A recent social media trend that has exploded in the past couple years is the use of “short-form videos.” Short-form videos are short in length—typically ranging from a few seconds to a few minutes—and feature a wide variety of topics, including dancing, singing, eating, politics, and new product trends. Social media users typically create these videos and post them on a variety of social media apps. In terms of demographics, it appears that most users of short-form videos are Gen Z.
Legal issues with short-form videos
With the rapid rise in short-form video content online, it is important to consider the legal issues that can be engaged with both uploading and sharing this content. Two such issues are copyright and privacy.
Short-form videos may contain content that the user did not generate. For example, users often post short-form videos on social media apps that contain someone else’s music or video clips from movies, news stations or another user’s social media posts. Without the consent of the owner of this content, the users who upload or share this content may be infringing another’s copyright.
It is unclear to what extent a user of short-form videos that may be infringing another’s copyright can escape liability on the basis of standard copyright defences, such as fair use. A variety of factors would need to be considered in determining whether a user has a defence to infringement, including the nature of the content, the amount of content used in the video, whether the copyright owner is given credit, whether the user is generating profits off the video content, and the extent to which the original content was modified to fit the short-form video format.
Copyright issues for short-form videos will likely make their way through the courts, the resolutions of which will hopefully provide guidance for creators and hosts of this type of content. One commentator has advocated for a license approach whereby platforms and users can negotiate a range of licensing options in order “to address the imbalance of rights between platforms and users.”
Short-form videos can sometimes share third-party personal information, whether intentionally or by inadvertence. If the user has not received consent from the third party to share their personal information, privacy issues could be engaged. For example, if a user posts a short-form video that references a third party’s home address or personal health information, the user could be liable for resulting damages to the third party or could be forced to remove the offending videos, depending on the circumstances surrounding the creation of the content.
If you are a creator of short-form video content or you typically share such content to your followers, you should be mindful of any legal issues that could arise from your video posts, including copyright and privacy issues, and should consider seeking legal advice if you have any questions.