YouTube and Copyright Infringement Laws

YouTube has become one of the top websites where copyright infringement is prevalent due to the site's constantly growing user base and endless hours of material. The most frequent form of YouTube video copyright infringement involves using songs without the owner's consent, which may not be considered a fair use (O'Brien & Fitzgerald, 2006).

Viacom International Inc. sued YouTube in May 2008 for failing to uphold the rights of its copyright proprietor. Viacom International Inc. filed a lawsuit against YouTube, claiming that it had permitted individuals to download their video without authorization. (Viacom International, Inc. v. YouTube, Inc 2008). The company said that YouTube has placed some of their music and movies on their website such that the members of the public can download them so easily. Viacom International Inc. goes ahead to claim that YouTube infringed their copyright by reproducing their copyright works and displaying them by opening a library so as to increase its traffics in the site.

In response to the claim, YouTube began to remove the music and the videos that could be easily downloaded without permission of the copyright holder. You Tube further suspended the accounts that were posting such music and videos. Some of the videos that have been deleted from the YouTube website are the primary audios and the singers playing covers of the videos and songs.

Copyright infringement is equal to theft with equal penalties. When a video company realizes that posting a video is a piracy, it can file a lawsuit and be awarded. Criminal side provides that there is possibility of a jail in the federal should one be found to violate copyright (O'Brien & Fitzgerald, 2006). Because of the fierce penalty, it is significant for the company or an individual to get protected from the allegations of the violations of the infringement.

However, works, videos and music whose copyright have expired can be used by the members of the public without fear that they have violated the liability of infringement. For instance, a publication done in the U.S in 1989 will automatically have its copyright expired by the year 2049 (Leaffer, 2010).

As a copyright holder, there are varieties of ways that can be employed to manage and enforce the content displayed in the YouTube. For example, the copyright holders may use Content ID system so that every time a video is uploaded on the YouTube, it can be scanned against the files in the database of the copyright holder (Seidenberg, 2009). Again the copyright holder can submit the file through YouTube submission so that ones the file is submitted, YouTube can issue the copyright strike to the party who feels that his copyright has been infringed. In that event, the copyright owner can be dealt with directly to counter the brought forth notification.


The copyright law may appear to be straightforward as it protects the original authorship of the work, however, it becomes challenging when it comes to YouTube as someone may not know whether to use someone else’s content (O'Brien & Fitzgerald, 2006). Therefore, the best way to avoid copyright violation is to ensure use the content that you have made by yourself. The court posts that the copyright holders must put into consideration the fair use before they takedown and fathom the analysis. Observing the copyright of the holders is very paramount not only to the YouTube, but also to the users of other people content.


Leaffer, M. A. (2010). Understanding copyright law. LexisNexis.

O'Brien, D. S., & Fitzgerald, B. F. (2006). Digital copyright law in a YouTube world. Internet Law Bulletin, 9(6 & 7), 71-74.

Hilderbrand, L. (2007). YouTube: Where cultural memory and copyright converge. FILM QUART, 61(1), 48-57.

Seidenberg, S. (2009). Copyright in the Age of YouTube. ABAJ, 95, 46.

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