I always find it very exciting when clients come to me with unusual questions. One such was the question of whether YouTube videos may be transcribed. Or more simply, whether the content of the videos may be written down as text.
There would be enough areas of application for this. For example, for deaf people to quickly get an overview of the content, to be able to sing song lyrics or simply to attract search engines.
Before we get to the solution, I would like to know what your legal feeling is. Permitted or not? Is it allowed to transcribe movies, TV shows or video podcasts?
Copyrighted content of a video
My answer is: "It depends." And in this case this is not a lawyer’s evasion, because it really depends on the video and its content.
Legally, there can be different copyrights to a video. On the one hand, the whole video is protected as a cinematic work (more artistic) or at least as running pictures (all other videos). In addition, individual components of the video can also be protected by copyright. For example Graphics, Music tracks or just as well Texts.
Texts are protected by copyright when they are individual and personal are (this is called the level of creation). This means the more more creative and extraordinary a text is written, the more likely it is to be protected. And the more factual and pragmatic it is, the less likely it is to be protected. Typically, journalistic articles, blog posts, music lyrics, screenplays, etc. protected by copyright. Even short texts such as product descriptions or even unusual quotes can be protected.
The Form in which a text is recorded, on the other hand, does not matter. Typically texts are on paper, but this is not mandatory. Also a text in a Video or a Podcast may be protected. It is only important that the level of creation is reached.
Note: The form of the text is protected. On the other hand, copyright basically protects not the content, How ideas and facts.
Creation level of texts in videos
With the legal knowledge, the answer to the transcription question is simple. Individual-personal text in videos are protected by copyright law. If you want to copy them and publish them on the internet, you need the consent of the authors.
Here are a few examples:
- TV series, cinema and TV movies – In such cases, the text will be copyrighted. Because already the script, d.h. the prescribed text, is protected by copyright in itself
- Music videos – Song lyrics typically belong to copyrighted texts. Incidentally, quality is not a criterion for copyright protection. The same applies here as for the movies themselves.
- news broadcasts – Here, too, there is usually a screenplay, or rather. based on a journalistic contribution, which is protected by copyright. Only if it is a broadcast in which spontaneous speech is used, z.B. in the case of sports coverage, texts are usually not copyrighted.
- (Talk)shows – Talk and other shows are also based on spontaneous utterances that are not copyrighted. But even here there are exceptions. For example, when an interviewee summarizes a complicated issue in concise language. The same applies to spontaneous freestyle.
- Video podcasts – Are the video podcasts scripted (z.B. like Ehrensenf), then the text will be copyrighted. If the content is spontaneously generated, then the text is only protected to the extent that it reaches the necessary creative height (s.o. talk shows).
- Private videos – The text in the typical private video is spontaneous and usually does not reach a sufficient level of creation (s.o. talk shows).
- Porn movies – With regard to the spoken passages the same applies as with films. If they are sufficiently individual, they are protected. This does not apply to short and banal lines of text (alarm, straw). The further content of this film genre, on the other hand, is based on statements that are not protected because they are purely factual and technical in nature.
Can the infringement be discovered?
Another question is whether the infringement can be detected. With music lyrics this will be the case. Likewise with scripts. In other cases, z.B. in interviews or journalistic contributions rather less. Nevertheless, this can happen in the future, as is the case now with picture warnings.
Because the new technologies make it easy to search for infringements on the Internet using image databases, the rights holders are increasingly happy to use this and send reminders because of the technical simplifications subsequently more and more copyright infringements from. It can be assumed that even cases that are currently less detectable will later be targeted by those issuing warnings.
I can imagine that with advancing speech recognition in the future, the same could be done with videos. And because the infringements can take up to 30 years until they become time-barred, the risk would exist as long as that. The cost of such a transcript depends on the length and importance of the text. On average I would assume approx. 800 € cost risk per case.
Notice: In addition to the authors, the video portals could also take action against the transcripts. They allow in their terms and conditions only to link or embed the videos. Whether these T&Cs are effective is another question. Often they are hidden at the bottom of the page and so a portal could not claim that a user noticed them at all.
I could not recommend to my client to transcribe the videos. At least not if this is done without individual review. Because in many cases, the texts will actually be copyrighted.