You Tube and copyright

Does one have to be certain that what they are watching on you tube is not infringing copyright? For example I was just watching a documentary - Should I have ensured that the person who uploaded it to You Tube has not breached copyright? Would it ever be gravely sinful to watch it and give the guy the benefit of the doubt that he obtained permission?

One clue is to consider the source. If you see it was uploaded by tiger65998, odds are, he did not have permission. Now, there is an old TV show I like that’s been uploaded by krze54990, and similar, but others have been uploaded by MGMDigitalMedia.

Take movie trailers. Instead of going to youtube, go to the official movie site which will have official trailers, and more.

In your particular case. Look up the name of the documentary on your favorite search engine and find out who made it. You can then determine if it has a copyright, and, possibly, where to view it legally.

I would not generally, give people benefit of the doubt. Do a little research. Contact the owner or copyright holder.


Ok. Fair enough. Advice taken.

(Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer)

First, we should be clear that there is nothing naturally morally wrong with copying books, videos, software, etc. The moral issue only appears because of law. It would be wrong for me to sell homemade copies of movies on the street for $2 because it is illegal to do so, not because doing so is inherently immoral.

I say that to point out that the morality of using a service like Youtube is utterly dependent on the law. In the U.S., Youtube and other online services are regulated by the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, which specifies that if some internet user (not the copyright holder) uploads copyrighted content to an online service, that the online service is not liable for copyright infringement, provided that the service remove the content immediately when notified of the infringement by the copyright holder (a takedown notice). This means that, effectively, everything on Youtube is legally considered to be legal unless Youtube fails to remove infringing content after receiving a takedown notice.

So, if the videos hosted on Youtube are defacto legally there, at least until the copyright holder objects and requests their removal, is it then legal to watch the videos?

Well, if you are merely watching, then although you are still technically in some sense “copying” the video you are watching, you certainly don’t have the intent to preserve the content on your own storage medium, so it’s unlikely to fit the definition of infringing (i.e. illegal) copying. On the other hand, if you are the one ripping DVDs and uploading films in the first place, or if you are making and storing copies of content hosted on Youtube, then that would be considered illegal copying.

Since the morality of copying is entirely dependent on the law, it seems pretty straightforward to deduce that merely watching videos hosted on Youtube or similar sites is not wrong.

Uploading copyrighted works to Youtube or making permanent copies on your own storage media of content hosted by Youtube, however, is very probably illegal, and so immoral.

When you watch a music video that has not been uploaded by the record company but some random person has uploaded it, there is usually a link underneath the video saying the song name and a link to buy it on Itunes, etc.

Does that mean it is legal to watch music videos even if they have not been uploaded by the record label?

Sometimes with documentaries or movies that have not been uploaded by the owners, it will ay underneath video ‘Copyright of …’ or something similar.

It is legal to copy a movie off the television on to a disk for you watch, yes?

Why then is it not legal to watch a movie on YouTube or another website free?

I find it weird that you can copy a TV show or movie from your television on to a disk for your viewing only, but it is illegal to go on a file sharing site and download the same?

This individual says if you watch a copyright video on youtube you have not breached the copyright, but the person who uploaded the video has.

I once read on an examination of conscience that breaking a copyright is a mortal sin and so I don’t watch YouTube anymore out of the worry that it is supporting the sins of others. Then again, that examination of conscience is not too reliable, but it makes sense.

Try to find videos, as someone said previously, that are posted by the actual suppliers or something. I am a scrupulous person so don’t think my answer is 100% right. :slight_smile:

Haven’t read it, but based on the url looks like they’re talking about New Zealand law only.

Catholic teaching does not agree with what you’re saying. Say you’re selling fake Rolexes on the street corner. Is it wrong only because the law says so? The fact is it is morally wrong, law or no law.

Get the facts about illegal copying. Guessing is not helpful when people want to make decisions.


I think YouTube videos are a moral, ethical and legal quandary.

They recently allowed 1 hour plus videos to be uploaded, and now there are full length movies and soundtracks on there. Why did YouTube change the rules, they must of known would would be posted.

I want too see legal clarity on YouTube videos.

Do you think it is legal and moral if you download certain song on Itunes, but continue listening to it on YouTube from a random person who uploaded a song, not from the record company? If you paid for the song does that make it okay for you to listen to it on YouTube?

I suggest you talk to a priest. My thought is, why listen to it on youtube when you already own it?


I am open to advice on this issue as I wish to follow the teachings of the Church and save my soul from mortal sin. I’ve been trying to discern whether or not this is a sin when I am examining my conscience. I don’t take this lightly.

Having said that, I have been unable to come to a genuine conclusion that what has been described, or the general practice file sharing in general for that matter, constitutes grave sin. If one is profiting from the work of others, ie. selling copyrighted material or using copyrighted material (music, software) for business purposes where a financial gain will be realized, then I would agree 100% that it is a sin. After perusing the information available on the sites Ed posted, I respectfully disagree with the above quoted opinion. If one were to be concerned to the extent that a thorough background investigation must be conducted to essentially determine whether or not someone else violated copyright and apply the principle to all media sources, printed material included, one could conceivably be unable to watch, read, or listen to anything because one could never be certain of its origins. Again,

Fair Use


*One of the rights accorded to the owner of copyright is the right to reproduce or to authorize others to reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords. This right is subject to certain limitations found in sections 107 through 118 of the copyright law (title 17, U. S. Code). One of the more important limitations is the doctrine of “fair use.” The doctrine of fair use has developed through a substantial number of court decisions over the years and has been codified in section 107 of the copyright law.

Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair.

]The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
]The nature of the copyrighted work
]The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
[LIST]The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work[/LIST]

I absolutely agree with the above statement. :thumbsup:

We must have read the same examination of conscience! :smiley: Only one source that I have includes it and it is what prompted my search for the truth (which isn’t over…)

This argument speaks to my point that selling fake (and potentially stolen) Rolexes on a street corner is a sin, both morally and legally.

I use online file sharing for some software that is outrageously expensive and beyond what I would be able to afford, music, and occasionally movies but only for personal, non-profit purposes. I do not upload copyrighted material or sell these things as doing so would be sinful, IMHO. Essentially file sharing or YouTube is “sharing” between two individuals something that was at some point purchased or was free in the first place. The uploader or seller of copyrighted material could be committing a gave sin, insofar as I understand.

Should I consider such private use of that obtained via file sharing a mortal sin? I’m not one to make up my own rules or invent my own version of truth to fit my beliefs. I recognize the one Truth in the Catholic Church and wish to deepen my understanding of the faith. However, this matter appears a bit unclear. Does Article 6 of the CCC, sections 1776-1802 on Moral Conscience and limited personal discernment based on Church teachings apply here? Any charitable help would be very much appreciated. :).

Thanks in advance…

Deo Gratias


By default I assume anything I watch on youtube is not infringing copyright unless there is a statement stating otherwise. In my view the onus is not on us to have to do extensive research to find out if something is subject to copyright.

Zombie thread!

I assume everything I access on youtube does NOT infringe copyright unless it specifically states something to the contrary. I do not believe it is my responsibility to try to research and verify if something infringes copyright or not.

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