It is common that TV channels or internet TV channels (e.g. those regularly post their shows on Youtube) use materials from other sources. For example, displaying photos from the internet, parts of videos already posted on Youtube and other websites, etc.

I am curious how the copyright permission is handled for using copyrighted materials in videos.

In the past, major TV channels were only in the market, and they had their own reporters and photographers to make their materials. Nowadays, there are many small channels (even personal ones), and I doubt if they take of care of copyright issues at all.

As a more specific example, how to obtain right to use a part of a Youtube video in an online show, which will be posted on Youtube ?

3 Answers 3


Very broadly speaking, you have a much easier experience obtaining permission if you are not making money from someone else's content.

Most copyright laws recognise 'fair use' -- a small quote or a clip that is proof of someone else having said something. It is customary and advisable to put such clip in a box or window to show that the content is being referenced. Fair use for a small portion of text or video is easily established than a picture, for a picture is the entire content.

  1. For images, search engines usually have a license filter in the search. Usually, it errs on the side of caution. Unfortunately, you have to contact the original agency or person and obtain permission to use.
  2. Youtube now has content signature comparison and will warn you that you are using someone else's content but will leave it up to the copyright owner to enforce it.

So, if it is does not fall under 'fair use' and is clearly someone else's copyright, you will have to track down the owner and obtain permission.


Just to clarify, the "Standard YouTube license" found in YouTube's ToS basically grants YouTube the permission to serve the video to anyone who asks to see it on YouTube.com or through an approved portal like an embedded player or mobile app (you may restrict the work's playback in certain markets, or prevent certain non-core uses, such as embedding, including in a playlist, listing in search results, etc). You, as the uploader of an original video, retain all other rights to the work including the right to prevent anyone else from using it in a derivative work, including a TV show.

Now, you may, and many do, give your express permission to the producers of a TV show to use the video in their own show. This is the honest and upfront way for the producers of the show to get the needed clearance, and it's done quite simply by sending the video's uploader a private message asking them for their permisison. If they want to use it badly enough, they'll pay you, but my guess is that >95% of the videos shows were shown without any financial compensation paid out; there's a lot of puke on the Internet, so Daniel Tosh doesn't ever have to look very far to find enough people willing to let him show their videos.

Now, the question is, what happens if they did't ask, or if you say no and they show it anyway?

Unfortunately, patent law is subject in most cases to the Golden Rule: Whomever has the gold makes the rules. In this case, the TV networks such as Viacom (MTV - Ridiculousness, ComCent - Tosh.O) and NBC Universal (E! - The Soup, G4 - Web Soup) have armies of legal staff for the sole purpose of representing the network in copyright cases, whether as plaintiff or defendant. The networks can and do take the stance that what they're doing is "parody", which is protected under the First Amendment and thus exempt from copyright law as "fair use".

The short version; while you may indeed own the copyright, free and clear, there is a limitation on your right to prevent derivative use of the work for the purpose of criticism, ridicule or satire. Such uses constitute "parody". This is, for instance, how Weird Al does his stuff (though he generally asks permission, and until relatively recently it was considered a great honor to most artists to have him parody their song). There is no line in the sand here, where on one side it's protected parody and on the other side it's copyright infringement. There is a legal test, but each allegation is decided case-by-case; it's a real can o' worms. Virtually all of these viral video shows air a piece of a clip and make a humorous statement ridiculing the person/people in it; that's parody, in the producers' eyes. So far, nobody has been willing to test this claim in court.

It's somewhat ironic that in 2007, Viacom filed suit against YouTube's owner Google alleging massive copyright infringement due to its users uploading Viacom's content, including clips of The Daily Show (which uses news broadcast footage under similar "parody" doctrine). Most of the "viral video" shows started up after that (Tosh.O and Web Soup in 2009, Ridiculousness in 2011).


If you need royalty free music for Youtube you can download the samples of voiceovers+music . It is a legal website and It is no charge

  • Are you affiliated with the site you are recommending? Commented Oct 21, 2013 at 1:43

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