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Copyrights and Permissions


What is copyright?

(Taken from the U.S. Copyright Office.)

Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works.

Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed.

Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.

The information in this training is intended as a guide to copyright at the University of California and UC ANR, and should not be taken as legal advice.

For more information on UC Copyright policies and more complex scenarios consult this page: http://copyright.universityofcalifornia.edu/ 

UC ANR's Copyright

Your video is protected by copyright when you create it. It does not need to be registered to be covered by copyright. Generally your work for UC ANR will result in videos whose copyright belongs to UC Regents, but other arrangements exist.

While UC Regents hold the copyright, how the material is licensed my vary by the type of medium and how it's distributed. This is a complex topic, beyond the scope of this class, but copyright affects you in two ways when you create a video to post on YouTube on behalf of the University.

First, your video is protected by copyright so there is some control by UC ANR on how it is used. When we post on YouTube we use the "YouTube Standard License" which retains all rights. Anyone who wishes to use the video in their own content project needs our permission.

Second, the work of others may be protected by copyright. The licensing terms of their content may, at worst, keep you from using it. Other times you need to recognize the original creator, or get written permission for use. Public Domain works can be used in any manner.

There are some exceptions for things like Fair Use that allow you to use others' copyrighted content without permission, but those are fairly well-defined. Most simple how-to videos that aren't referencing a particular consumer product or website won't fall under Fair Use exceptions. If you have concerns about your video and whether Fair Use applies, you should start by talking with our Publications group.

If your video needs a copyright statement use this one: Copyright © 2020 The Regents of the University of California. Videos posted to the UC ANR YouTube channel have the copyright statement on the channel's description. 

You do not need to encode the copyright statement into the video itself on YouTube as their standard license retains all rights by the owner.

Others' Copyrights

In this section, we'll review some common situations for dealing with copyrighted content, and how to resolve them.

The safest practice for making online content that has no potential copyright infringement is to only use your own content.

Still Images

If you are able to plan a good storyboard so that you know what shots you will need for production, you can avoid using the work of others. 

Self: Your own still images (photos) can be used without a problem, but what about the case where you need someone else's photo? 

UC ANR: Generally, but with some exceptions, you can use UC ANR-owned images in your videos. We have a Repository (see your Portal) and a service called WebDAM with available images. The description should show you if there are additional restrictions on the images' usage. 

"Free" Image Sites

This is where it can get complicated.

Images created and published directly by the Federal government are usually public domain, but they sometimes use and share copyrighted material. USDA has a mostly public domain image library at https://www.ars.usda.gov/oc/images/image-gallery/ . Unless the image says otherwise, they are in the public domain, need no attribution, and are free to use.

There are several sources that provide free images that are often used in Extension such as ipmimages.org and forestryimages.org. These sites contain free images, but the licensing of each image can vary. Most are "Creative Commons Attribution 3.0" which means you can use them, but you need to attribute the image to the author. The image below (by Mary Burrows) shows how an example of the licensing for an image at ipmimages.org.

Photo by Mary Burrows, Montana State University

Some images at the site retain all rights. If you wish to use an image with all rights reserved, you need permission of its creator. (This site makes that easy.)

Wikipedia has a huge amount of free image content and much of it is excellent. If you attempt to download an image from Wikipedia, it will inform you before downloading of the requirements for use. Usually it is just attribution. There is a risk here that the uploader was not the copyright holder. If the image appears to be professionally created and would have use outside the Wikipedia article, you should do a Google Image reverse search to verify it isn't someone else's content. 

The most confusing class of "free" image sites are the ones offering searchable stock photos at no charge like unsplash.com. There isn't a way to verify the provenance of the images. There is a real chance the image is not the uploader's. While you are probably fine using one of these on a PowerPoint at a meeting, you should be wary of using them in your video. Most are fine, but there is no way to guarantee their licensing.

One final source of images to consider is Flickr.com and similar social media image sharing sites. Flickr makes the license terms clear, and does not allow downloads at all when all rights are reserved. In past projects, I have used Flickr images (and others have used mine) with the creator's permission. There is a mechanism built in to message members.

An image that you have been granted permission to use by the author can be included in a video. This includes pictures taken by your volunteers and family. Be sure when asking for permission to tell the creator how it will be used. I have never had a problem getting a picture cleared for use.

When in doubt, find the author and get written permission. If you cannot, consider using another image.

This section equally applies to video clips.


If music appears in your video, you may have copyright problems.

Almost all music sources you will encounter will be copyrighted. Most recorded music requires payment of royalties to be used in a video to be streamed or played for a general audience. 

Common situations that can violate copyright include:

  1. Including some a recognizable clip that belongs to others such as game show themes and songs you may know
  2. Modern recordings of public domain songs (classical music, "Happy Birthday," kids' songs, etc.)
  3. Using "free" music for personal that is not licensed for YouTube or public performance—the background music in Windows 10 Video Editor is an example

The trick to using music in videos is to use royalty-free tracks. Some royalty-free music is paid for up front; others is free. It is important to always use royalty-free music.

The music and sound files included in Adobe Premiere Elements is royalty-free. (Adobe has other tracks for sale that you must pay for.)

Some video editors provide free music that is NOT royalty-free. The tracks on Windows 10 Video Editor have restrictions. You are free to use them, but if you post a video to YouTube with that music, you will be warned by YouTube and will likely have to show an advertisement when played to pay for its use.

UC ANR has a subscription to a service that provides access to royalty-free music tracks. (Contact strategic communications about using it.)

Another source of free music is YouTube's music library, created with the express purpose of avoiding copyright infringement and royalties. You can find it here: https://www.youtube.com/audiolibrary/music?nv=1. Be aware some music from that source requires attribution.

A good way to use YouTube's library is to find a track about the same length as your video (or at least the section with music) and use that track, assuming the type is appropriate.

There are additional free music libraries for YouTube that offer royalty-free music. These may have some restictions, and most specifically stipulate that the music may only be used on YouTube. One example is https://www.audiolibrary.com.co/ Every track on that site makes clear it's restrictions. Most do require attributions since they are C.C. 3.0.

May Webinar

Copyright information, including use of music, was covered in-depth in the May webinar recording. See this link.


In some cases it is necessary to have permission to use some types of content. 

As discussed above, copyrighted material requires permission to use, either via a permissible license, or written consent of the author. However there are other circumstances when filming videos that permissions come into play.

On Location

Many locations require a permit to film, or at the very least permission. Personal filming and most casual recording (perhaps for B-roll) can be done in most public places but there are a few exceptions.

If you are doing a professional project, especially when it uses tripods and lighting, you need to be especially aware of permits.

Here are some situations that you need to watch for while filming. 

National Parks: You need a permit to film professionally at any national park. This is expensive as a Ranger will need to accompany you. If you will be recording a video at a NPS site and will be using a tripod, talk to staff to see if that falls under their requirements. Informal recording is usually fine. California State Parks are very similar. Check the park's policy page.

National Forests and BLM Lands: At recreation sites, you may need a permit, but in most cases for the types of videos UC ANR would make, you will be fine if you don't disturb anyone.

Private Property: Places like public gardens, schools, event centers, stadiums and other private locations usually have a photo/video policy. If they have a website, they usually post this information. I often see the use of a tripod and/or models as trigger for getting permission.

Public Spaces: As long as you aren't impeding access in any way, you can usually record in public places, especially informally. If you're not sure, contact whomever is in charge.

People: For the types of videos we will produce in Extension, anyone appearing in your video needs to give permission to be shown on camera if they are identifiable. If you cannot get their permission, you will need to blur them out. Since busy places are poor locations to record video, especially for sound, you should have no problem avoiding people in your video recording.

Products: Don't prominently display or promote commercial products. If something incidentally shows up in a video, it's not a huge concern, but you also don't want to have a tub of a specific brand like Crisco® or Hormel® right in front of the camera. Removing any labels or using tape to cover brands are easy ways to avoid endorsement issues. UC has non-endorsement language you may need to append to your video or description if products need to be mentioned.

Pesticides: Remember UC has a policy on use of pesticides in our publications. UC IPM can assist you with that if you are unaware. Issues with pesticide recommendations are most likely to appear with content created by volunteers, so be sure to review their work carefully. It's best to review a script before filming rather than attempting an edit or reshoot.

Model Releases

Anyone who appears in UC ANR's videos, other than yourself, needs to sign a "model release." This includes employees, volunteers and family members.

UC ANR has a model release form. Here is the link.

It is best practice to include everyone since at some point in the future that person may not be affiliated with UC (or you) and may need to take down the content.

Creative Commons Licensing

Creative Commons logo

Since retaining all rights given by copyright can be very restrictive, some content creators have licensed their works under Creative Commons licenses.

Creative Commons is a framework to allow others to use content while retaining some control over its use. 

You can learn more about the system at their website.

In general you can use Creative Commons content in your videos. All CC licenses require attribution. You should also cite the type of CC license. The least restrictive—attribution only—should include "CC BY" at the very least with the name. Whenever possible you should link the CC license type to the Creative Commons website. 

This page gives an ideal example of a CC license that allows one to use an image, but does not allow derivative works to be created: CC BY–ND.

There are various "codes" attached to the the license to explain what's allowed. Here is a description of each:

  • BY: Must provide attribution (this is always required with CC)
  • ND: No derivative works of any kind
  • NC: Non-commercial use only
  • SA: ShareAlike; this means that you can use it any way you want (with attribution) but that you must license a derivative work with this same license. This is how Wikipedia is licensed. 

If you see a CC0 or a copyright symbol © that is crossed out, then the content is in the Public Domain. Here is a FAQ on the topic.