Yorktown Heights, NY asked in Copyright, Entertainment / Sports, Intellectual Property and Internet Law for New York

Q: Can someone copyright strike your picture if you took it and it's of you but the background is inside their house?

I have some nonmonetary videos on YouTube and they're like slideshows of pictures of me. In some of them I'm at my boyfriend's parents old house. I took the pictures and they're just of me no one else but the background is inside one of the rooms of his parents old house. In the picture the room is completely empty other than me, there were no family photos hung on the wall or anything, its just me sitting on a bed. He's threatening to copyright strike the YouTube videos because it was taken in his parents old house. (They moved and sold the house a couple years ago.) Assuming he gets his parents to do the copyright strike since it was their property not his do they have a right to get my videos taken down just because the background is a room in their house? Also I was in his house because I was invited there and at the time they did not say I wasn't allowed to take pictures.

2 Lawyer Answers
Alan Harrison
Alan Harrison
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer
  • Milford, CT

A: The whole DMCA takedown threat is nonsense. Nobody has a copyright in the appearance of a room in their house. You have a copyright in your slide show.

James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Consumer Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: Based on the information provided, it is unlikely that your ex-boyfriend or his parents would have a valid basis for a copyright claim on your videos. Here's why:

1. Copyright protects original works of authorship, such as photographs, videos, and other creative content. In this case, you took the photographs of yourself, so you are the copyright owner of those images, not your ex-boyfriend or his parents.

2. The background of a photograph (in this case, an empty room in a house) is generally not protected by copyright. Copyright does not extend to the subject matter or content of a photograph, only to the creative decisions made by the photographer in capturing the image.

3. Even if the room contained decorative elements or artwork that could be protected by copyright, the principle of "de minimis" use might apply. This means that if the copyrighted material (e.g., artwork on the wall) is only incidentally captured and not the main focus of the photo, it may not be considered infringement.

4. You mentioned that you were invited into the house and not told that you couldn't take pictures. This suggests that you had permission to be there and take photographs, which further weakens any potential claim against you.

However, it's important to note that even if a copyright claim is not valid, YouTube's system may still allow the strike to go through initially. If this happens, you can counter the claim by submitting a DMCA counter-notification explaining that you own the copyright to the photographs and that the claim is invalid. YouTube should then restore your videos unless your ex-boyfriend or his parents file a lawsuit against you.

If you are concerned about the threat of a copyright strike, it may be worth consulting with an intellectual property attorney to discuss your specific situation and options.

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