I used a photo from the internet and edited it. I am not the original owner. I used it in a YouTube video. Another YouTuber made a screenshot of the photo I edited and then used it in their video. Although I am not the original owner of the photo I did edit it. Can I copyright strike the other channel for using content I created for my video?

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    Do you have permission to use the photo in your YouTube video? – John Hawthorne Sep 18 '19 at 9:21
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    If you have an official authorization from the original author, possibly, otherwise it could backfire. And how can you prove that it's your edit, and not a similar one? – xenoid Sep 18 '19 at 10:24
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    Fundamentally, why do you want to copy strike the channel? Are you objecting to the unauthorized use of your art? That is, would you object to any video using your edited image without authorization, or are you objecting to this video/YouTuber? – scottbb Sep 18 '19 at 12:08
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    @xiota Probably technically, but it's not like the Fraud Police is going to track them down and do something about it. Consequences really only come up in high-profile cases like this one. – mattdm Sep 19 '19 at 0:47
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is a legal issue... and not a serious one at all. – Rafael Sep 20 '19 at 0:28

There are two questions you need to answer here:

  1. Do you have any copyright in your edited photo? Trivial modifications to a work do not create a new copyright - for example, if all you did was to take a photo and crop out some uninteresting background to change the aspect ratio, that almost certainly wouldn't create a new copyright. If you very carefully and cleverly edited the photo to replace the main subject with a different one, that almost certainly would create a new copyright. In the middle is the difficult bit. Obviously, if you don't have any copyright in the photo then you can't claim any rights to its use.
  2. Is the use of the edited photo in the other user's video fair use? If it is, then they can obviously use it in that way.

As others have stated, beware of opening the can of worms here. Saying to YouTube "I used somebody else's content in my video without permission and then [...]" could backfire badly.


There are a couple of issues which you will need to address.

First, did you have the ability to modify the original photo? If you had permission from the owner, you are covered. Additionally, if the original image was one available for public use, for example some images from government publications and websites, then you may be covered.

In some cases, the fair-use doctrine will permit you to use other's work and to make derivative works from their work, without permission. An example of this is parody. If you modified the image to satirize the original image, then you might be covered under fair-use doctrine.

Second, if you have modified the original image, you have rights to your modification, if it is significant, and creates a new work. This seems subjective, and in the US there are many cases (case law) which help refine the parameters around what creates a significant change to create a derivative work.

If you have a true derivative work, then you have the ability to enforce a copyright on that work.

However, if you do not have a true derivative work, then your effort to enforce a copyright may create a liability for you if your work is not judged to be a derivative work.

Thirdly, if you do not have the right, either by the original author granting use, or by fair-use doctrine, or by expiration due to age, or some other mechanism, then your effort at enforcement of your derivative work copyright will expose you to civil and criminal liabilities. You don't want to go there.

So you need to do an evaluation, perhaps with help from a knowledgeable person, to ascertain whether you have a genuine derivative work, and permission (explicitly or implicitly by doctrine or law) to create the derivative work. If those conditions are met to your satisfaction, then you might want to enforce your copyright on the image.

If you fail in having a genuine derivative work (that is substantially different), and the right to create the derivative from the original work, then not only are you likely to be unable to enforce your copyright, but you will likely bring to light civil and / or criminal liabilities, which you might want to avoid.

The party you try to enforce your "copyright" against may just reach out to the original author, and cut a deal with them. Not a good place to be.

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    If we know the nature and motivation for the changes, we learn two things: whether it was fair use (for example parody) and can determine whether it is a derivative work. If it is a fair use derivative work then the OP has a potential copyright claim, AND fair use rights to utilize the initial work of someone else. – mongo Sep 19 '19 at 15:33

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