Copyrighted materials in my YouTube video: Where's the line?
February 13, 2014 7:21 PM   Subscribe

I'm considering making a YouTube video explaining the concept of regulated monopolies for my employer, which provides services to such groups. The purpose of the video is educational -- it would be tagged with my firm's logo, but couldn't be construed as advertising. I was thinking of using Monopoly pieces as a visual aid. Where's the line?

When I do a presentation, I only use images that I can get attribution and permission for. But I'm not sure that extends to be using red plastic hotels and pewter Scottie dogs on camera. Does it make a difference if, for instance, I use the pieces but not the board? The money but not the Community Chest cards? Does it matter if no one piece is onscreen for more than two seconds? Obviously there's no denying that I'm using this material because of its association with Monopoly; would it be different if I found little plastic hotels and metal wheelbarrows that weren't manufactured by Hasbro?
posted by blueshammer to Law & Government (9 answers total)
This question may also have trademark issues aside from the copyright issues.

That said, this is a question for your corporation's general counsel or the attorney they (ought to) have on retainer.

Most of the time, getting something like this wrong has the effect of having the video taken down and nothing more, but this will be created by (and attributed to) a corporation, which might make it a more attractive target for a real or feigned law suit.

Do not put your company in that position. Talk to the GC's office.
posted by toomuchpete at 8:25 PM on February 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

AMNAL, but I don't think it's not worth the risk. If Hasbro asks YouTube to take it down, YouTube will take it down and you won't have any recourse.

Will Hasbro ask them to take it down? They have a history of defending the Monopoly copyright aggressively. I would expect that to extend to other recognizable elements of the brand. They may not care, given the use you're putting it to. But if they do, you'll have to redo your video.

The counter argument would be to find other videos or public performances that use Monopoly pieces. If you can find examples it may be reassuring enough that you'd decide to go for it.
posted by alms at 8:25 PM on February 13, 2014

Your Movie Sucks has a pretty comprehensive overview of YouTube's Content ID Program. It can help you ensure your clip stays up.

Caution: lots of coarse language and use of the "r" word.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:44 PM on February 13, 2014

Do you want to be the person who takes the fall if the video generates a lawsuit?
posted by ADave at 10:22 PM on February 13, 2014

Response by poster: I guess it turns out that this is question is the cap on a question whose pressure has been building in me slowly for awhile. I remember watching MTV shows back in the day and everybody's logowear or can of Coke was blurred out. On what grounds is that practice performed? What's the precedent? We're talking about photographs of physical objects -- we're not listening to someone else's music, watching someone else's movie, or even, in this specific instance, playing someone else's game. It's a thing I own and am photographing.

I know the classic fair use carve-outs of (a) review, (b) parody or (c) academic study, and my use doesn't really fall into any of those, but I'm just curious about the line. I can't show TMNT cartoons ... I can't play with TMNT action figures ... can I show my son's drawings of TMNT characters? Where is this line in the sand?
posted by blueshammer at 8:01 AM on February 14, 2014

Without getting too far outside the scope of your original question (for which the answer is ask general counsel, as said above) you might be interested in reading William Patry's book How to Fix Copyright which is mainly a critique of existing copyright law but does include an good explanation of why we have copyright in the first place. (Patry also wrote big technical and dense reference books for lawyers on copyright, this is not that.) Also agree with others who noted that a lot of what you're asking about here is trademark law, not copyright which Patry touches on a bit as well.
posted by Wretch729 at 8:26 AM on February 14, 2014

It's a thing I own and am photographing.
But it's not. This is not just "you" making your own homegrown video with good intentions. You are acting as the representative of a corporation who (presumably) is trying to make a profit, and needs to protect the legal rights of other corporations who are using their work product to make profits. IMHO that puts the "line in the sand" a whole lot closer to "be excruciatingly precise to follow the law" rather than "oh, it's probably ok".
posted by CathyG at 11:44 AM on February 14, 2014

In the case of YouTube videos it's important to remember that you are not talking about law. You are talking about Google policy. If Hasbro sends a take down letter to Google, they will take down the video. They won't consult their lawyers. They won't consult your lawyers. They won't give you a chance to respond. In fact, they will make it very difficult for you to respond. This is not about fair use or free speech, it's about hosting on a commercial service that has shown itself to be extremely deferential to corporate claims of copyright infringement.

You do not have any right to have your video on YouTube, period.
posted by alms at 11:49 AM on February 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I appreciate everything everyone is saying. I actually have some IP out there in the board game space, so I'm also not insensitive to the need to respect something not-obviously-artistic like a board game as something whose legal rights require respect in circumstances like this.

If I can take a left turn from the original question: Let's say that we hadn't rewritten US copyright law and, being the same age as Mickey Mouse, Monopoly was now public domain, although still published by Hasbro. Does their trademark persist in the absence of copyright? Is the copyright limited to specific expressions, whereas the trademark applies to the fundamental concepts?
posted by blueshammer at 12:44 PM on February 14, 2014

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