Social Media

Video Killed the Radio Star…So, Be Careful?

Say the words “personal video” and what do you imagine?  If you’re like me, your first thought is “home movies.”  Gah!  Wait, don’t cringe!  This is different than your dad’s grainy t-ball movies!  As camera phones completely changed the way we record our lives, personal video apps seem to be walking a similar path .  Vine (owned by Twitter) and Instagram Video (part of Facebook) are the two largest providers of this type of service.  Vine is a no frills app, allowing for 6 seconds of looping video.   The unique format has helped to give Vine a fairly robust subculture of goofy videos (here’s a great example…just make sure you’re caught up on Game of Thrones before watching).   Instagram’s new video service, which extends that 6 seconds to 15, gives the user a set of filters to choose from, comes with image stabilization (so your shaky selfies won’t be so shaky) and, perhaps most importantly, allows for easy embedding in websites besides just Facebook.

But, this post isn’t about which of the two platforms is better. On that front, my advice is to check them out and see which best fits your nature and style…or use both (isn’t the internet a wonderful thing?).

What this post is about is that the rise of instant video raises a few interesting questions on the legal front.  Namely, what are your rights in creating and using a video, and where do those rights end?  These questions may not be ones you’ve thought of yet, but they are ones you should consider.  Remember, Youtube started pulling videos years ago due to copyright infringement, and still remains active in doing so.  Oddly enough, it appears as though Vine and Instagram Video may encounter similar difficulties despite their limited recording lengths.  This was made apparent with Prince’s recent threat of litigation against Vine for a handful of videos that apparently contained video of his live performances .

Unfortunately, what is and is not acceptable is not readily clear as the medium of short video is still very new.  As a basic principle, avoid including any material that is copyrighted or any original work that has the possibility of falling under copyright protection.  In practice, the most common instances of possible infringement using Vine or Instagram Video would fall under capturing music, video, or live performances.

Fortunately, there are some guidelines to follow.  Basically, copyright law has a few cut outs to allow for continual experimentation in the arts.  This falls under Fair Use Doctrine.  The first cut out a casual videographer should know about concerns the incidental or accidental capture of copyrighted material…a video focusing on a married couple’s first kiss with music playing in the background is probably fine, as the focus is the kiss and the background music is incidental.

The second exception you should know about is the effect on the potential market of the copyrighted work.  This means, that if you take a video and leave it on your phone or computer to just show friends, your market impact is nil and there may be no infringement issues.  But once you post the video online things change and the law is unclear, though it appears that simple reposting of copyrighted work could, at least, end in a stern letter (see Prince).  For a much more in depth view of the law surrounding these issues, and a briefer on how to make sure you’re following Fair Use, check out the Center for Social Media.

If you’re interested in what some artists/comedians/stars are doing with vine, here’s a great place to start.



Featured Artist

Pinot W. Ichwandardi is an illustrator and animator who uses Vine to showcase his work in a cool way. Check out more about him on Also check him out on Vine by the username Pinot.

About the author

Rick Licari

Rick Licari is a graduate of The College of the Holy Cross, from where he earned a BA in English Literature and a graduate of Suffolk University Law School, from where he earned a JD. Along with studying Literature in college, Rick became passionate about films and movie-making. While in law school he studied international law, with a business heavy focus. After law school, Rick became interested in the way new media affected property rights especially in relation to books and films. He is currently a litigation support attorney in NYC, a sometime general practitioner, a copy editor at Bleacher Report, and a writer of fiction.

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