Copyrighted Material on YouTube?

Hi everyone. I’ve noticed that we tend to post links to YouTube videos a lot. But I was just wondering, since I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to upload copyrighted material that you don’t own the rights to, is it okay to watch those videos? Yes, I know that some artists put their videos on YouTube voluntarily. And I know that YouTube has a thing where the companies can report a copyright infringement, but that doesn’t seem to be very effective. Or does the bad quality of the videos and audio justify using them? Just wondering what you all think.

It seems to me the networks consider YouTube clip posting as free advertising which may result in more viewers tuning in to regular programming.

Disney channel pulls clips quickly.

Some shows monitor closely what goes up others don’t seem to notice, and still some use it to their advantage.

I remember before the 2nd season of So You Think You Can Dance all the 1st season clips were pulled from YouTube, then during the 2nd season any clips of the dances were pulled right away but after the season ended they were allowed to circulate.

So, even though there is that copyright prohibition out there, I get the impression that if it’s left up there the company wants it that way because I’ve seen other clips get pulled asap.

What about obscure old songs or video clips that no company would bother hunting down? Would those be okay to watch?

It’s my understanding that the obscure and really old stuff either was never copyrighted (whatever the legal proprietary word is) or the rights have expired.

The way I look at YouTube and others is I make an effort to find out if there is any negative news about the clip circulating. If I find some then I don’t watch, 'cause then that crosses the line for me for morality and culpability.

Good question, CTA. I’ve been wondering myself. If anyone knows, is it a mortal or venial sin to watch copyrighted material, such as movies or music, on YT?

Maybe it depends on whether or not the copyright holder is being deprived of any income by said viewing.

Their seems to be two extremes: an anarchic opinion that all creative work is public domain, and that recording companies and artists are all part of some evil corporate cabal (and we gots ta stick it to da man!); and the opinion that all people other than the recording industry etc are evil thieves who are illegally downloading everything they see and selling it on ebay.

There are some, for example, who believe that if you play your radio loud enough so that others hear it, it’s an illegal broadcast, and you could be sued; the assumption that anyone who buys blank CDs or DVDs or (in the old days, anyways) cassette or VCR tapes was a heinous criminal hell-bent on pirating away poor Metallica’s hard-earned pennies – which is why in Canada we pay a surcharge on recordable media.

To me, it’s very grey – and I think each situation is different and must be judged on its own merits, factoring in what copyright is supposed to protect, freedom of speech, fair use, what exactly constitutes intellectual property, etc.

I have watched some stuff on YouTube – mostly snippets and outtakes from TV shows – that, although copyrighted, may or may not fall under fair use. I don’t know. I have also watched videos that have prompted me to buy an artist’s CD – I see the video in that sense as being a commercial for their product.

To answer your question – which I have studiously avoided doing up to now :rolleyes: – I don’t know :shrug: . You’d have to make a case that it was sinful in the first place, before judging its degree. Then, of course, for it to be mortal, it has to fulfill the criteria (intent, grave matter, etc).

I know, the same has happened with me where I’d end up buying the CD of a song I listened to on YouTube.

Watching it streaming on YouTube is no different that downloading it on LimeWire. In fact you are downloading it. It’s just going into temporary memory instead of permanent storage on your hard drive.

Old materials, even ones you can no longer purchase, may still be copyrighted, and as such are illegal to download. Even if the copyright holder is not making any money, it is still their property, and using it without their permission is stealing.

I can be rather scrupulous but I imagine it’s still best to err on the side of caution here…when I’m on my own, I avoid watching uploaded clips of copywrited material when I think it’s illegal. But a few family members and friends have asked me to view some such stuff on YT. I’ve confessed this in the past and it’s just happened again tonight…twice. I didn’t really want to watch the material and didn’t look directly at the screen but I still heard and (since I wanted to keep on my friend’s good side) listened to it enough to be show that I was paying some attention. Is that grave matter and does it count (in your opinions) as two mortal sins? And should I not just say straight out to these people that I have issues with even their own personal viewing of illegally uploaded material (and downloading of illegal material)? I’m just cowardly…afraid that they’ll hold it against me.


Could I also present this situation to you:

I’m asked to listen to some music and I strongly suspect (with good reason) that it’s been pirated. Is it then gravely wrong to keep listening?

The old stuff was not copyrighted? Please. Every old movie and TV show had a copyright notice. Some movie copyrights were even renewed. And for youtube, just send an email to the person posting the music or video. Ask them if they have permission to put it up.


Nitpicking alert!: Would watching original videos with possibly pirated music with the mute button be okay? (Believe it or not, such videos do exist: student art-films, for instance).

Unfortunately, I guess that doesn’t do anything for the conscience of the creator of the work because he/she doesn’t know you disapprove of the unauthorised use of copyrighted music.

Whoever said the old stuff was not copyrighted has only part of that correct. The copyright ON SOME TITLES lapsed. When the copyright lapses on a title, that means it becomes “public domain.” The term “public domain” means the original copyright owner no longer claims ownership of it. Is that so incredulous to believe? Feature length movies have been around for over 100 years. What I find incredulous is that every movie ever made would still be covered by a copyright. It’s not. Some old studios (like RKO, etc.) no longer exist anymore, and when their libraries were bought up by other studios (like Warner Brothers, etc.), some of those titles weren’t bought up - they became “orphan movies,” and they lapsed into the public domain. It’s not terribly uncommon for a movie from the 1930’s or 1940’s or 1950’s to be a public domain title - “Quicksand” with Mickey Rooney, or “Beat The Devil” with Humphrey Bogart, or some of the Bob Hope/Bing Crosby “Road To” movies - HOWEVER, it’s almost ‘unheard-of’ for a more recent title (1960’s, 1970’s, and newer) to be “public domain” because the copyright would not have lapsed yet. So, yes, some of the material on YouTube is in fact “public domain.” It’s perfectly legal to use. It’s perfectly legal to download. No copyright infringement is being committed. No sin is being committed.

I went to film school. I think I’m qualified to say that I know what I’m talking about when I say there are more movies in “public domain” than most people realize. :thumbsup:

Any answer?

You are correct, but not perfectly so. Since the internet is the new Wild, Wild West, the average person is unlikely to know if what they are watching, especially if old or obscure, is still under copyright or not. I see too many who are too lazy or stupid to bother to find out. Most people don’t understand copyright law or how long a copyright lasts. If it’s on youtube, some assume, it must be OK. Youtube is like my TV, right? Actually, no.


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