2 Common Live Streaming Legal Mistakes

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As a veteran TV and radio broadcaster, I spent many hours in training sessions and on conference calls with corporate attorneys learning the “dos and don’ts” in regards to broadcasting. There are simply things you cannot do or say unless you want a lawsuit.

The same goes for live streaming. Just because you don’t deliver your content over a TV or radio station doesn’t mean your are exempt from defamation and licensing requirements.

Below are two common legal mistakes I often see live streamers make:

Streaming What You Don’t Own

Remember last year’s Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight? Twitter and Periscope took a lot of heat from HBO for allowing people to live stream the pay-per-view fight for free. Twitter and Periscope did not have a way to shut down copyright infringements in real-time.

David Lizerbram wrote a great blog post about this last year. His conclusion? Periscope users who love their account better not stream anything they don’t own. Lawsuits and take-down notices against individual users are very possible against individual users, especially ones who regularly abuse this law.


Music Streaming without a License

Just like with any content on TV, radio, YouTube, or other internet property, you MUST own the right to broadcast the music used in your content, even if it is playing in the background.

I broadcasted a Christmas parade for a client a couple of years ago on YouTube. The broadcast had barely ended when YouTube sent me a copyright claim notice. Why? A DJ was playing Christmas music nearby and the ambient microphone picked it up in the broadcast. I had to go back and re-edit the video recording to take out the music.

If you are simply streaming on Periscope or Facebook Live for personal fun, you probably won’t get hit with any legal drama. However, if you are a business and streaming something for profit purposes, you need to make sure you have purchased licenses.

Note: this includes churches. Many churches already purchase licenses to cover their worship services, but as I blogged about earlier, streaming your worship service over the internet requires a different license.

Bottom line: music copyrights can get very complicated. I recommend you consult with an entertainment attorney if you plan to use music on a regular basis in your broadcasts.



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