United States copyright law grants the creator of any creative work the right to their creation. It means that a creator has the exclusive right to their work, and the right to make copies, make derivative works, and distribute the work. There are, however, exceptions to this right. When you upload a video or other content to a platform that you don’t own, you may be giving up some exclusive rights to the ownership of your creative work. You still own it, but you’ve given up certain things to YouTube in exchange for the use of their platform.

When you upload content to a platform like YouTube or Twitter or Instagram, the terms of service of that platform govern their rights to the uploaded content. You have to accept the terms of service (which, of course, no one actually reads) to use the platform; if you don’t accept them, then you can’t access the resource.

One of the things that you typically have to agree to is that the content you are uploading is your own, or that you have the rights to use it. I doubt very much that Instagram or any other platform polices this much. All platforms have a way to report copyright and other intellectual property violations due to the “safe harbor” requirements set forth by the DIgital Millennium Copyright Act which protect service providers from monetary liability due to infringements by naughty third-party infringers, so long as they comply with certain notice and takedown procedures. Enforcement of the requirement that content be the property of the person uploading it is mostly complaint-driven, since it’s impossible to sift through the thousands of images that are uploaded every hour, much less figure out who the true owner is.

What do you give up when you upload your videos to YouTube? Let’s have a look at the Terms of Use and see. As is typical, you agree to the terms of service just by signing up for a YouTube account or visiting the YouTube website. “Content” on YouTube is anything a user uploads, including sounds, text, video, and graphics. When you upload your content to YouTube, you are granting them a “worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the Content in connection with the Service” and even the right to create “derivative works” from your content, which means that they can slice and dice it and make new content from it. You’re also granting other users of YouTube the right to “to use, reproduce, distribute, display and perform such Content as permitted through the functionality of the Service.” The license is perpetual and irrevocable, and they can keep copies of everything you upload forever on their servers, even if you delete it.

Oh, and no selling ads on the YouTube videos that you upload. Only YouTube gets to do that.

Should you be alarmed by any of this? No. Just be aware that you are giving away one of your sticks in the “bundle of sticks” that represent your rights as a content creator, and don’t upload anything that you don’t want others to share. If you want to control the rights to your video content, then a good way to ensure that is to upload it only to a website that you control — impractical, to say the least, since loading the video when people visit your website slows down page loading times.

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