In e-commerce it is about content
For e-commerce stores, blogs, and other websites, getting traffic to your sites is one of the most important things to do.
While original content is almost always the best, sometimes it is hard to come up with your own content all the time.Additionally, you may find that perfect video that someone else has already created and you would love to embed the video on your site.
Devin Miller (IP Attorney)
Small business owner
For e-commerce stores, blogs, and other websites, getting traffic to your sites is one of the most important things to do. Without traffic, you cannot develop a customer base, sell products, develop a following, or anything else needed to be a success.
One of the many differentiators or differences between a dwindling site and a growing site is the content you provide to visitors. Content may be blog posts, videocasts, YouTube® videos, podcasts, memes, and so forth. While original content is almost always the best, sometimes it is hard to come up with your own content all the time. Additionally, you may find that perfect video that someone else has already created and you would love to embed the video on your site.
The question arises, do you have to get permission to embed someone else’s video on your website or can you just click the embed button and away you go? For example, it is very tempting when you find a great video on YouTube to embed the video on your site. It is cheaper, easier, quicker, and may be exactly what you want. In fact, many blog sites and online writing sites, such as HubPages, provide you with an easy way to embed YouTube video links and have the content appear right there on your blog entry or article. However, is this legal? Can you embed someone else’s video in your website?
This comes down to a copyright law question. As with most legal questions, it depends.
Hyperlinking (using YouTube as an example)
Hyperlinking (a regular link) to a YouTube video is not infringing on any copyright laws because the video does not appear on your site. Similarly, you can post links to any web page without asking permission from the owners.
However, if you provided a regular link to a likely infringing YouTube video (a YouTube video that is placed on YouTube without owner's consent), then the issue becomes less clear. The infringing video should not have been on YouTube in the first place and posting a link to it can be viewed as a form of "distribution", which is a copyright violation.
YouTube itself is well shielded because it is against their policy to host infringing videos, and once reported, all infringing videos will be removed. However, if you knowingly link to a video you believe is infringing copyrights, it is unclear if your linking is deemed a copyright violation.
Embedded YouTube Videos
In 2012, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals decided this issue in Flava Works, Inc v. Gunter. In this case, Flava Works was an adult entertainment company producing pornographic videos and images. Flava Works owned several registered copyrights and trademarks.
Part of Flava Works’ business includes streaming video through its various websites. MyVidster was a website allowing users to post videos to be searched and viewed by other users. Flava Works sued myVidster for copyright infringement regarding the embedding of videos.
Flava Works, Inc. v. Gunter came to a close after the ruling was passed in favor of the defendant, Marques Gunter, the sole proprietor of myVidster.com. The court also ruled that watching an infringing video does not constitute copyright infringement.
The Appeals court ruled that embedding a video that infringes on copyrighted material is not a violation of copyright law. For example, if you found an episode of The Simpsons on YouTube and embedded it in your blog, you would not be violating any copyright laws. That holds true even if the person who uploaded the video ripped it straight from The Simpsons season 3 DVD. However, the person who uploaded the video is in violation of the law.
The court's decision also protects those who watch illegally uploaded copyrighted videos. Judge Richard Posner wrote in the ruling:
"...As long as the visitor makes no copy of the copyrighted video that he is watching, he is not violating the copyright owner's exclusive right ... His bypassing Flava's pay wall by viewing the uploaded copy is equivalent to stealing a copyrighted book from a bookstore and reading it. That is a bad thing to do (in either case) but it is not copyright infringement."
As with all situations, every circumstance is different and legal advice from a lawyer should be sought before proceeding on any matter in question. This article is not legal advice or a legal opinion. This article is an opinion of the writer.