About a year and a half ago, the YouTube channel h3h3productions, formed by the couple Ethan and Hila Klein, was sued by another youtuber alleging that they were using their content illegally, infringing copyrights, while the people at h3h3productions supported themselves on use of “Fair Use” (legitimate use) with which the use of material from others is permitted. After a time of legal battles, the decision of the trial gave reason to the members of h3h3 and this defines a great victory for creators on YouTube.
It all started with a “reaction video”
The content of h3h3productions was popularized for making videos where they, mainly Ethan, watch and comment on certain YouTube videos in a parody tone about certain rather regrettable behaviors. There are more than a thousand examples of this on your channel, but a reaction video was what started a legal battle that went on for more than a year.
Youtuber Matt Hoss released a video in 2013 called “Bold Guy vs Parkour Girl” that had almost 10 million visits in 2016, which was when h3h3productions released a reaction video where, in their usual tone, they laughed at the content. A video that Matt Hoss himself reported via YouTube and that the platform itself ended up removing for allegedly violating copyright.
Bold Guy removed our video and is LITERALLY suing us for copyright infringement. Someone doesn’t understand fair use pic.twitter.com/XvjaQGmKO6
– Ethan Klein (@ h3h3productions) April 27, 2016
This did not seem to be enough for Matt Hoss and a month later, in May 2016, we found out thanks to a video from h3h3productions that they were being processed through the United States justice not only for the subject of copyright, but also for denigrating his image . The worst of all is that before starting the process, Matt Hoss sent them an email asking them to remove the video content and demanding payment for not starting the process. Something that Ethan and Hila did not do since they were not afraid. The legal costs of the entire lawsuit continued to grow, but luckily, Philip DeFranco, another youtuber, started a crowdfuning campaign through GoFund to help fund. A gesture that made them collect over $ 170,000 and in which several other youtubers put their own little grain of sand.
What is YouTube’s “Fair Use”?
To understand a little better this laborious legal process in which copyright is a fundamental part, nothing better than trying understand how YouTube’s Fair Use works. This “legitimate use” allows fragments of a work to be used without having to ask permission from the creator of the work whenever a number of conditions are met. These “rules” are the ones that limit the use of Fair Use and each country has its own rules regarding this. Based on the case of h3h3productions which is governed by the laws of the United States, some of the criteria to rely on YouTube’s Fair Use are as follows:
- Whether the purpose of the works is for investigative, educational, critical or satirical purposes.
- If the size of the material used is smaller than the original content.
- If the use of the material did not negatively impact the economic terrain of the original work.
YouTube specifies this issue a little more, but certainly it is a topic that is very open to different meanings and that is why the h3h3productions judgment was so important, as it will serve as a precedent in possible future lawsuits. The judge herself declared that this verdict is not valid for everything: «The Court is not regulating here that all» reaction videos «are legitimate use».
A victory for all YouTube
The judge of the case declared that the video falls within the limits of “Fair Use” since this is a parody in which the rights of Matt Hoss’ video are not infringed. After analyzing the various videos in which the whistleblower and the defendants appear, the judge made it clear that “the video constitutes a critical comment on Hoss’s video and there is no doubt that it is not a market substitute”. You can read the final verdict through this link.
Best line of the entire lawsuit written by our attorney. pic.twitter.com/76oPVsXrhm
– Ethan Klein (@ h3h3productions) August 24, 2017
Ethan and Hila Klein’s victory was a victory for all YouTube creators who base their channels on making reaction videos, report on successes, or simply use some of others’ material to create your own content. The h3h3productions channel itself launched a video where they comment and thank the support received. And as a final note, they also relaunched the original video that had been removed by YouTube. A great happy ending that is sure to change YouTube’s policies regarding Fair Use for the better.