‘Fair Use’ Comes Back To Haunt YouTubers

How appropriate that a mousetrap is at the center of this issue …

The next era of copyright lawsuits is here! Well, to be fair, there haven’t been any lawsuits filed yet, but there will be soon. And this, like the music issues in YouTuber vids, will be a HUGE DEAL. Ironically, now it’s the YouTubers who are crying foul over “fair use.”

Back when YouTube was just a for-fun entity, the idea of having your video used on a major network like NBC would have been amazing — the sort of thing you bragged about to all your friends. But now with monetization and livelihoods on the line, how does “fair use” get drawn up?

YouTuber Taofledermaus is crying foul after several of his videos popped up in a “Dateline NBC” news piece about a murder. His assertions that commenters are now connecting him to the murder is pedantic whining, but he does have a really valuable and interesting point: does NBC have the right to use Taofledermaus’ (real name: Jeff Heeszel) work?

NBC commented to BetaBeat that “Some of the material was used as evidence at the trial that was the subject of the Dateline report. The brief excerpts were a legally permissible fair use.” But Heeszel responds that only one of the clips was evidence in the trial and the rest were utilized without permission.

This whole issue is a bit of what the British refer to as a “sticky widget.” See, NMR as a media organization claims fair use on everything related to YouTube. In fact, normally we would embed videos of Taofledermaus’ work without a second thought. It makes for a more comprehensive discussion, you see. But with him all frisky about people using his videos, even we have to be hesitant (no sense in getting swept up in a class action lawsuit). So you can see how it is troubling for everyone and everything when someone gets fussy. But is Taofledermaus wrong?

Obviously what differentiates a site like us from “Dateline NBC” is that everything we use gets tabbed on to YouTube creators’ channels — their Adsense goes up when you watch their videos we embed. So there should be no issue with us. But Dateline doesn’t make them any money — and even though Taofledermaus’ channel name was visible in one clip, allegedly the Dateline producers scrubbed out his watermarks (to be fair, we hate watermarks too). So what the content amounts to is stolen B-roll.

Is Taofledermaus right to be pissed? Hell yes. Then again, in the below video, he admits that news services use his videos and it helps the videos out a lot. Hmm hmm hmm.

The reality of the situation, and I hate to preach it, is that YouTube is getting to the point where its creators need to unionize. You need a strong governing legal body like ASCAP or SAG-AFTRA to manage these sorts of legal issues, because right now, Taofledermaus would have a hard time affording to go up against NBC. Just remember that when you do unionize, your ol’ pal NMR helped you do it.

Share this article because your fellow creators need to know the issue at hand.

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Biting the Hand That Feeds Us: Top 10 Things We Hate About YouTube