Business Law & Compliance

Ad attacking Jeremy Corbyn removed due to copyright shows even government needs to brush up on law

2 min read

16 September 2015

An advert branding Jeremy Corbyn a threat to national security was pulled from YouTube after claims the conservative party had used footage without permission. This just comes to show that no matter how big your business is, copyright law should always be at the forefront of your mind.

Video is increasingly becoming a central part of our everyday landscape of communication, and it is becoming more visible as people share it on digital platforms. 

With remixes and parodies being the average YouTube user’s staple diet, people greatly depend on the ability to use and circulate existing copyrighted work. However, especially so for businesses, it is important to understand the legal rights of the original makers as policies and practices evolve. 

Copyright law has several features that permit quotations from copyrighted works without permission or payment, under certain conditions. Fair use is the most important of these features. It has been an important part of copyright law for more than 150 years. 

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Essentially it means using the “rule of reason” to determine if an unlicensed use of copyright material generates social or cultural benefits that are greater than the costs it imposes on the copyright owner – and it has been a subject of great debate given that the conservative party has had to withdraw an advert due to a copyright claim.

The aim, as was evident by the very first words of the advert, was to paint Corbyn as a “threat to Britain’s security”. The advert featured a montage of clips of Corbyn’s more controversial statements. This included describing “terror group Hamas” as “friends” and the death of Osama Bin laden as a “tragedy”. 

It was the latter filmed comments that got the conservative party in trouble. The video clips used had been filmed by freelance videographer Adrian Cousins, who ended up filing a copyright claim with YouTube. The company subsequently pulled the advert.

A tweet sent out by prime minister David Cameron containing the same warning to Britain’s national security was criticised by the Russian embassy.