Regrarding Copyright, can you use Youtube Videos in E-Learning Modules

Dec 08, 2014

Hello Everyone!

I would like to use Youtube videos in my elearning modules.  If you are using a Youtube video from a company such as BlessingWhite, would you need to permisson to use it in a module.  I think that it would be "fair game" because it it on Youtube, but you NEVER know when it comes to copyright...

Thank You!

6 Replies
Ralf  Baum

Hi Sharron,

Copyright is always a difficult topic. Generally I would suggest to ask the copyright owner to get permission. All other options are dangerous.

I read an article about that topic just yesterday. Perhaps it explains the difficuties.

Best regards




Rebekah Massmann

I agree, you should seek permission to include the video. They may give you permission to use their publicly available videos because it is essentially advertisement for them to get more views. I once received permission to use a video from the youtube channel of a similar type of leadership development company, at no charge. Another time we asked to show a video from some motivational speakers (a smaller operation), and they charged us a small fee, but also gave us the source file if I remember correctly. It just depends!

Jenny Lee

We have had this come up from a partner who had posted their continuing education material on You Tube. They then requested our accreditation and that we host it in our LMS.  I was told go got get it off of You Tube... however...when checking ... You Tube held the rights as it was on their site.  The author had to 'go get it' and send it to me, letting You Tube know why. I think it is like a published article, which once published, becomes the property of the publisher and no longer the property of the author.  Always check.... the fines for using copyright materials w/o permissions can be stiff. 

Katherine Adraktas

I'm currently developing an eLearning program for a client. It's a for-profit class. There are loads of youtube videos I'd love to use from National Geographic, etc. but am quite certain they wouldn't allow their videos to be used for a for-profit program without being amply compensated. 

With other videos from non-mega entities, I've found it difficult to find contact information. And when I do find them and request permission, I rarely hear back from them. 

So then the onus is for me and the client to create new videos and images, which is a massive time suck and outrageously expensive.  

I understand receiving permission from the owner of the image or video, then crediting said person in the program, but the process is exhausting!

Bianca Woods

Hi Katherine,

Trying to navigate the ins and outs of copyright is tricky. There's the legal side of things, which we definitely don't want to make expensive mistakes with. And then there's the ethics side of things: we don't want content creators to feel like we're stealing their content.

Asking the content creator for permission is by far the most consistently safe option. You do need to do the (often time-consuming) task of trying to get in touch with the content creator, but it does fully resolve any ambiguity on if your intended use is allowed or not. The only time that might get more complicated is if someone posts a video to YouTube that they themselves don't hold the copyright to.

Another relatively clean option is to look for videos where the copyright information is included in the description. If someone is using a Creative Commons license for their content and included that information their YouTube upload, you can use the YouTube search filters to show you just those videos. You will still need to check which Creative Commons license the video creator chose, though, as not all allow for commercial use.

When it comes to embedding YouTube videos you don't own or have a license to, though, the rules can get a lot shakier, especially since country-specific copyright laws may apply in addition to YouTube's terms of service. Specific to just YouTube's rules, as of the moment I'm writing this their current Terms of Service has two key things to say about video use:

License to Other Users
"You also grant each other user of the Service a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to access your Content through the Service, and to use that Content, including to reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works, display, and perform it, only as enabled by a feature of the Service (such as video playback or embeds). For clarity, this license does not grant any rights or permissions for a user to make use of your Content independent of the Service."

Permissions and Restrictions
"You may access and use the Service as made available to you, as long as you comply with this Agreement and applicable law. You may view or listen to Content for your personal, non-commercial use. You may also show YouTube videos through the embeddable YouTube player." 

and also

"You are not allowed to: access, reproduce, download, distribute, transmit, broadcast, display, sell, license, alter, modify or otherwise use any part of the Service or any Content except: (a) as expressly authorized by the Service; or (b) with prior written permission from YouTube and, if applicable, the respective rights holders."

I'm not at all an expert in copyright law, but this does seem a bit confusing when it comes to using embedded videos in for-profit courses. Embedding in general is an allowed use by YouTube's standards. But embedding videos in a for-profit course seems like it may or may not count as selling the content. If you don't have a license or written permission to include the video in your course, leaving it out or just hyperlinking to the video on YouTube may be your safest options.

Darren McNeill

I deal with this a lot. Just because it is on Youtube or Google, does not mean it is "Fair Game". The content still belongs to the owner. There is the "Fair Use" term used a lot to think it can be used to get around things but it is basically in the event of having to argue in court to explain.

Just like with the font Arial. It can be used for work purposes in documents and presentations etc but it is not allowed to be used if it is in content that is being sold...such as e-learning modules, Kiosk applications etc...and alternative must be used an the fines are extreme.

HBO for example have a policy of issuing fines of up to $150k ..per use of any of their video, clips, which has happened. The only exemption is when used by academic bodies such as Universities to use in lectures and courses where the content is used as part of a discuss or debate....but permission must still be sought.

Too many still today believe that "because it is through must be free". With Youtube videos you must still get the owners permission especially if the module is being sold and even if not they need to be informed and also credited.

Most think no one get caught....but they do. Another example is when a TV company posts a video on Youtube, thats ok, they created the movie or video and can upload it. however, if someone copied that video or part of it from Youtube and reposted it, then it is illegal, which is very common, and Youtube do hand out fines. Quite often it is easier to go after those that download the content rather than the people posting it...

When you have a doubt then best to not do it at all.