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copyright infringement for contributing?

Posted: Fri Mar 27, 2015 11:39 am
by andym193
There is something I'm confused about with copyright.

I'm thinking about doing some video editing work for some people for free if they credit me by adding my website link somewhere. But would I be liable for copyright infringement if I am working on a video that person doesn't own and I am unaware of it?


Someone wants to upload a video to youtube, but the video footage and (background) music is not theirs and they would be liable for copyright infringement by uploading it. They want me to make some enhancements to the video. So they send me the video to improve colour/picture quality, improve sound, add sub titles, make improved cuts, timing etc. I then send the completed video back to them for them to do what they like with it, such as upload to youtube.

If that person is liable for copyright infringement, can I also be liable for copyright infringement by contributing in any way?

Any help appreciated.

Posted: Fri Mar 27, 2015 2:56 pm
by AndyJ
Hi Andy,
That's an interesting question. The situation is similar to that faced by all high street photocopy shops. They need to be sure that the customer has permission to make copies of the work they bring into the shop, as they will be liable for making copies which have not been authorised. Even though you will only be making a copy in the technical sense of storing the edited footage on your hard drive and then transferring it on a DVD, those are still copies which need authorisation. Furthermore, the law says that making an adaptation of a copyright work is something which has to be authorised by the copyright owner, and editing a video would probably amount to adapting a work (depending on the amount of editing involved). So potentially you might be liable for two separate acts of infringement.
There is no defence of ignorance where primary infringement is suspected, but if you took on the job in good faith and there was absolutely no reason to believe the piece of video was an infringing copy, then you would be in a stronger position than if you knew or suspected something was dodgy. If you became aware that the video you had been given was not an authorised copy, then you would in all probability be treated as jointly liable for producing an unauthorised adaptation and could face the same penalties as the other person. A court would examine whether you and the person who supplied the video were collaborating in the act of infringement. However if you were an employee and working under the instructions of the other person as your manager or boss, and had no reason to suspect the work you were being asked to work on, then you probably wouldn't be held liable at all.
So if in doubt, I suggest you decline a job that involves a work you are suspicious about (say, a Hollywood blockbuster) and certainly don't ask for a credit on the final product as that will bring the owners of the copyright straight to your door! At the very least ask the other person to indemnify you in writing against liability.

Posted: Sat Mar 28, 2015 2:04 pm
by andym193
Hi Andy,
Thanks for answering me. That has answered it. You have given me a few things to think about. I thought it would be a good idea to help others with their videos in my spare time if I'm credited. But it's probably not worth going ahead with it.

Thanks for your help :D