Copyright For Trainers Explained

Can I Legally Use YouTube Clips In My Training Sessions? By Robert Bacal

The answer is "it depends". While it's unlikely that a case for copyright infringement will actually go to court if you violate the law, if you are caught, you or your employee may be asked for a fee retroactively to avoid going to court. That can cause huge problems for you if you are a trainer working for someone else, since your employer may be upset at your violation, and can even result in losing your job.

The Important Copyright For Trainers Information

  • If the clip is a movie, television program, or for that matter, any other media (music, MP3, jpg or other graphic or picture, you cannot use it without explicit permission. It doesn't matter who uploaded it. Don't use it.
  • Fair use for "educational purposes" usually applies ONLY to accredited educational institutions (schools, universities). It does NOT apply to training in most settings, although many trainers believe that it does.
  • Some material on YouTube is released under a Creative Commons (CC) License. There are different flavors with different restrictions, but most do NOT allow use for commercial purposes, but what constitutes such use is not always clear.
  • Be alert to the fact that people often upload material to YouTube which is copyright by the original owner, and then label it as free to use. Remember that the ONLY entity that can give you the rights to use a clip is the one that OWN the copyright. For example, if someone uploads a clip from a television program, they can label it any way they like, but they don't own it in the first place. THEY are violating copyright, and if you use it, even unwittingly, YOU are violating copyright.
  • YOU are responsible for sorting out who owns what, and who you need to contact for permission. Do NOT be mislead by finding clips uploaded by someone who represents the clip as free to use.
  • If you work for someone else, YOU are the representative of that company. If YOU break the law, your company breaks the law. Doing so puts your employer at risk, and that can cause you to lose your job or suffer the wrath of an angry employer.


Abiding by copyright is not just a legal issue, but an ethical one. The likelihood of being sued is small. Also, be aware that if you show a video illegally in a training classroom, you may be challenged by someone in your participant group as someone who is breaking the law. It's embarrassing, and a poor image to project.

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