What to Do if Someone Steals Your Videos

One of the worst things that can happen to you is someone misappropriating your content online. Luckily, you can do a lot to prevent that from happening in the first place. Even in the worst case scenario, you still may have some recourse. Here are the key steps you need to take to ensure that your content will remain yours, and what to do if it falls into the wrong hands.

Be Careful What You Copy

The first step to avoid copyright infringement, is not to infringe on the rights of others. This seems like a no brainer, but being careful about any images, content, or music that you select for your video is the first step in establishing clear ownership of your videos online. If you use content that is not yours, your video could be credited to the copyright holder, or worse, taken down entirely.

Youtube Video Taken Down Screen Message

If you do not truly own the content you are publishing in your video online, it is unlikely to be considered original content. This makes submitting any legal claims regarding the misuse of your video nearly impossible to pursue.

To avoid this problem, obtain all necessary licenses or permissions when making your video. Give credit to anyone who contributed to your video. Have all participants sign release forms if appropriate. Ensure all contracts are crystal clear about ownership once the project is wrapped.

Be Careful Where you Publish

If you do not want your video to be shared widely on the internet, do not put it on Youtube or any similar social sharing sites. These platforms are designed specifically for content to go viral. If you want to stay in control of your online video, these sites are not the place to put them.

Online Video Sharing Sites

What they are great for, however, are videos that promote your more valuable content without giving away too much. Your more valuable content belongs on a video hosting platform with a lot of security and analytical tools, such as SproutVideo, allowing you to embed them safely on your site. We recently wrote a more extensive article on protecting your monetized video content, which has content guidelines for different kinds of video sharing platforms.

Monitor Your Content Closely

You cannot stop something if you do not know it is happening. If you use a video hosting provider, like SproutVideo, you should be able to track the domains where your video is being played. This way, you can get total visibility into where your videos are being watched, and make sure there is no funny business going on.

Any domain you do not recognize could potentially be misusing your content. Identifying those domains is the first step in the fight to get them to stop.

Track domains where your videos are played on the web with SproutVideo analytics

If you don’t have visibility into where your videos are being played online, then set up Google Alerts for the exact title of your video or your brand name. Any word or phrase that would signify your content would work. This way, you will receive an alert in your inbox if your video shows up anywhere online.

Control Access To Your Videos

Whether embedding your videos on a website you already own, or sharing them on landing pages via a professional video hosting platform, you’ll want to regulate access to your videos. The idea is to narrow your audience down to only trusted individuals. The sensitivity of your video content will determine exactly how narrow your audience should be.

This way, you can make sure only approved viewers can watch your videos. Also, you can revoke access as needed. Even better, you can track viewers by email address very closely with the tools SproutVideo provides. If you can identify everyone who is watching your videos, the chances they will fall into the wrong hands diminish greatly.

If You’re Embedding Your Videos

If you are embedding your videos on your website, you can put them behind a login wall so that only people with permission can view them. To do so with videos hosted on SproutVideo, set your videos to Private, and then publish your embed code on pages behind the login wall.

Your videos will not show up anywhere besides where you embedded them, and will not be searchable on the SproutVideo platform.

If you do not want your videos showing up elsewhere on the web, do not enable downloads. Once a video is downloaded, you cannot take it back, and your control over it will be greatly diminished.

Another key step is to use domain whitelisting. This prevents anyone from copying and pasting your embed code to another site. The embed code simply will not work anywhere but websites you specify.

If You’re Sharing on Landing Pages or SproutVideo Website

If you are not embedding your videos, and are using SproutVideo to host them on a brandable video website for example, you can enable login protection for your videos. That way, when people login to your video website, they only see videos they have access to.

Another option, which is particularly great for sharing internal corporate videos, is IP address restriction. If you know your company’s IP address range or block, you can restrict video access to viewers on that network. Anyone on an approved connection will enjoy a seamless viewing experience. For anyone else, the videos simply won’t load.

A third option for controlling access to your videos is single-sign-on (SSO). If your company has an existing Identity Provider that manages your employees’ credentials, you can use SSO to regulate access to the video websites we provide. SSO is a particularly great solution for large companies with a lot of employees.

Disallowing downloads and using domain whitelisting, as described above, are still important steps to take.

What if the Worst Happens?

Perhaps you omitted one crucial security measure, and now your content is on someone else’s site or Youtube channel. They are getting credit for your work and potentially weakening your brand!

The first step in stopping the guilty party is to contact them directly. Sometimes just the threat of action is enough. Send a carefully worded email specifying the video in question, and clearly state why you believe it to be in violation of your copyright.

As a second step, if the content is on a video hosting platform, contact the hosting service provider. File a complaint with their customer service or copyright division.

If they decide in your favor, they might take the content down themselves. Or, they might issue something called a take-down notice to the offender. A take-down notice essentially states that they must remove the content immediately. It also gives them clear guidance on how and why. Compliance rates are typically very high, and take-down notices are strictly enforced. Hosting sites typically ban repeat offenders, so the risk is high for recipients of take-down notices.

If your content was published on a 3rd party’s website without permission, you should be able to get it taken down. Do some sleuthing and try to identify the site owner, the website hosting company, or the video hosting provider. Then, you can file a complaint with each of them. This type of situation might take longer to resolve. Also, you might have to do a decent amount of work to prove that you are the rightful owner. Still, it is certainly worth a shot.

What You Can’t Prevent

You cannot stop people from using a screen capture tool to record your video. Video hosting providers can’t control someone’s computer through the internet, for obvious privacy and security concerns. Overcome this fundamental insecurity of online video by gating access to your content, and tracking viewers closely following the steps above.

Although it won’t protect against screen capture software, you can watermark your content with an image or a digital watermark. Either option can help identify people copying your content. At a minimum, your branding would still be present on your videos.


Have you ever found out someone was copying your content online? Tell us about it in the comments below, or tweet your story to @SproutVideo!

Written by Courtney Purchon

Courtney is the Head of Marketing at SproutVideo. Follow her on Twitter.

Posted February 10, 2014

blog comments powered by Disqus