Does Anyone Know What Is Legal and Illegal On YouTube? Does Anyone Even Care Any More?

1 min read

Copyright SymbolBelieve it or not things aren’t as black and white as they may at first appear when it comes to copyright infringement laws.

Which means YouTube is awash with videos that could be legal or illegal, depending on who is arguing the case.

No Copyright Infringement

Andy Baio recently wrote a fascinating article discussing how a new generation see copyright infringement very differently than previous generations. Mainly thanks to YouTube.

His kicking off point was the pronouncement, “No copyright infringement. I only put this up as a project,” placed by the uploader on a video showing Pulp Fiction in chronological order. That’s the full Pulp Fiction movie, distributed by Miramax, with its scenes rearranged.

This video is far from alone, with hundreds of thousands having some sort of copyright disclaimer attached to it. Even though doing so makes no difference to whether a video is infringing or not. The problem is no one quite knows what is and isn’t infringing when it comes to YouTube videos.

Who Cares? No One Knows

Does anyone know? Probably not. There are lawyers out there who will know copyright law like the back of their hand and know what they can and can’t demand be taken down. But that isn’t telling the whole story.

Does anyone care? Yes. YouTube does. It has to. And so do the media companies who own the copyrights on the content. They care because they don’t want those copyrights to be infringed upon. But we then come back to the former question.

The fact is that no one – not the users, not the site, not the corporations who own or the individuals who create – know what is legal and illegal on YouTube. Especially where remixes, spoofs, covers, and mashups are concerned. Mainly because some of the ideas surrounding these issues that are instituted into law are vague and unclear. And have never been tested in a court of law.


Proof that this is a gray area is the fact that the Pulp Fiction video is still up on YouTube almost two months after it was uploaded. More than 200,000 people have watched the video to date.

The strange thing is everyone seems happy with the situation as it is now, with all sides using the vast gray area to their advantage as and when it suits them. And until someone challenges the status quo the situation will remain as is. In other words we’ll all remain clueless.

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