Amateur Footage: A Global Study of User-Generated Content

Our research demonstrated that there are different forms of copyright law in different jurisdictions, and there is also a great deal of confusion about copyright law in general. One of our interviewees, for example, acknowledged (guiltily) that he had taken content from YouTube in relation to the Arab Spring because there is no copyright law in Iraq. Another interviewee based in Asia described the way that ``laws that govern UGC and copyrights

in our region tend to be a bit murky.” In Sweden, legal responsibility lies with the overall editor of the program, who would be personally liable if a mistake was made. In Australia, our interviews demonstrated that “there is a widespread belief that if you are reporting anything as a news story—even if it’s about a viral video of a dog on a skateboard—then you have a legal right to use short pieces of third-party content without payment [or permission], as long as the sources are credited.” In fact, as Alan Sunderland, head of editorial policy for ABC Australia, explained, “You would have the capacity to use it under fair dealing only to the extent that it is absolutely necessary because of its news value, and then only for a limited period, on the day it happens, when it’s absolutely relevant.” British newsrooms can also use material under the “fair dealing for the purposes of reporting” copyright exception. The BBC did so with ITN’s footage from Woolwich. But as one senior editor admitted, if you had great pictures and people weren’t getting back to you, “You would just take it and stick it on the air and fair-use it. You would, but you would also inform a lawyer.” The one thing that troubled everyone was that the person from whom you are attempting to secure permission might not be the copyright holder. Many producers shared stories of uploaders saying, “Yes, of course you can use it. I didn’t shoot it, but it’s fine.” Some producers also talked about an even more confusing issue that frequently arose when they were trying to secure permission to use photos from Facebook: Even though wedding photographs or school photographs are uploaded by the people in the photo, they don’t own the copyrights. Those are owned by the professional photographer who took the picture in the first palace. As the AP explained, “Unless someone has taken a selfie and posted it to their social network, when you ask them for permission, it’s not actually their copyright to give.”