Copyright and YouTube Video: Pointers for Agencies

Upload violations are a common error among leading public relations and advertising agencies on YouTube.  Here’s an explanation of the problem and some better alternatives.

The Problem: Agencies Uploading Unoriginal Content on Agency Channels

What is very typical among public relations and advertising firms on YouTube (66% of a representative sample of leading firms) is that they upload content they did not produce, or for which they do not own the copyright.

For example, they produce a YouTube video for their client.  Or a commercial.  Or a public service announcement.  They upload it to their client’s channel (at least, I hope they do).  Then they upload it to their OWN, agency channel.  To show what they can do.  Or they upload copies of news clips showing placements, or their staff in interviews.

This is not a good practice.  These uploads can be a violation of YouTube’s terms of service.

Agency Copyright Violations on YouTube Are Legion

YouTube does not allow you to upload video for which you do not own the copyright.  When you are contracted to produce video for a client, you do not own the copyright, unless you provide for that in your contract.  By default and law, the client owns the copyright to videos you produce for them.  Therefore, you should not be uploading copyrighted content on your agency Channel.  Even if you do own the copyright, you shouldn’t upload it to your agency Channel.  You should be LINKING to those videos on your CLIENT’s Channel, where that content should live.

News Clips Can’t Be Uploaded to Agency Channels

Many public relations agencies (and some advertising agencies) like to upload clips of news broadcast placements for their clients, or news in which their subject matter experts appear.  This is also a copyright violation.  I understand the desire to showcase these broadcast media placements on YouTube, but it’s a copyright violation.

So, What’s a Few Copyright Violations?

At this point you might be thinking, oh, well, what’s the big deal?  You may be wondering if YouTube could even catch an agency doing it.

Don’t get too complacent.  YouTube is getting better at “catching” violators everyday, as this technology advances, with innovations such as ContentID.

But more importantly, if your clients see you doing it, they may think you believe it’s an acceptable practice for them.  If they’re savvy to the risks, that won’t make your agency look professional to them.  If they’re unaware, you’re putting them at risk for litigation.

There is another, more selfish reason: if you upload content you did not produce, such as a background song or clip from a broadcast news story, YouTube will not consider your video for the Partner program.  The Partner program allows you to make money from your YouTube videos. You may not need the money, but you would surely benefit from the preferred placements your videos would received on YouTube.

You also would not be able to take advantage of the Promoted Videos program.  In this program, you pay YouTube to feature your video prominently.  For some YouTube Channels, this has resulted in 100s  of thousands of views.  But if you don’t play by the rules, you can’t participate.

So don’t do it.  It isn’t worth the risks, and besides, it’s wrong.  Only upload video content you have (1) created yourselves and/or (2) own the copyright for.

Duplicate Uploads Violate YouTube’s Terms of Service

When you upload a YouTube video to your Channel, and it also appears on your client’s channel (which I hope it does), you are violating YouTube’s terms of service about duplicate uploads.  This can get the video removed and your account can even get banned.

Even worse, duplicate uploads cannibalize views from the client’s Channel.  I am sure your client would prefer to get the views on their Channel, not yours.

A Better Way: Favorites and Playlists

You can still display the work you produce for others on your YouTube Channel.  All you have to do is either Favorite or Playlist the video that appears on your client’s YouTube Channel.

For example, Fletcher Prince features a “portfolio” YouTube playlist on our Channel.  It includes videos we have produced for other clients.  When someone clicks on the video to view it, the client gets the click, not us.  But other people can see what we produce.  And our YouTube Channel is directing a few more views to our clients’ Channels and videos, which doesn’t hurt them a bit.

So, in this way, we are promoting the best interests of our clients and respecting YouTube’s terms of service.  That’s how you feature client work on your agency Channel.

Besides, it just looks better, in my opinion, to set it up this way.  Cleaner.  More organized.

Brand-Building YouTube Content for Agencies

We thought we said this in 2006, but anyway, for those agencies who were not listening: YouTube is not television.  A commercial does not necessarily make for quality YouTube viewing.  A LOT of public relations and advertising agencies post nothing but examples of client videos (PSAs, commercials) they have produced for clients on their YouT ube Channel.  As I mentioned, that is problematic.

But it is a problem for another reason.  Agencies are failing to tell their story on YouTube, and more importantly, they are telling their clients’ and prospective clients’ stories (which is what people really want to watch).   And why, when they have the resources to produce brand-building YouTube content, such as

  1. Advice and how to tips, presented in a visual and demonstrative way
  2. Examples and case studies that will inform and inspire clients
  3. Interviews with your subject matter experts on those frequently asked questions
  4. Profiles of your different services, and how they can fix client problems
  5. Client testimonials, client testimonials, and did I mention? Client testimonials
  6. A behind-the-scenes company tour (this could also attract new hires)
  7. Footage from an awards event where your agency makes a big win
  8. The history of your company: where you’ve been, where you’re going
  9. Holiday greetings to your partners, clients, vendors, and employees
  10. Footage of your staff at work on a pro bono or volunteer project

Most agencies have the resources to produce these brand-building videos on YouTube, and most agencies DON’T.

About Mary Fletcher Jones

Mary Fletcher Jones is a public relations and marketing consultant, and owns Fletcher Prince ( Follow Mary on Twitter @FletcherPrince.

Posted on September 15, 2011, in YouTube Video Tips and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.


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