Dealing with copyright infringement as a content creator

Copywrite infringement - how to report

Highlights

Copyright can seem like a daunting, serious topic, but it’s important that every creator understands it.
In this article, find out what copyright infringement is, as well as how you can avoid copyright infringement yourself.
If you’ve had your original video stolen on social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube, find out how you can easily report it for copyright infringement.
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Whichever social media platform you’re using – whether it’s YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, or any of the others – they all demand an unlimited, constant supply of content. Social media has ensured that we’re now exposed to far more photos, words, and videos than ever before – so much so that it’s proving hard to keep up. Of course, this explosion of video being produced on a scale never seen before has had massive implications when it comes to copyright infringement.

When there’s monetization involved and a never-ending demand for fresh, new videos, it’s sadly inevitable that sometimes, your videos may be stolen and shared elsewhere. So, if you’re a part of the creator economy, making and sharing videos online, it’s a good idea to learn the basics of copyright infringement – what is it, and how can you protect yourself and your work from being stolen?

What is copyright infringement?

There can be a lot of nuance to this, but in general terms, copyright infringement takes place when a piece of work that’s been copyrighted (in our case, a video) is reproduced, distributed, and shared publicly elsewhere without the permission of the copyright owner (you).

As an example, imagine creating an engaging TikTok that recaps your holiday to Nepal. You share it and get a few views and likes. Three days later, you find that same TikTok being posted by an account that focuses on trekking and outdoor adventures. They have a far bigger following and have generated a lot more views and likes on the video. But you gave them no permission to share your work here, and you’ve not even been credited. Frustrating, right? This would be a classic case of TikTok copyright infringement.

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What type of work is protected from copyright infringement?

Put very simply, if you create and post an original video on platforms such as YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram, that piece of work is now protected from copyright infringement and you, as the creator and owner of the video, are also the wonder of the copyrights for that video.

Taking a closer look at Instagram’s Help Centre Copyright Page, here’s what they have to say:

“In most countries, copyright is a legal right that protects original works of authorship. Typically, if you create an original work, you have a copyright from the moment that you create it.

Copyright covers a wide variety of types of works, including:

  • Visual or audiovisual works: videos, films, TV shows and broadcasts, video games, paintings, photographs
  • Audio works: songs, musical compositions, sound recordings, spoken word recordings
  • Written works: books, plays, manuscripts, articles, musical scores”

They go on to note that “to be original enough for copyright protection, a work needs to be created by the author themselves and have some minimal amount of creativity.”

So, names, titles, slogans, or short phrases and symbols aren’t really enough to qualify for copyright protection. However, if it’s an original video expressing an idea in a way that’s unique to you, this would be copyrighted.

TikTok states that “copyright protection only extends to original expressions. It doesn’t extend to ideas, procedures, methods of operation, or mathematical concepts. For example, a person may own the copyright to a film, but not the underlying plot or themes that are expressed in the film.”

How do you avoid copyright infringement?

If you’d like to avoid a copyright strike and steer clear of any potential trouble, there are a few golden rules to stick to. First and foremost, you should only post content that you’ve created yourself. There is a caveat called “fair use” which we’ll explain below, but stick to this rule and you’ll be fine. Before posting, simply ask:

  • Have I created all of the content myself?
  • Do I have permission to use all of the content included in my post?
  • Is the content protected by copyright (e.g. is it a short phrase, a concept or idea, or a work that has fallen into the public domain)?

But what do you do if you can’t create all of the content yourself? For example, there may be certain footage you can’t capture, and you probably don’t have the time to create a song from scratch. It’s possible that you could search for public domain music – songs that have been cleared for use by anyone…but the options aren’t amazing, and how to check if a song is copyrighted can be a little tricky.

This is where royalty-free music licensing, stock videos, and stock photos can really come in handy! With Artlist, you can access an incredible catalog of high-quality songs, as well as thousands of hours worth of stock footage – all of which can be used in your video copyright-free.

To do this, you make use of Clearlist, providing Artlist with links to your channels which ensures that you’re immediately protected from any content claims. Additionally, if you do receive a content claim, it can be managed and removed within minutes, saving you a lot of time and hassle.

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The caveat of “fair use”

As we mentioned above, there is a caveat called “fair use” that you could be aware of. Instagram defines fair use as the following:

“These laws allow people to use, under certain circumstances, someone else’s copyrighted work. Common examples include use for the purpose of criticism, commentary, parody, satire, news reporting, teaching, education and research.”

There are plenty of examples of fair use in our everyday lives.

  • Popular comedians such as YouTuber Cody Ko will routinely use other people’s material for the purpose of commentary and satire.
  • On TV, there are plenty of panel and discussion shows where the host and guests will show other people’s work to make comments, criticize, and report.
  • For education and research purposes, “fair use” can apply. For example, in this article, I’m writing right now, I’m using various quotes from Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube. This is helping you to research and learn about copyright infringement.

Copyright infringement tools

Naturally, given the implications and repercussions of copyright infringement, there are plenty of great tools out there that help in identifying any copyright violation of your content.

YouTube content ID is probably the best example of this! The YouTube copyright matching tool is essentially a digital fingerprint, helping YouTube to identify and track the countless hours of content uploaded every single day. On each and every upload, the content is scanned to check for copyrighted content and if there are any issues, it’ll be flagged immediately. This has been a major force in stopping a lot of YouTube copyright infringement.

Similarly, Meta (the parent company of Instagram, as well as Facebook, etc) has their own copyright match tool in “Rights manager”. Much like YouTube content ID, this is a tool that’s been developed for copyright holders of all sizes, enabling Instagram copyright infringement to be detected relatively quickly and easily.

TikTok also scans all of its content to detect any TikTok copyright infringement, but they’re a little more secretive about the tools they use to do this. From personal experience, given the nature of the site, where using viral songs, sounds and video clips is common, as well as the ability to repost other TikToks, things can be a little more tricky to police here.

How to report copyright infringements of your content

Unfortunately, as good as the copyright match tools are, sometimes copyright infringements will slip through the net. There’s simply too much content being uploaded every minute. This can be frustrating for creators.

But the good news is that these major social media platforms care about you – they want you to trust them and continue to upload your videos to their sites. With that in mind, they’ve ensured that reporting copyright infringements is a relatively easy, straightforward process.

How to report copyright infringement on TikTok

Reporting a copyright infringement on TikTok is simple:

  1. In the TikTok app, tap the Share button on the side of the video you’d like to report.
  2. Tap Report.
  3. Tap Intellectual property infringement.
  4. Tap the Copyright Infringement Report and follow the instructions provided.

How to file an Instagram copyright report

For Instagram copyright infringement, there are a few ways you can report this:

  • You can report it to Instagram by going to the Help Centre and filling in this form.
  • You can also use Brand Rights Protection, which enables a rights holder to identify and report violating content for trademark, copyright, and counterfeit.
  • Failing this, you can even contact Instagram’s designated agent under the notice and counter-notice procedures of the United States Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). If you contact this DMCA-designated agent, you’ll need to make sure that you include a complete copyright claim in your report.

How to flag a YouTube video for copyright infringement

Reporting YouTube videos for copyright infringement is a simple, yet thorough process. All you have to do is navigate to YouTube Studio, select Copyright from the left menu, and then click NEW REMOVAL REQUEST.

What happens next?

Once you’ve submitted a copyright infringement report on any of these sites, what’s the next step? For example, how does Instagram notify you about copyright infringement issues?

Instagram

If the copyright infringement report is straightforward, it’s most likely that the offending content will be removed. Instagram will remove the content and a notification will be sent on Instagram to the person, informing them of the decision and reasoning.

If the user in question feels that their content was wrongly removed, they are entitled to an Instagram copyright infringement appeal. Instagram will take it from there and have a closer look. In some cases, Instagram may contact you for more information about the report.

YouTube

It’s a similar story with YouTube. Once you’ve filed your report, the user in question will be informed and have the option to either remove the offending video or challenge the report. Challenging the report is a rigorous process which, if they are proven to have committed copyright infringement, can result in a damaging copyright strike on their YouTube channel. Naturally, if they know they’re at fault, most users will opt to remove their video.

TikTok

All TikTok copyright infringement claims are reviewed by a team of IP specialists (I imagine it’s a BIG team). They’ll assess whether the report contains all the necessary information for them to investigate the claims and whether it has been submitted by the copyright owner or their authorized representative. TikTok may reach out if they need you to provide any missing information.

If a violation of their intellectual property policy is identified, they’ll remove the content from the platform. They will notify both you, the reporter, and the reported user of the action taken.

Wrapping up

Phew, there we go. Copyright infringement can feel like a bit of a daunting, confusing topic but as a creator, it’s really important you learn and understand what it is, as well as the tools you have to protect you and your original content.

In a world where millions of videos are uploaded to these social media platforms every day, there are always going to be issues around copyright cropping up. Having your work stolen is a horrible feeling, but now you know what your rights are and how to deal with it. The law, and the social media platforms, are firmly on your side.

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Josh Edwards is an accomplished filmmaker, industry writing veteran, storyteller based in Indonesia (by way of the UK), and industry writer in the Blade Ronner Media Writing Collective. He's passionate about travel and documents adventures and stories through his films.

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