Infringing Viacom claims copyright infringement

200708300925 Christopher Knight made three commercials as part of his campaign to run for a seat on the Rockingham County Board of Education. He posted them on YouTube.

Viacom's VH1 ran one of the commercials on its show Web Junk 2.0, without seeking Knight's permission. Knight then posted the Web Junk 2.0 segment on YouTube.

Yesterday, YouTube pulled the clip, at the request of Viacom, which said Knight was infringing on its copyright. Link


  1. The key issue as I see it is where did each party he obtain the materials for their respective broadcasts. It appears to me the VH1 obtained their material from a publicly hosted source (YouTube). The Author (Mr Knight) never reveals how he obtained the materials for his subsequent post which glaringly suggests it was obtained illegally and in direct violation of VH1’s copyright. Case closed

  2. all things being equal, shouldn’t Knight just have posted his original commercial(s) to YouTube instead of Viacom’s copy?

  3. without seeking Knight’s permission

    Well, the YouTube terms and conditions do say:

    by submitting User Submissions to YouTube, you hereby grant YouTube a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the User Submissions in connection with the YouTube Website and YouTube’s (and its successors’ and affiliates’) business, including without limitation for promoting and redistributing part or all of the YouTube Website (and derivative works thereof) in any media formats and through any media channels.

    So they didn’t need to seek his permission; he’d already given it by submitting it to YouTube. (I’m assuming here that Viacom is a YouTube “successor or affiliate”). Read the small print before using the service, folks.

    That said, claiming he was infringing their copyright is pretty dickish.

  4. What about Viacom’s rights in its segment as a “derivative work”? Is anyone disputing that Viacom is not legally entitled to claim ownership in the segment, or are we supposed to see this as a policy issue?

  5. thinking of the way youtubers generally do things, it would have been more appropriate for Knight to post a video rant on the topic rather than repost Viacom’s derivative clip of his work.

  6. Evan:

    I think you are confusing “derivative work” with “fair use.” The copyright owner (Knight) has the rights to make derivative works generally, and they did not try to get permission from him to make their own. They should only be able to get away with it if their use falls under fair use. I can’t really say if it does or not, not being able to see the TV segment, but I’m thinking that the fact they are trying to make money off of it would cut against them. So no, legally, I don’t think they had the right to do what they did here.

    And from a policy perspective, while I think what they did (probably) isn’t all that bad and shouldn’t be a violation of copyright, that’s only true if it goes both ways and he is able to post-and-or-comment on their segment.

  7. I’m starting to feel like by this logic, all the illegal postings of content on Youtube would be all clear legally if and when we just started offering commentary on them at strategic points. There – apparently now it’s ‘fair use’ since we’re posting them for the purpose of commentary, eh?


  8. I love this meme. someone without complete understanding of a subject post as if it’s ironic. It’s interesting, yeah, but they take for granted the basis of the argument. Here, we have “viacom is infringing”, and “Christopher Knight” is not. then the article argues neither point! The bigger issue is censorship and the ability of mass copyright owners to pull content from youtube. I would say it sounds like viacom was in its rights to use clips of his videos (they’re newsworthy) but couldnt’ comment on knight’s use of viacom’s material since I can’t see it, since it’s pulled.

  9. It sounds like it is time for YouTube to allow users to display licensing like Flickr does: copyright, or one of the many CC licenses.

  10. Here’s the TV clip:

    Here’s an explanation of fair use:

    It does seem like VH1 used the clip with enough critical review to fall under fair use, which does not require permission. (Note that they didn’t use Knight’s entire work.)

    Under the same law, Knight could post the VH1 clip with his own commentary, doing the same thing to them that they did to him (with no ill will). But he can’t just load it onto YouTube. There’s some vague irony in the turnabout, but Viacom’s done nothing truly hypocritical.

  11. What Nick said. Might I add that I, for one, am SHOCKED that Boing Boing would post misleading information instead of doing some minor investigation that would take all of two minutes.

  12. It does point out the power imbalance of the DMCA, though. Viacom might have had a fair use defence for using his clip without permission, but then so might he.

    The difference is that Viacom can simply fire off an e-mail to YouTube and the clip is removed without question. On the other hand, the original copyright holder can’t simply send an e-mail to, say, the FCC and have Viacom’s broadcast stopped without question.

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