How To Avoid A $1 Million Lawsuit Over Your YouTube Masterpiece

This post is for all you aspiring YouTubers out there. There’s a ton of you here in LA trying to break into the business using video on the net, and I myself have been seen the fruits of this strategy.

There’s a story today about a couple of kids getting sued for a million bucks by their former employer, A&P Groceries, for filming a YouTube video that has been viewed as of this posting less than 10,000 times.

My analysis and advice after the jump.

Here’s the video in question:

In the bad old days when you needed to sell your work ot a distributor to get it out there, you needed an expensive piece of insurance known as an Errors and Omissions Policy, E&O.

It’s because of these policies you see the blurred logos on baseball caps and t-shirts. There’s no legal requirement for you as a producer to blur, it’s a requirement to get the insurance policy, and the insurance policy allows you to sell it to a distributor. An E&O policy would handle a lawsuit like this.

Im not saying the tyranny of E&O insurance is right (there’s a lot of great resources for what can and should constitute fair use of logos, etc. One of the best places to learn more about fair use is the Center For Social Media’s great site), I’m just saying it exists and you should be aware of it.

Anywho, back to this case.

The biggest rub, is permission. These guys sought and thought they had permission from their manager. Now the manager might have said, sure you kids have fun, but that’s not really getting permission.

Permission is always in writing. Always. If you don’t have it in writing, you may as well just do it without asking and hope for the best. Because if something goes wrong, the verbal permission that gave you the verbal go ahead will suddenly forget about it.

Now these guys were pretty good. I didn’t catch any official store signage, but the lawsuit is claiming their logo is visible on a baseball cap.

If you’re flying low under the radar, make sure every logo/song/trademark you use you either have written permission for, or don’t film it. Especially if you’re doing something funny, or edgy or whatever. Corporate lawyer types don’t have a sense of humor.

Follow the rules, unless… it’s worth it. If these guys can take the notoriety from this lawsuit and turn it into more notoriety, did they lose? Hard to answer, but the Lonelygirl15 folks certainly turned their notoriety into success.

On the other hand, when we did AskANija, we only used what we could clear with written permission, etc.

Whichever way you chose to go, just be informed. Think about the issues and what you’re doing, and know the tradeoffs before the lawsuits start flying.

Good luck and happy YouTubing.

5 Replies to “How To Avoid A $1 Million Lawsuit Over Your YouTube Masterpiece”

  1. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to remind our producer’s to blur license plates.

    Clearance is a lonely, thankless job ; )

  2. It seems that their crime is making a horrible song and video…why would anyone want to be associated with this video?

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