Infringement Of Copyright – Who’s Going To Know?

infringement of copyright, YouTubeA consumer-style perspective on uploading videos is highly problematic when adopted by brand marketers and agencies.

In our personal lives, we’ve become accustomed to uploading content on a daily basis to our personal social media channels. Everything from selfies to pet videos, to our every waking thought. Generally the younger the person, the more they share – hence the stigma of “generation overshare”. There’s a sense that this content can live forever on our channels – our digital self becomes immortal – sometimes the person we want to be rather than who we really are.

This mind set can become dangerous when members of “generation overshare” have roles as brand marketers and advertising executives. I’ve witnessed the above attitude to uploading brand marketing content videos – a sense that, “…because it’s just on YouTube and it’s not a commercial, it’s insignificant. So we don’t really need to clear music rights and the film can stay up on YouTube forever”.

This stance is wholly wrong and effectively condones unauthorised usage that constitutes infringement of copyright.

It’s certainly the case that in the late noughties, many brands posted content with unlicensed music that wasn’t identified by music rights owners. The music publishers and record labels either weren’t aware this was happening or didn’t yet have the tools to track it.

This situation has changed and music rights owners now see unauthorised use by brands as a real cash cow; a golden opportunity to charge high penalty fees from a position of strength, given the alternative is to sue for damages.

Rights Owner Vigilance

Music publishers and record labels use software to detect unlicensed online usage of their music. In some cases, unlicensed video content will suffer an automatic take-down. Elsewhere there may be human intervention whereby the rights owner contacts the brand or agency (the licensee) to make amends and pay the appropriate licence fees. Even for properly licensed online uses, rights owners routinely check if the video has been taken down by the licensee when the licence expires. Where this doesn’t happen, some rights owners will contact the licensee to offer a chance to renew the licence – though the window within which to do this will be short.

Fees for unlicensed usage or extensions to licences are increasingly a key part of rights owners’ sync income.

Don’t get caught out! Make sure everyone on your team understands that: 

  • Brands can’t upload videos “with abandon” in the manner of consumers
  • Music in brand online campaigns must be properly licensed
  • Online usage is limited by Term which will almost never be in perpetuity
  • Music rights owners pro-actively seek unlicensed usage by brands
  • Unlicensed usage is punished by take-downs and penalty licence fees

If you would like to discuss this in more detail or anything else to do with music rights or sync licensing, please get in touch. Call  +44 (0)20 3137 0324 or email