No Copyright Infringement Intended?
DISCLAIMER: This article is not intended as legal advice, as an attorney specializing in the field should be consulted.
If you upload a video on YouTube without permission from the owner, you have infringed on the owner of that video’s Copyright. Nevertheless, these days, searching YouTube will unearth countless videos that contain the disclaimer “No Copyright Infringement Intended.” This begs the question — does adding “No Copyright Infringement Intended” actually eliminate one’s risk of being held liable for Copyright infringement? NO!
Copyright infringement is what’s known as a “strict liability tort,” meaning that your intent is actually irrelevant for proving infringement. No matter the intent, it does not justify the infringement, and there are many notable court cases ruling against defendants in cases where the infringement was completely unintentional. Nevertheless, one’s intent is still relevant for the purposes of determining damages, as willful Copyright infringement is often punished more harshly than more accidental or unknowing cases.
That leads to the countless videos containing the disclaimer “No Copyright Infringement Intended.” On the surface, this appears to be a good faith effort, but one the other hand, isn’t it also evidence that the person knew that he or she was, at least, probably infringing?
There are issues that may legitimately exist in the grey areas of the law, but this is not one of them. This is definitely copyright infringement, and by broadcasting that he or she was at least aware of the risk, writing “No Copyright Infringement Intended” may come across appearing more like blatantly flying in the face of the law, and actually lead to increased damages in a lawsuit.
This is especially important because US Federal Copyright Registration allows a copyright owner to sue for statutory damages — which amount to between $75,000-$150,000 per infringement, plus reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.
The question then becomes, why is the disclaimer used so often?
It may simply be a misunderstanding of how Copyright law actually functions, but many people use the disclaimer simply to provide notice to viewers that they are not the owner, or in an effort to have immediate access to certain content, posters often use the disclaimer as a replacement for the permission, in an effort to justify the infringement.
If you run a YouTube channel, just be aware that a disclaimer designed to decrease the risk of copyright infringement, may actually be increasing your risk and exposure. If you’re an artist or other creative, keep that in mind next time you see “No Copyright Infringement Intended” posted alongside your content.