't, so be it. I hate how our society constantly defers responsibility to another party: "simply put a single line of HTML"

    Again, I don't think that doing this is necessarily the best way to go about it, but I'm not totally against it, either.

     

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    Comicfan, Jul 3rd, 2007 @ 4:56pm

    Another step

    For one, the video quality is usually fairly crappy and the sound worse. Who is going to benefit from having the HTML on their site infringing wise? How is Youtube benefiting in a way of infringement? I don't see this as anything but another attempt to keep the "POWER" going. Don't tell me those crappy YouTube videos could really benefit anyone, that's bull. I could see if they were DVD quality, ya know? Burning to disk, etc...but come on! Where will it end? IF I blare music so everyone can hear it, am I sharing? Illegally? Only I have permission to use that CD so I guess so. That's probably the next step, we ALL have to listen to headphones else it's music sharing. That's next.

     

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    Scruffydan, Jul 3rd, 2007 @ 5:02pm

    this seems like an extension of the question is linking to infringement material a copyright violation. I don't think so (or google would in a lot of trouble), but copyright holders will probably disagree.

    It makes no sence though becuase it would be much easier for a copyright holder to take down the infringing copy from youtube then the many blogs that may have embedded it.

     

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    Scruffydan, Jul 3rd, 2007 @ 5:03pm

    This is the hard way

    this seems like an extension of the question is linking to infringement material a copyright violation. I don't think so (or google would in a lot of trouble), but copyright holders will probably disagree.

    It makes no sence though becuase it would be much easier for a copyright holder to take down the infringing copy from youtube then the many blogs that may have embedded it.

     

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    Bob Jones, Jul 3rd, 2007 @ 5:04pm

    If they knew when they posted, which they most certainly did - you can't mistake a music video or TV show for a video of a guy falling over, they should be liable.

    I saw a site earlier which had full episodes of a show on, they were embed from another site, with a disclaimer underneath "we don't host them on our servers" ... guilty!

     

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    Kyros, Jul 3rd, 2007 @ 5:18pm

    Not guilty. You can't kill the person who hosts your video and every person who looks at it. There needs to be a limit.

     

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    Eric Goldman (profile), Jul 3rd, 2007 @ 5:20pm

    There is precedent on this

    In Perfect 10 v. Amazon, the court rejected linking as a public display when the displayed files were on remote servers. But there's also the earlier LiveNation cases from last Winter, where a link that caused streaming was deemed a public performance. So this may remain an open legal question. Eric.

     

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    Ronald Lewis, Jul 3rd, 2007 @ 5:34pm

    Thank you

    Just a quick note to say "thank you" for engaging a crowd around my story. This will be interesting.

     

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      Hephaestus (profile), Jul 9th, 2009 @ 10:29am

      Re: Thank you

      Couple questions.....

      Are these videos actually infringing ie unauthorized?

      Why wasnt a DMCA takedown sent to youTube?

      Suggestion
      Call Michael and tell him what is going on.

       

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    David Sternlight, Jul 3rd, 2007 @ 6:54pm

    Is a "tiny" line of HTML code infringing.

    Is the use of a tiny lockpick to violate anti-burglary laws a crime?

     

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    LN, Jul 3rd, 2007 @ 7:18pm

    Duey

    I wonder if the analogy can be stretched to library catalogues. "Here's where to find this certain thing, which we may or may not own the rights too." If that's a stretch too far, then I wonder what the difference is between search engines finding the content, as opposed to blogs pointing you to them...
    It would seem that the persistent practise of aiming for the people that highlight that the content is available, rather than asking the source to remove it is a waste of everyone's time... Except the lawyers, of course :)

     

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    Bruce R. Nevins, Jul 3rd, 2007 @ 11:01pm

    Just got hit for an infinging link

    We do web hosting for small local businesses. Today our ISP sent us a notice that a representative for Lions Gate Films found an infringing link to "Sicko". It was on one of our customer web sites. By going to the ISP they can make them kill our connection by claiming we are in violation of the terms of use. Who needs a court case, when they can have all the sites killed for an "infraction". We don't have the time or resources to get into this so we pulled down the page immediately.

    The text of the notice is as follows.

    BayTSP, Inc. ("BayTSP") swears under penalty of perjury that Lionsgate Films has authorized BayTSP to act as its non-exclusive agent for copyright infringement notification. BayTSP's search of the protocol listed below has detected infringements of Lionsgate Films copyright interests on your IP addresses as detailed in the attached report.

    BayTSP has reasonable good faith belief that Lionsgate Films, its agents, or the law does not authorize use of the material in the manner complained of in the attached report. The information provided herein is accurate to the best of our knowledge. Therefore, this letter is an official notification to effect removal of the detected infringement listed in the attached report. The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, the Universal Copyright Convention, as well as bilateral treaties with other countries allow for protection of client's copyrighted work even beyond U.S. borders. The attached documentation specifies the exact location of the infringement.

    We hereby request that you immediately remove or block access to the infringing material, as specified in the copyright laws, and insure the user refrains from using or sharing with others Lionsgate Films materials in the future.

    Further, we believe that the entire Internet community benefits when these matters are resolved cooperatively. We urge you to take immediate action to stop this infringing activity We appreciate your efforts toward this common goal.

     

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    S Springer, Jul 4th, 2007 @ 5:53am

    copyright infringement

    Of course, it is a copyright violation. It is also very poor publishing. If you published an article with an un-cited quote from a source that also did not cite the quote, you are repeating useless, inaccurate, irresponsible information from an equally uneducated source. We should share and ponder original knowledge, ideas, thoughts, and art. Re-circulating stale, unoriginal, hackneyed words, images, and art just carries us- as creative, thinking beings- further into rumors, innuendo, and irrelevance. The plagiarism is not only unethical, and illegal, it is morally hurtful; plagiarism is intellectual bankruptcy.

     

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      Todd (profile), Feb 23rd, 2013 @ 12:15pm

      Re: copyright infringement

      @springer
      What do you think the press is!? They take information relayed to them from a source and deliver it to the public every day. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to conclude that information could be misrepresented or exaggerated (which it usually is). The whole idea of maintaining an ethical and moral system went out the window decades ago with the press & media's behavior. I'm not saying I agree with it but if you're going to raise a stink on this front it seems a little odd other fronts are allowed. Many words in the english language leave much room for further interpretation. In my personal opinion this is the governments fault for not properly educating or further elaborating on certain subjects they warn about. The cost of incarceration or enforcement in comparison to simply educating the public is a no brainer but yet still this system remains. And they cry about a massive deficit & yet don't stop to consider where much of the hidden cost comes from. It would be a lot cheaper & easier to simply deploy programs which proactively firewalled traffic both in & out that violated these rules instead of crying about the result. My God it's like leaving a fork on the ground near an outlet then complaining about how the child was able to get hurt. "Do not tell me it can't be done!" ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

       

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    Joe, Jul 4th, 2007 @ 8:27am

    One problem is all blogs think they are "meaningful publications" yet they do not have the training or knowledge about how to ethically and properly run say a newspaper.

    People sure get into a fuss about sites that host rapidshare link; yet rapidshare hosts all the files.

    Corporations are too aggressive in their greed for every single penny and continue to push people away from actually wanting to legally give them money. It's not the artist you want to protect; it's your big company. People don't like big companies being in the news every day acting like a spoiled kid to get every single thing in the room. Do those assholes that make the decisions have any artistic talent? NO.. so go f yourself you are worthless to me; the artist can have money for being creative; you can go f off. Oh you have the artist on contract? For what? So you can make money off other people because you have no desirable talents of your own?

    If companies wanted to b e publics favorite; they would embrace technology; embrace the speed of the internet; and change their business models instead of desperately holding on to their clueless thought process that who knows where they get it from. Companies need the 25-35 generation to save their companies and get rid of the 60 year old geezers that completely ruin the internet creditability with heavy users.

     

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    ranon, Jul 4th, 2007 @ 8:55am

    a line of html

    An image is also just a line of html. It might be hosted on flickr or any other image hosting site.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 4th, 2007 @ 12:22pm

    i want to get a cease-and-desist letter so i can send one back stating they are infriging on my protected web content by looking at it

    please stop visting my websight, your not allowed :P

    ps, please remove that LARGE stick up your ass, i belive it is hindering your ability to think and medically speaking, that cant be good.

     

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    strangeraatRandom, Jul 4th, 2007 @ 3:36pm

    For those of you who think it should be legal to embed video, need to step out of the simple box, and look at the big picture, If you put a video of your 16 year old sister sitting on a boat, it should not be ok for me to post that same video on my "video's of people who think incest should be legal site.....

    I would not want the video of my children to be shown on some adult porn site, as I would not be able to regulate what content is appearing next to my video, or the adds that my video is promoting.. SO Of course it should be against the law,, The real question should be is Where is the law?

     

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    CyberNorris, Jul 4th, 2007 @ 7:36pm

    Of course

    You are certainly guilty of unauthorized use for publishing any copyrighted content, even if it is done by sourcing the material from another web host.

    You are trying to argue that you are not guilty of possession of stolen property because you didn't steal the TV... you merely purchased it off the back of the pickup truck in the grocery store parking lot.

     

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    Trae Dorn, Jul 4th, 2007 @ 8:25pm

    Not quite CyberNorris.

    It's more like watching the stolen TV through the window, and telling other people where they can see it, without ever being involved in the theft.

     

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      Todd (profile), Feb 23rd, 2013 @ 12:19pm

      Re: Not quite CyberNorris.

      excellent example

       

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        Todd (profile), Feb 23rd, 2013 @ 12:38pm

        Re: Re: Not quite CyberNorris.

        I'd also like to point out users on youtube have absolutely no way of knowing if the author is in fact licensed to reproduce the material & for this reason alone viewers can't be held accountable. In my personal opinion you shouldn't assume the user is licensed considering the stiff penalties but I don't see a threat to viewers or folks who embed. This is also why google allowed the embed feature because their legal department agrees & they did so knowing they wouldn't be able to get to every single violation right away. It's a no brainer and won't make it past a preliminary hearing for obvious reasons because that defense argument. In my personal opinion you still shouldn't assume that so I wouldn't do it. There is always a chance you could get a strict judge or jury who is opposed to the idea. I consulted our law firm & they agree.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 5th, 2007 @ 3:57am

    Something that I don't see people bringing into question is whether the person putting the html code in their page is *aware* that its an infringing video. i'm curious if the eula for YouTube mentions anything about the user taking liability when they post an embedded video somewhere or if it still falls on YouTube somehow for giving you infringing video access.

    Honestly, I think it shouldn't make a difference. It makes more sense to send a cease & desist to the origin as opposed to all the copies. One letter stops *all* the people linking to it. Plus infringement requires knowing and willing intent to infringe. it's *way* too easy to say you thought it was fine because it was on youtube and then use the argument, "why didn't they just send a dmca request to youtube?"

    They might send letters to those random people though because maybe its not infringing and they just assume that YouTube or the like would see through it and ignore it whereas individuals may be more likely to crack immediately and without a fight.

     

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    jaydee, Jul 5th, 2007 @ 8:58am

    The real crime

    I think the real crime here is that someone actually finds Michael McDonald entertaining enough to promote on their website. Yeesh...

     

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    Mikester, Jul 5th, 2007 @ 10:01am

    Death of 2.0

    Who killed Web 2.0© ? The lawyers damnit.

     

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    Jennifer Steck, Jul 6th, 2007 @ 9:27am

    Why Post to YouTube?

    Isn't part of the draw of posting a video to YouTube that it will be seen and shared by lots of people. I don't get it. If videomasters and YouTube don't want that information shared, they should not invite people to embed it into their sites. Does a link qualify as copyright infrigement?

     

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    JiGGZ, Jul 12th, 2007 @ 1:57pm

    Don't be afraid of this BS

    This shit doesn't scare anyone. Just go to a torrent site and download gigs of music for free. Art should be free anyways. If an artist is in it just for the money he is not an artist he is a capitalist!

     

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    psyphil, Jul 28th, 2007 @ 1:17pm

    How can we decide a video as unlawful

    If i have to embed video,how can i decide whether i am using an infringed one or legally correct one

     

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    utubekr8zy, Jan 21st, 2008 @ 7:36am

    it depends on the artist

    i think the bottom line is the artist.
    i am an artist too, i want my works to be see and heard, but i don't want it to be pirated .
    to my knowledge, i think most youtubers are faithful fans and they want others to see how great eg. jeff beck, mahavishnu orchestra ,etc... is.
    i see only a couple where he ACTUALLY advertises in his video that he is selling the stuff.
    one reader said it best. the quality is passable, who would pay for that ? i see youtube as a preview for the videos i would want to buy. that what has been happening for me , since i found youtube, i have been buying dvd of the artists i like.
    they wouldn't have earn my sale had it not been for youtube.

    bottom line once again, ask the artist. if she is against youtube, then make it known in her website to the effect of PLEASE DO NOT SUPPORT YOUTUBE.
    then, as a fan, i will know this, and will do my part to report an infringement.
    i think most artists are not that petty.

     

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    ThomasM, Feb 7th, 2008 @ 10:36am

    Tube Charts

    Hello i am afraid,

    that my site is kind of infringeing

    what do you think?

    www.tube-charts.com

    regards
    Thomas

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Johnmilton, Jun 5th, 2011 @ 8:09am

    http://www.smashhitdisplays.com

    Itís a means of getting new clients and increasing the visibility of a companyís products and services among the target market. Some trade shows are open to the public, while others can only be attended by company representatives (members of the trade) and members of the pres

     

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    identicon
    Todd, Feb 23rd, 2013 @ 12:08pm

    @springer

    @springer
    What do you think the press is!? They take information relayed to them from a source and deliver it to the public every day. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to conclude that information could be misrepresented or exaggerated (which it usually is). The whole idea of maintaining an ethical and moral system went out the window decades ago with the press & media's behavior. I'm not saying I agree with it but if you're going to raise a stink on this front it seems a little odd other fronts are allowed. Many words in the english language leave much room for further interpretation. In my personal opinion this is the governments fault for not properly educating or further elaborating on certain subjects they warn about. The cost of incarceration or enforcement in comparison to simply educating the public is a no brainer but yet still this system remains. And they cry about a massive deficit & yet don't stop to consider where much of the hidden cost comes from. It would be a lot cheaper & easier to simply deploy programs which proactively firewalled traffic both in & out that violated these rules instead of crying about the result. My God it's like leaving a fork on the ground near an outlet then complaining about how the child was able to get hurt. "Do not tell me it can't be done!" ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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