07/24/2014 02:16 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Warning All Bloggers and Video Makers!!!


I have been writing blogs for about seven years now.

I used to use a lot of pictures to illustrate the points I wanted to make.

These were mostly images I found on the web.

If I was talking about a 'Revolution' in video, I might use a painting of the French Revolution.

There was so much stuff on the web. All I had to do was 'Google' image search and there were the choices.

It made the pieces nicer to look at, I thought.

Then, about a year ago, maybe a bit more, I got a big, fat letter from some lawyer. I was being sued for copyright infringement for using a picture without permission.

Well, needless to say, I took the offending picture down.

It didn't make a difference. I was being sued for $150,000. For my blog. For the picture on my blog.

(You will note that I don't have a picture up there today - and as far as I can tell, no one owns 'WARNING', at least not yet.)

When we run the 4-day video bootcamps (coming up in NY and London in September!), we devote an hour on the morning of the third day to a very in-depth lecture on rights and releases. I have to say that while this is probably not the most exciting lecture in the four days, it is without a doubt the most important.

That was proven yesterday when Michelle Phan, Youtube video star, was sued by Ultra Records, which has Kaskade, deadmaus and Calvin Harris as clients. (NB, I have never heard of any of these people, which just goes to show how old I am!)

In any event, it seems that Michelle was using their music for some of her videos, and without the permission of the publisher. (She had, ironically, the permission of the artist. Kaskade, who was nominated for a Grammy last year said he supporter her, but he has no legal standing here. The publisher, Ultra, owns the rights).

According to The BBC, Ultra is suing Michelle for $150,000 for each violation. There are apparently 50 violations. (for those of you bad with math, that comes out to $7.5 million. That's a lot of money! Even for a 'Youtube star.'

There is a generally held perception that the Internet is a digital free for all, open platform, do what you like world. Nothing could be further from the truth, (as this so clearly points out).

There is also a generally held perception that if you get caught using someone else's stuff, all you have to do is 'take it down.' I can tell you from personal experience (we settled out of court after much in the way of legal expenses), this is also not true.


And, if you are really smart, take the 4-day bootcamp and take very careful notes on day 3 when Lisa gives you the lecture on rights and releases.

This is no joke!