You Tube has a video (You Tube Copyright School) that explains the details about copyright infringement when uploading You Tube videos. According to that explanation, the safest way to ensure avoiding copyright infringement is to include only original content in your videos. The law does allow for the fair use of copyrighted material under certain circumstances, but it is often difficult to determine if a specific example qualifies legally as fair use. I am not sure whether or not my demonstration of a popular worship song in a piano instructional video would be considered fair use.
You may be thinking, “So why don’t you just make videos teaching how to play your original songs Ray?” That is what I have done so far. However, my songs are not exactly at the top of the Christian Contemporary charts right now. I’m sure people would be much more interested in learning to play the worship songs that are currently on the top of the Christian Contemporary charts. Teaching these songs would better fill the need of what people are looking to learn and would also probably result in more views. However, I don’t want to risk copyright infringement in order to achieve these things.
This law feels kind of like the speed limit (one of those laws that hardly anyone follows. A search on You Tube will reveal millions of videos in which people are teaching how to perform songs that they don’t own the copyright of. However, the existence of these videos does not authenticate the legality of this practice. In some cases, the owner of copyrighted material will allow a You Tube video to stay up, but exercise his/her right to collect on the monetization of that video (as covered in my previous posts: You Tube Sync Licensing & You Tube Sync Licensing part 2). If you are looking to monetize your instructional videos, this process would prevent you from collecting on the monetization (the owner of the copyright on the song would collect) even though you created the instruction. It is unclear whether the many instructional videos currently uploaded to You Tube are suffering from this monetization issue, going undetected or just illegal.
After calling Google and speaking to a customer service representative, I was told to write an email to their legal department. For those who are interested, the phone number I used to contact Google was (650) 253-0000. I got through to a customer service representative rather easily, but he was not able to directly answer my question (only refer me elsewhere). The email address he gave me for the legal department was firstname.lastname@example.org. I will write an updated post as soon as I hear back from them.