Here are the answers to our copyright quiz.
Do you have the legal rights to use the following in a video to be posted on YouTube (without monetization) and without getting permission from copyright holders or people who appear in the video? If you say no, be prepared to explain why.
- Justin Bieber’s recording of Baby. No, all kinds of copyright laws are being broken..
- Your own recording of yourself playing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata (the original version). Yes, but you may still get threatened by a sheet-music publisher who thinks you are using their version. You can feel safe to reject their claim.
- Your own recording of your school’s symphonic band playing Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony at a public concert. No, the arrangement would be copyrighted Beethoven didn’t write for symphonic bands).
- An audio recording of a Moonlight Sonata as performed by Yundi Li. No. The recording is copyrighted.
- A video clip of a film made in the Hong Kong in 1960. Probably not. The director(s), screenwriter(s) and composer(s) all would have had to have died very very soon just after the film was released (Fifty years after the death of the last creator).
- A video clip of a film made in the USA in 1960. No (unless it is a special case, like a government produced documentary), it is still protected by copyright.
- A cute photo of a baby someone took and posted on his/her website or Facebook page without any indication that the photo is copyrighted or that permission is required. No. Copyright notices are not necessary
- Scenes from a film made in 1912, with the last principal creator (the composer of the music) dying in (1955) and released with a DVD version in 2008. The DVD version has been cleaned up and some extra scenes have been added. You took the film clip from this DVD, but didn’t use the extra scenes. Probably. Cleaning up the DVD would not constitute making it a new work, and you are not using any of the recently added scenes. You could still get sued, however, as the film company may argue that they have changed the visuals so much that it is like a new work. It is uncertain who would win.
- An original song recorded in Hong Kong in 1950 (the composer died in 1970). No. it is still protected by copyright.
- Your own drawing of Mickey Mouse in a how-to-draw video. Probably. You should be able to argue fair use.
- A video you took of your baby cousin in your aunt’s house playing with a Mickey Mouse toy. No. The video is of individuals in a private place. You need the permission of your aunt. The Mickey Mouse toy is not the problem. You also need to be concerned about people’s rights to privacy when you are making a video.
- Three minutes of the film Toy Story (the scene where the heroes are about to fall into the pit of fire) as part of a film review. Uncertain. You can argue fair use, but the copyright holder can argue that you are presenting the most important part of the film. You could get sued. If so, you could lose.
- A fan-made trailer of Twilight using your own music and scenes from the movie. Probably not. There is no educational or critical purpose, so a fair use argument is difficult
- Your own parody of Justin Bieber’s Baby video, with completely new lyrics and yourself playing the role of Justin Bieber. Uncertain. Parodies are a form a Fair Use. You might still get sued as they copyright holder can argue the music is the same. You might lose. The most famous music parodist—Weird Al Yankovic—does get clearance from copyright holders.
- A video and audio mash-up of Baby (Justin Bieber) and Poker Face (Lady Gaga). Probably not. You might get sued. There’s a good chance you would lose, though you can argue that your music is a completely new work.
- A video of your birthday party at a local restaurant with everybody singing Happy Birthday. No. The problem is with the song. It is copyrighted (this is why it almost never appears in movies)
- A video of your friends dancing to Gangnam Style with the music playing in the background. No. Even though it is in the background, it is still copyrighted.
- Your fan-made video of a Taylor Swift singing at her Hong Kong concert. No. During almost all concerts nowadays, video recording is not permitted. And the song itself is copyrighted.
- A digital image of a 300-year-old painting from a museum website. On the museum’s website, there is a notice saying it owns copyright over all images of the paintings that it owns. Probably. The image, a copy of the painting, is not protected as it is just a copy. The museum will likely disagree with you (museums can earn money by licensing copies) and may try to sue you. You would most likely win any court case, but would you like to be involved in one?
- Someone has recently painted a new version of the Mona Lisa—but as an alien. It is quite funny, so you include it on your video. No. The new work is copyrighted.
- Pictures you took of your friends at Sports Day. You add the slogan: Just Do It under the photo.Probably. Though the phrase is trademarked, your use wouldn’t break the trademark regulations relating to the phrase.
- A video introducing your class t-shirt design. The slogan on the t-shirt is Just Do It. Uncertain. We are looking at a trademark law problem. Nike produces sportswear with that trademarked slogan. You seem to be producing a pirated version of their product. Could Nike’s lawyers argue that your video causes confusion, that people might think Nike has sponsored your class.
There are a few main conclusions to draw here:
- A lot of things that people are currently doing does break copyright laws.
- Sometimes companies reach to far in their concept of what is not allowed.
- There is still a lot of uncertainty. In many cases, the decision whether something breaks the law is not clear cut and would be based on the interpretation of the court.