A: There are two critical aspects to consider in discussing this matter: copyright
law and accessibility law.
First from the copyright point of view, downloading a video from YouTube without the prior written consent of YouTube or
the respective licensors of the content is simply not allowed. YouTube makes it clear
on their Terms of Service page that content should be provided as is. They state that
“You shall not download any Content unless you see a “download” or similar link displayed
by YouTube on the Service for that Content. You shall not copy, reproduce, distribute,
transmit, broadcast, display, sell, license, or otherwise exploit any Content for
any other purposes without the prior written consent of YouTube or the respective
licensors of the Content (See #5. Your Use of Content). Both Google (who owns YouTube)
and the developer make profit from the adverts displayed on their clips, and they
wouldn’t want any attempt to steer their potential viewers away.
From the accessibility perspective however, while there is some conflict between copyright law and accessibility law for online
video, the general consensus is that accessibility trumps copyright infringement.
That is because the temporary use of a video file for the purposes of transcription
and captioning for students is generally considered fair use in copyright law.
If the situation is viewed from a risk management standpoint, there is a much greater risk of a lawsuit from a deaf student who is denied access
to course content than there is to a lawsuit from the video’s original copyright holder
over their video being captioned without permission (many accessibility experts suggested
that the latter has never happened).
Considering these aspects, we recommend:
- Avoid copying the original video and redistributing it on YouTube. Keep the video private and just sharing the URL with your class. Otherwise it could be perceived as theft, and if challenged you would at least have
some explaining to do.
- In any case, reach out to the original copyright holder. Send them the caption file
along with an explanation of why they captioned the video, plus specific steps to
help the person upload the caption file. Ultimately this is the best option as it results in captions on the original video, which benefits everyone who views the video, not just the faculty member’s students.
- If reaching out to the original copyright holder fails, then our fallback recommendation
is to make the original YouTube video available in an alternative player. YouTube allows this, and encourages it via their API. With an alternative player
like the one at http://amara.org, you can add captions to the video then distribute the video to the class using the
Amara URL (or embedded Amara player) rather than the YouTube URL or player. Interactive
Transcripts applications, such as SpeakerText and 3PlayMedia fall into this same category
– they’re supplementing the YouTube video with complementary functionality, but ultimately
they’re still playing the original video on YouTube.
The fact that #3 is playing the original video on YouTube is fundamentally different
than downloading and redistributing the video in a separate account on YouTube. In
the second scenario, the original owner is no longer the owner. Even if they’re acknowledged
as the original source, they don’t get the benefit of being credited with the extra
traffic, which is important for social credibility and SEO.
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