Indiefilmlaw's Blog
Ideas, Inspiration and Legal Resources for Artists, Filmmakers, Producers and Film Students

Can I Be Sued For Posting Someone Else’s Content On My Web Site?

The Internet Changes Everything.

The Internet, and sites like YouTube, provide useful and entertaining content to individuals anytime anywhere.  Increasingly, creative individuals and businesses are utilizing cutting edge technology such as YouTube and other digital hosting and distribution platforms to create an ubiquitous and open experience that is end-user driven. Through these networks one can broadcast globally. Any content owner can gain worldwide distribution and any end user can customize and carry their experience with them.  The growth in online video marketing is a fait accompli.

The Law Lags Behind Technology Innovation.

As the legal landscape of web-based content and online video marketing continues to develop and mature, old-media traditions like strict copyright protection and attribution are being redefined for a more dynamic, casual, mash-up culture. That said, rights are still rights and Content owners should still have the ability to control how millions of dollars of content is commercialized. However, the rapid proliferation of internet-based content sharing sites has place a large responsibility, or even a burden, to monitor and rein-in blogs, aggregators and user-generated communities to police infringement, rather than shutting down user activities, a la the RIAA in its music-piracy enforcement or sites like YouTube that consumers and businesses alike have strongly embraced.

The Google-Viacom Decision is a  Victory For Creative Content Users.

The recent $1 billion copyright battle between Google and Viacom highlights the shifting balance of power between professional content creators and online distributors. In what’s widely viewed as a major victory for the nascent digital community, U.S. District Court Judge Louis Stanton ruled that Google was protected by section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, called the “safe harbor” provision. This section protects Internet service providers from legal liability for using copyrighted material, as long as the firm does not know that the content is copyrighted when it publishes it.

The message is clear: When user-generated video sites implement reasonable takedown procedures, they are shielded from infringement lawsuits based on the copyrighted content that users upload. “If a service provider knows of specific instances of infringement, the provider must promptly remove the infringing material,” Stanton wrote in the opinion. “If not, the burden is on the owner to identify the infringement.”

About The Author

David M. Adler, Esq. is an attorney, author, educator, entrepreneur and partner at Adler & Franczyk, LLC, a boutique intellectual property law firm based in Chicago, Illinois. With over twelve years of legal experience, Mr. Adler created the firm with a specific mission in mind: to provide businesses with a competitive advantage by enabling them to leverage their intangible assets and creative content in a way that drives innovation and increases the overall value of the business.

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2 Responses to “Can I Be Sued For Posting Someone Else’s Content On My Web Site?”

  1. I am cI amreating a hall of fame in the music world. Can I display a picture of an entertainer and play a song recorded by him or her without being illegal ?

    • I guess I would need more information in order to answer this. If you are charging admission to view images of famous (or even not famous) entertainers, you may be violating their publicity rights. If you are publicly performing an audio work, you need permission of both the performer and the writer.


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