PowerPoint Tip: You need permission to use YouTube videos

One of the most frequent topics on the PowerPoint newsgroups and forums is how to include YouTube videos in a presentation. People find a cool video on YouTube and think it would be great in their presentation. In this article I’m not going to show you how to include a YouTube video in your PowerPoint presentation. I want to discuss the right way to get permission to do so.

Permission, you ask? Why do I need permission? I thought anything on the Internet, especially YouTube, is free for the taking. Actually, this is one of the most common misconceptions around. Just because it is on the Internet does not make it free. Just like every other broadcast medium, like television or a movie theatre, videos are copyrighted by the creator, and you need permission to use the video in your work.

So how do you get permission? You must ask for it. The challenge is how do you know who to ask? Here’s the best route I’ve found. Whenever you are watching a video on YouTube, you’ll see under the video frame a line that says “Uploaded by” followed by a username that is a clickable link. If you click on the username link, you will go to the person’s YouTube channel. In the person’s profile, you will find more information about them. They may include a terms of use for their videos in the profile, but not many people do this.

If there is no terms of use statement, then you will need to contact them. If their e-mail address is listed, you can send them an e-mail. If there is no e-mail address listed, you can still use the Send Message link at the top of the profile section to send a message from your YouTube account to their account (if you have a Google account, then you automatically have a YouTube account, you just may need to activate it). If they have a website listed, you may visit the site to see if there are instructions for use of the videos on their site.

When you are sending a request, here are some pieces of information that will make it easier for the video’s creator to decide if they want to grant permission and what the terms will be:

  • Whether you plan to use the entire video or just a piece; if it is just a piece, what specific clip do you want to use (ie. from second 23 to second 42)
  • What setting will you be using it in; usually you will let them know that it will be a presentation on a certain date to a certain audience
  • Whether you will be using the video as a “good” or “bad” example; if you are showing their work as an example of what not to do, permission may be harder to get
  • Whether you will be charging for the presentation and will copies of the presentation be sold; any time you are making money from their work, expect them to ask for some compensation, which is only fair
  • What permission text they would like on the slide showing that the use is permitted and who owns the copyright; you can put this text in small font in a muted color so it does not attract undue attention
  • Can you get a high-resolution copy for the presentation since running the video directly from YouTube is a risky adventure and capturing the low-res version on YouTube will not look good in your presentation

If the creator gives you permission, you are all set. If you can’t get permission, consider a video from a different source or even a photograph to make your point. Using a YouTube video in your presentation can be a good idea, but you should think of these videos the same way you think of all videos. There needs to be a relevant point and you are not using it simply because it is “cool”. If you want to know more about incorporating videos in your PowerPoint presentation, check out the one-hour webinar I did earlier this year that shows you how to incorporate videos from many different sources into your PowerPoint slides; the details are all here.