Copyright Infringement in User Generated Contents: A Critical Analysis of Youtube’s Terms of Service and Policies Vis-À-Vis Ethiopian Copyright Standards

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Ordinary individuals have become active participants in the creation and dissemination of creative works on social media. User generated content (UGC) is a terminology that describes various works uploaded by users on platforms like YouTube and Facebook. This culture triggers the application of copyright law since some of the contents users engage with involve productions copyright protects. Social media websites also attempt to regulate user’s adherence to copyright while using their service by incorporating some legal conditions in their TOS. This thesis examined Ethiopia’s copyright standards and copyright related legal conditions in YouTube’s TOS and policies to investigate the convergence and divergence between these regulatory factors in regulating user's content-generative behaviors, UGC licenses, and online copyright enforcement. To some extent YouTube’s TOS are aligned with Ethiopia’s copyright law as they require users to respect copyright while using its service by informing them not to upload or use third-party copyrighted works in their contents and by making available an online take-down notification procedure copyright owners can use to enforce their rights on the website. However, YouTube’s UGC licenses which allow users to retain the copyright ownership of contents they upload by requiring them to license their rights for YouTube and its users, have several flows that make them at odds with Ethiopia’s copyright law. These include; formality related defects, their applicability on every content users upload including those that might not be copyrightable in Ethiopia, and they deny user’s legal right under Ethiopia’s copyright law since users license all of their exclusive economic rights freely for YouTube and other YouTube users with whom they have no contractual relationship. Vesting on user’s ownership of copyright on contents that are not copyrightable might lead users to have wrong understanding about copyright. Giving other YouTube users extensive rights to use UGC far beyond their rights under Ethiopia’s copyright law exceptions might encourage users to make various uses that are infringing under Ethiopia’s copyright law and compromise its effectiveness while regulating user’s behavior by elevating the probability of mass-scale infringement on the website.