TGN Focus – How To Copyright… Right

When I was 18, I sometimes took a break from WoW dailies and raiding to go to class (I know, right?).  Yup, a first year English major with the world ahead of him, reading Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World between horrid alliance bg queues or scheduled raids.  A real scholar at the start of my post-secondary endeavours.

Despite my disdain for hard work at the time (I did pick up the slack later), I did learn something very important outside of how to write and read critically – I learned why plagiarism has such a nasty punishment.

It’s about intellectual property…”

School, university in particular, is about forming ideas and arguments so you can make a name for yourself and make change in the world – at least, that’s my romanticized idea of what it’s all about.  It’s about intellectual property, and it was up to us as up-and-coming academics to actively ensure that awesome ideas were given credit where it was due.

How did we give credit?  Citation.  Citation made the difference between plagiarism and a well-sourced argument.  Cited sources were encouraged and often mandatory because, just like in gaming, moving forward was a matter of community.

“Copyright infringement is the legal term for

‘plagiarism’ for all intents and purposes.”

But what does this have to do with being a gaming YouTuber?

Everything.  You’ve probably heard of this thing called ‘copyright’ that’s been thrown around a lot on YouTube.  Copyright infringement is the legal term for ‘plagiarism’ for all intents and purposes, and as YouTubers it could get us in a lot of trouble if we aren’t careful.  So let’s talk about how to avoid copyright issues, and what it looks like for gamers.

What is Copyright?

In a nutshell, copyright is the legal or precedented ownership of an intellectual property.  Precedented means that, if someone developed something creative before you, they can argue the rights to that content if you use it without their permission.

“There are exceptions to all of these of course.”

So How do I Avoid Copyright?

It’s actually pretty easy for most YouTubers:

1.  Don’t use someone else’s music

2.  Don’t use someone else’s video clip

3.  Don’t use someone else’s written content (like lyrics or scripts)

4.  Don’t use other people’s stuff in general

There are exceptions to all of these of course.  If you have written permission for the owner of any of that stuff, you’re good to go as long as you meet the guidelines of that permission (sometimes they want you to give them credit in your description, for example).

Otherwise, there are places where you can get free-to-use content without copyright issues.  An example of this is YouTube’s free library of royalty-free music.  These resources are good for simple stuff, but sometimes you just know the ‘right song’ for the job.  Don’t be tempted to use that song hoping that you’ll slip under the radar – the consequences of copyright infringement can be nasty, and there are a lot of ways that people can find their copyrighted material online.  ‘The Google’ is a pretty powerful tool.

“Believe it or not, game content is indeed

copyrighted in almost every case.”

Aren’t Games Copyrighted?  What’s the Deal with Gamer Videos?

Believe it or not, game content is indeed copyrighted in almost every case.  Luckily for us though, the success of most games now hinge on the YouTube community that surround them for anything from eSports casting to tutorials and how-tos.

What you can disclose of a game’s content is usually covered in a Terms of Use (ToS) agreement that we normally just click through.  It can also be covered on the box of the game, the manual, the web property or even in the forums.  eHow has a great cheat sheet for game copyright permission ‘done right’.

Stay tuned for next week where I’ll jump into dealing with a copyright issue if you ever run into it.

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