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Legal Ins and Outs of Live Streaming in Public

Legal livestreaming

Live streaming has been around for a number of years. But until Meerkat and Periscope we didn’t have a very portable way to live stream video. There was Google Hangouts, which is a live streaming service, but the mobile app didn’t really make it easy for mobile and active use. You could record short video and share them, a la Vine and Instagram Video. But there wasn’t a viable option for being out in public, your office, at home, or pretty much anywhere you wanted, and share audio and video of what was going on around you.

For those who aren’t exactly sure what live streaming is, it’s basically the ability to broadcast audio and video as it happens. It’s like having your own channel. Any time you want to “go live” you can.

As with any new technology or platform, there are bound to be legal concerns. That’s no different when it comes to live streaming. When it wasn’t portable, it wasn’t as prolific. Still there were legal issues with regard to trademark and copyright, but the learning curve for the legal issues wasn’t as steep since those using the live stream service were often business people who had a basic understanding of these legal issues.

Now that live streaming is available to anyone in the world with a smartphone, the legal concerns are much more relevant to the average person. There are so many great uses for live streaming. The key, though, is that for commercial use there are significant legal concerns. And even for personal use, the legal concerns should be taken into consideration. While the somewhat fleeting nature of live streaming may make you think copyright isn’t much of a concern, there is nothing in the law that say how long a copyrighted work must be used without permission or exception to qualify for infringement. Add to that the ability to rebroadcast, or upload to a more static video service such as YouTube, and the temporary aspect of live streaming goes away.

Key Legal Concerns With Live streaming

Copyrighted Content – Meerkat and Periscope, as well as Google Hangouts, have Terms of Service that prohibit users from violating the copyright of others. This is part of the Safe Haven provisions of the DMCA and is more for their protection than yours. If you, as a user, violate the copyright of someone then it’s on you, not them. This means, of course, that using copyrighted music in the background would be a violation of the TOS, in addition to any copyright.But there are other copyright issues that many don’t think about, such as the copyright of artwork, performances, written materials, and architectural works. Incorporating a copyright work into your live stream exposes you to liability you may not have intended. Ever wonder why on some TV shows the artwork on the walls is pixellated? It’s because it’s a copyrighted work and they didn’t get permission. That’s easy to do when you have the ability to edit. However, with live streaming there is no ability to edit and if you infringe someone’s copyright there can be consequences you didn’t anticipate.

Commercial or Private Use – if your live streaming project is for commercial use there are a host of legal concerns. Not only are there copyright, trademark, and trade secret issues to be aware of, but you’ll need to know about privacy laws, publicity rights, loitering or trespassing, and location releases.If you’ve ever been out and have seen a movie, video, or ad being filmed or shot you likely recall there being an area that was cordoned off. They do that for a number of reasons, one of which is to make sure there are no random people in the background. It’s why when extras are needed for crowd scenes or background they hire people. Because when you hire people you can get them to sign away their rights to sue you.When it comes to trademarks and live streaming for commercial use, you really do need to learn how to stay on the right side of the law. The basic rule is that unless you own the trademark, it should not be visible in your live stream. Of course, there are exceptions, but for the most part if you’re live streaming for commercial use avoid any third-party trademarks.

Location Concerns – regardless of whether you’re live streaming for personal or commercial use, you have to make sure you have the right to be where you’re filming. If you’re on your own property, that makes it simple.However, if you’re in public or on private property there are legal concerns to manage. On public property, you’re likely safe to use the property. That’s not to say you have an absolute right. For example, the street may be public property but you can’t obstruct traffic, the courthouse is public property but there are limitations on what you can do, and your child’s public school may be public but they also have the right to limit your actions for the safety and security of others.For commercial live streaming many cities require a permit, so think about your use. If you’re an influencer and your live streaming is sponsored you may have crossed into commercial use and could be subject to those additional requirements.Trespassing and loitering may seem like petty offenses. In today’s world, though, you’ll want to be aware of these things. If you need to get permission, it’s always best to get permission in writing. Keep in mind, though, that permission to physically be on the property is not the same a release of rights to use the property in your live stream.

Privacy and Right of Publicity – This ties in with Commercial vs. Private use as well as Location concerns. Privacy is the right to control information about you, regardless of how it’s shared. The Right of Publicity is the right to protect your name and likeness from being exploited for commercial gain. Sometimes these rights overlap, and other times one exists while the other does not. You may not have privacy rights when you shop at your favorite store, but they don’t have the right to use your name or likeness for commercial gain. Privacy and Rights of Publicity are state law matters, which adds to the confusion because some states are more lenient than others. If you are broadcasting your live stream from a public space, and are doing so for commercial purposes, you may find yourself in legal hot water if you do not obtain consent from people who are captured during your broadcast.This is a very broad definition of commercial, too. Don’t just think of big brands. Commercial purpose would include influencers who are being paid to live stream; social media professionals who are live streaming to sell their goods or services; musicians/artists/authors broadcasting in an effort to sell their goods or services;  and a host of other situations. If you’re live streaming solely for personal use, your main concern will be the privacy rights of others. Whether you’re in a public or private setting, there are a variety of privacy rights you need to be aware of. It makes sense not to live stream in the public bathroom, but given the number of people taking photos (which I’m going to assume are selfies, because otherwise I’ll freak out) in public bathrooms I’m not so sure everyone understands the privacy rights of a public bathroom. If you’re at a public event like a music festival, state fair, or marathon evaluate your surroundings so you’re not right in front of the port-a-potties. They may be in “the public” but there is an expectation of privacy. And that’s the magic phrase – “expectation of privacy”. If the average person would have an expectation of privacy, even if they are in public, then live streaming in that area should be off-limits.

Disclosure – For corporate brands on their own channel, it’s pretty obvious most of the time since the brand isn’t a person. It’s more like an infomercial. But just like an infomercial, there are FTC laws related to truth in advertising that need to be considered. If a celebrity, influencer, brand ambassador, or the like is “taking over” the brand’s live stream viewers needs to be aware that the person is a paid endorser. Same thing for influencers. If you’re doing a sponsored live stream, disclosure needs to be made. Exactly how is not explicitly known. Like much of social media, the logistics of FTC disclosure is a bit hit and miss. Ultimately, though, you’re responsible for making sure viewers know that what they’re watching is some type of paid content. Whether you call it sponsored, advertorial, native advertising, marketing, or plain ol’ advertising it should be very clear to the audience that the content is there because of a business relationship.

While live streaming is new, shooting video is not. Many of the same legal concerns related to making a commercial video relate to live streaming. In addition to the above, if your product or services is one that is regulated you’ll want to consider those as well. For example, the FDA has requirements and limitations regarding claims for food, drugs, and supplements. Various government agencies monitor claims related to the medical, legal, and financial professions. And finally, don’t forget safety. When live streaming in public you may be moving around so be careful. And, of course never live stream while driving.

I hope this shed light on some of the legal concerns you should consider when live streaming, especially for business. Live streaming can be a very engaging way to market and sell your products, services, or business. But just like other aspects of running a business, you need to consider the legal issue before starting your live stream.

By | 2018-09-01T13:15:56-07:00 October 5th, 2015|Business Law, Copyright, Social Media, Trademark|86 Comments


  1. Dwarak December 25, 2016 at 6:59 am - Reply

    We organise philosophical lectures of our teacher in various states. The main subject of the video is the teacher himself. We have permission from him to webcast the talk. If we do a live webcast on youtube of a lecture that is open to public, free of cost. No tickets sold. Would it be an issue to show audience shots every few minutes for a few seconds. The stream is not monitized in any way. It is available for free for a few weeks.

    • Sara Hawkins December 28, 2016 at 5:09 pm - Reply

      In the US, the general principal is that there is no expectation of privacy when one is out in public. Additional issues arise due to publicity rights when an individual’s image is used for commercial gain. Though public, often event-holders will obtain a release from attendants because they do not know specifically how any footage will be used. Live streaming is relatively new and the laws regarding this new form of sharing must be woven with laws that likely did not contemplate this technology. Out of an abundance of caution it’s often best to obtain permission, if that is possible.

  2. Elaine Anderson January 10, 2017 at 5:12 am - Reply

    I work in a small college’s music department. We would like to live stream student and faculty concerts. I am not sure how to get the proper copyright permission to do this.

    • Sara Hawkins January 10, 2017 at 3:43 pm - Reply

      Hi Elaine, usually music departments have reproduction or mechanical licenses with the music licensing agencies (i.e., ASCAP, BMI) because the school handles a lot of music. Some also have public performance licenses. You’ll definitely want to research what, if any, licenses your department or college already has. If you’re not sure, you can try contacting BMI or ASCAP directly and have them check if your school is a licensee.

      The website for BMI is –
      The website for ASCAP is –

      There are over 50 music licensing companies, but these are the two largest. Hope this helps.


      • Justin February 15, 2017 at 12:56 pm - Reply

        so if the school has performance rights and licensing from BMI/ASCAP they are OK to live stream a performance of the musical performance?

        • Sara Hawkins February 15, 2017 at 1:31 pm - Reply

          Justin, you need to review your license to see if it permits live streaming. BMI/ASCAP licenses your school has purchased may or may not have included authorization for live streaming. It all depends on for what the school has paid to obtain rights.

  3. Phil February 8, 2017 at 2:07 pm - Reply

    Hi Sara,

    Thanks for the post! My question is for churches who live stream their services and are recorded for playback. Are there any legal concerns? Would any notice or sign need to be posted anywhere?


    • Sara Hawkins February 9, 2017 at 10:33 pm - Reply

      Phil, there are definitely legal concerns when livestreaming events. While the church may feel that it’s their facility and their event they can do as they wish, someone who enters the sanctuary may believe, right or wrong, there is a level of privacy. It would be pretty easy to provide a disclosure and give attendees the option to to enter if they didn’t wish to be filmed. There are some locations that I’m aware of the have areas where people would not be filmed. This has been beneficial for children with families. Lots of options to reduce and/or eliminate potential liability with regard to livestreaming.

  4. Gabi February 11, 2017 at 12:46 am - Reply

    Hi do you have to give out consent forms to people when live during live performance in small hospitality business
    Many thanks

    • Sara Hawkins February 11, 2017 at 4:59 pm - Reply

      There are various ways to obtain consent from an individual to use their image in a live performance. For example, when a comedian is taping before a live audience to use footage on a tv show the authorization may be on the ticket or there may be signs at all entrances. The comedian’s team likely would have consulted with their attorney to obtain the best way to gain the appropriate permission.

  5. Brennan April 11, 2017 at 8:51 am - Reply

    If I were to livestream while driving for a rideshare company would I need release forms signed or is agreement via camera enough to pass legality?

    • Sara Hawkins June 1, 2017 at 12:02 pm - Reply

      I’m not sure what legal limitations are in the rideshare agreement as a driver that could affect your liability under their agreement. While a passenger may not have an expectation of privacy in a hired vehicle, the rideshare user agreement may offer the rider some additional protections. Before doing something like this you should consult with a knowledgeable attorney to understand your rights and potential liability.

  6. David Galligan May 14, 2017 at 5:17 am - Reply

    First off…Wow, what a well knowledge and insight here. Much appreciated. I have a video production company and was aware of a lot of this but needed to know more about the mechanical licenses. I am registered with BMI and need to get more info on the streaming side of things because I’ve only submitted new works for custom productions for clients.

    Any advice on that? We get quite a few requests for people to integrate a favorite song into their stream and we do our best to direct them to our own produced songs/works.

    • Sara Hawkins June 1, 2017 at 11:42 am - Reply

      David, it would be best to contact the licensing agency for the song you want to incorporate to find out how they handle use in a commercial livestream program. The bigger agencies, like BMI, are developing protocols and working to establish industry-wide standards.

  7. Day May 14, 2017 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    My husband who is mentally ill will start issues with me and when I get upset he starts putting me on live Facebook live streaming or he’ll catch me when I’ve just woken up and I look horrible this is not as a joke it’s to be mean and vindictive is there anything that I can do as far as the law goes?

    • Sara Hawkins June 1, 2017 at 11:45 am - Reply

      State (and Federal) laws regarding privacy rights cover use of material gained from filming or photographing an individual in a place where that individual has an expectation of privacy. You may want to contact knowledgeable legal counsel in your area to determine your rights and what options may be available to you.

  8. Amanda May 14, 2017 at 4:21 pm - Reply

    Are there any laws concerning a spouse that is recording you and live streaming you on Facebook without your permission? I have a serious situation with a man who has treated me horrible for years that I’m trying to divorce and he’s mentally ill to top it off so he can be very nasty he waits until I can’t take it anymore and I lose my cool and then that’s when he starts to video me he also will pick times like when I wake up in the morning and I don’t look my best and put me on video live stream on an account that we share just to embarrass me. He’s not doing this to be funny he’s doing this to be mean. As of now I have him out of my home but I need to find out if there’s anything that I can do as far as the law goes for him doing this to me?

    • Sara Hawkins June 3, 2017 at 10:38 am - Reply

      It sounds like you may need to seek legal counsel or speak with someone who can provide guidance with regard to your domestic situation. Generally, filming or photographing someone in an area where there is an expectation of privacy (i.e., a bathroom, a locker room, a bedroom) is a violation of privacy laws. Further distributing those images or video may create other legal concerns.

  9. Sher May 17, 2017 at 10:37 am - Reply

    Hello, so I’m going to be doing some 360 degree videos for a restraunt for their events. Is clarifying on the ticket and posters around the restaurant enough legally for live streaming and getting footage for ads?

    • Sara Hawkins June 1, 2017 at 11:19 am - Reply

      Often larger events will include what is known in the industry as a crowd model release to give people in attendance notice that by being present they’re giving up specified rights. Even if there is no expectation of privacy because of the nature of the public event, when it’s impractical to obtain signed waivers from every person these crowd model releases posted on entry tickets, at the entrance of the venue in a very conspicuous location, throughout the venue, etc. can be sufficient notice that by being in attendance they are waiving certain rights. These types of releases do not apply to third-parties, so it’s important to understand who can do what with the photos/video.

  10. Anonymous June 17, 2017 at 7:34 am - Reply

    Is it okay for someone to live stream images of my child @ her kindergarten graduation, without my consent?

    • Sara Hawkins July 3, 2017 at 10:35 am - Reply

      This is an excellent question. Many school districts have not really addressed the use of live streaming on campus. Most don’t have issues with taking photos or videos at school events and rarely even make mention of being careful not to post photos of other children. Broadcasting of school events, especially those that are not open to the public, may present safety risks for some kids if the location is made public and schools that are aware of these risks should establish rules to protect the safety of all kids. To date, most of the discussions have focused on what the schools need to do and very little on educating parents or visitors of the rights of others. Photographing and filming people in public or where there is no expectation of privacy is generally OK. However, at schools there is a great deal of protection of student privacy so it’s likely just a matter of time before we start hearing and seeing more discussions around what schools are doing with regard to live streaming at on-campus events.

  11. Matthew June 21, 2017 at 2:44 pm - Reply

    Liberty bells breaks (they have u pay them to pick teams for sports cards via paypal then if a nice card comes up that’s on ur team, they safely protect and mail the card(s) sorta like gambling…..this one FB live user that afterwards posts his company’s videos on YouTube, seemingly doesn’t like me, I hit a big football card and he never shipped. Basically threw me a middle finger and ripped me off… what laws is he breaking. LIBERTYBELLBREAKS.COM

    • Sara Hawkins July 3, 2017 at 11:20 am - Reply

      Marketing and promotions are covered by both state and federal laws regarding truth in advertising. If you feel that your rights were violated or that the company is violating state or federal laws there’s nothing stopping you from reporting the violation.

      State violations – state attorney where you live, where the company is incorporated, and where the company has an office
      Federal violations – FTC consumer complaint form

  12. Victor Inyang Okpo June 30, 2017 at 9:18 am - Reply

    Hello Sara what i just went through is inspiring, well i want to own a public streaming service in my region,to stream big event,government programs,entertainment and advertisement accross my country but how can i go around that?

    • Sara Hawkins July 3, 2017 at 12:02 pm - Reply

      Public live stream services are relatively new and many countries do not have laws with regard to how a public platform handles live streaming. While the platform may be protected by safe harbor-type laws, often that requires litigation to settle. For example, Facebook has come under fire for not immediately removing live streams of people dying by suicide or engaging in criminal acts. So far FB has not been held liable. However, its had to expend significant resources defending itself.

  13. Tim Fields July 1, 2017 at 7:11 am - Reply

    Amazing piece, very insightful.. thank you.
    One quick question if I may..
    If a band decides to Live Stream to Facebook Live or YouTube Live (or both)
    and they play music that they wrote, plus a couple songs they didn’t write (cover versions).. is there an obligation or any known issue regarding the broadcast of commercially available music? Meaning that I know YouTube scans for music that may be copyrighted and will remove from their site with a notice of potential copyright breech. I have heard of DJ sets that were being broadcast live to Facebook Live being shut down due to copyright breech. To your knowledge, has there been any formal discussion regarding this subject?
    Thanks for your time.

    • Sara Hawkins July 3, 2017 at 12:08 pm - Reply

      Excellent question, Tim. Music rights are very complex and the three main licensing companies are very vigilant in protecting the rights of their owners. Any music that is covered by copyright that is performed for the public without the proper license could open up the performer to liability. The social media platforms likely would be able to avoid liability under Safe Harbor provisions. The individual or business account holder would not be covered by safe harbor provisions and could be held liable for copyright violation. Bands and DJs are often covered by the license the venue holds, but the further live stream would not be covered by that license unless it is the venue that is live streaming and their license covers that type of public performance. There is a lot more to this, but this should get you started on further research.

  14. Lima July 19, 2017 at 2:48 am - Reply

    Hi, Sara

    What if I am live streaming from my church office, with all my purchased library books in the background? Would that be problem? I am also intending to use Facebook live to record my sermons and post them on youtube. If I do use Facebook live to record the entire service while recording only those who are leading the service on stage (who consented to be recorded), do I need to let visitors and those in the audience (though not on camera, but only on audio through singing or reading scriptures) know that we are recording live? And do I need permission from them (though they are not in the video) to broadcast?

    This web page has helped me much, thank you for this service.

    • Sara Hawkins July 23, 2017 at 8:02 pm - Reply

      Hi Lima,

      Glad to hear may articles are helpful. Showing a library full of books would not raise a copyright issue. The books may be covered by copyright individually, but showing the spine of the book does not violate the exclusive rights under US copyright law. Whenever an event is recorded live, it’s always good to let the audience know so if they don’t want to be recorded they can choose not to attend. There are releases that can be created and put by the entrance letting people know that if they enter they are giving permission. If children will be photographed, videotaped, or on the livestream the parent/guardian should be aware and provide a written release. You may wish to search within your church community or speak with other clergy within your religious sect and see if there are best practices.

      All the best!

  15. Shaunna August 3, 2017 at 10:32 am - Reply

    What if you’re streaming a music concert on social media? Consumers do this all the time. Are there concerns with this?

    • Sara Hawkins August 19, 2017 at 1:21 pm - Reply

      Often it is a violation of the terms listed on the ticket to live stream a concert and that can result from being requested to leave the venue. Live streams from people in attendance are often poor quality and so many are doing it that venue management and promoters often don’t do anything. But there are definitely legal concerns, especially if the live stream is behind a paywall.

  16. Anti-bully August 8, 2017 at 1:18 pm - Reply

    If someone broadcasted live. Is it illegal to repost the broadcast somewhere else?

    • Sara Hawkins August 19, 2017 at 1:15 pm - Reply

      This raises a number of questions, the first of which would be determining what platform the live broadcast is on and where would the repost be place and what format would that take. Sharing a link on Twitter to a FB live has one set of concerns, which are clearly different from a live television or television-equivalent broadcast which has the replay in its entirety posted on a different platform. There are too many questions that need answers before knowing if a repost is or is not legal.

  17. Rafael August 8, 2017 at 2:00 pm - Reply

    Hello Sara, this is an amazing piece of knowledge. Thanks for sharing.

    I might be facing a private-commercial situation where I would like to have your opinion.

    My company sells “sales training”, on video (online). We sell this to individuals (typically sales professionals that want to improve their abilities to sell) and to companies too (companies that hire our training services, so we develop ad-hoc videos for them). But … sales training can be maximized if sales coaching is added to the video lessons. Basically, sales coaching is the process of observing the sales professional while he/she interacts with a customer…and then, privately having a conversation and giving feedback to him/her.

    When you are, let´s say, in the same city, sales coaching is easy: you meet the sales professional and you both go visit (or receive) the customer. By doing that you can observe the professional and then have the coaching …

    But …we want to do this by distance with sales professionals in other cities (across the country). We are thinking about having the sales professional record his conversation with the customer, just for the purposes of later sharing it with us and allowing us to coach and feedback him/her. There will be no public disclosure of the recording of the conversation between the customer and the sales professional. Only the coach could access the recording as it is a key piece of the coaching process.

    What do you think about this practice? Do we need to let the customer know he is being recorded even though his conversation -between the sales professional and him/her- will never go public?

    • Sara Hawkins August 19, 2017 at 1:11 pm - Reply

      In the US, there are laws related to hidden camera recording of individuals in their workplace. In addition, many businesses have rules in place about recording on their property. You should contact legal counsel knowledgeable in this area to determine your legal risks.

  18. Frank September 7, 2017 at 4:12 pm - Reply

    Hi Sara,
    The local bar down the street streams “live” NCAA football on ESPN3 without paying any establishment fees etc. Is this legal? The bar’s owner has a laptop in the center of the establishment and cable wires plugged into each television (about six tv’s). Streaming the football games on his personal account (not the bars) plus profiting from liquor and food sales with paying a dime to ESPN, this seems to me to be illegal, is it?

    • Frank September 7, 2017 at 4:15 pm - Reply

      If this is illegal, how can the FCC or whomever shut this streaming down? It is not fair for other establishments to pay for this type of service when this bar does not!

    • Frank September 7, 2017 at 4:20 pm - Reply

      Sorry, meant to say “without paying a dime”

    • Sara Hawkins September 7, 2017 at 4:47 pm - Reply

      This isn’t so much an FCC issue as it is a broadcast services issue. Cable and satellite providers have commercial accounts for business establishments and using a personal account in a commercial establishment is a violation of the account terms. There are also copyright infringement issues but that would be with the copyright holder (in your scenario, the NCAA team). However, the channel operator may have individual rights they can pursue but the various broadcast agreements can complicate it with regard to this conversation. Many cable and satellite companies have information on their website to report theft of cable/satellite service.

  19. Travis S September 9, 2017 at 6:42 pm - Reply

    If your at a free public festival and they are playing music, can you live broadcast it or no cause of all the people that might walk past as your broadcasting?

    • Sara Hawkins September 10, 2017 at 5:06 pm - Reply

      Taking photos or videos of individuals in public is usually protected and not deemed a violation of a person’s privacy rights. Legal issues related to livestreaming a public performance tend to focus on the copyright right and less on privacy rights of others in attendance. Barring unique circumstances, people attending a public performance would likely not have a strong case for privacy.

  20. Aly September 17, 2017 at 1:43 am - Reply

    Hello ^_^
    Could you please help me with finding out the right answers to several questions I have with regards to live streaming on Facebook please?! 🙂
    I would like to stream on facebook episodes of some Korean series and movies which are public on Youtube.
    As far as I have heard, it is allowed to stream publicly a content which is also available on Youtube, but I am not sure how true this is actually.
    So, if, for instance, is it okay if I stream live an episode of series which is available on Youtube by mentioning that I do not own any rights on the streamed content, do not intend to make any money by streaming (free streaming) and also insert a link on the Youtube where people can watch the series` episodes?
    Can I stream Korean movies within the same terms (by mentioning all the information specified above)?
    Would it be legal if I stream Korean movies which are not available on Youtube by asigning all the copyrights to the Film Production Company with no intention to make money. My objective is to popularize the korean language, culture and films in order to make people where I am from (Romania) be more interested in Korean movies, etc.
    Thank you very much and hope to hear from you soon.

    • Sara Hawkins September 23, 2017 at 3:02 pm - Reply

      Content posted to YouTube may be protected by copyright so streaming it may be a violation of that copyright. I’m not familiar with the laws of Korea or Romania so I can’t speak to what would be covered by their copyright laws. You don’t own the copyright so you can’t assign the copyright to anything. You can provide attribution to any third-party content you stream but attribution does not relieve copyright infringement.

  21. Daphne October 4, 2017 at 2:29 am - Reply

    Hi Sara,

    What if someone screen records my live stream (any generic event), and others who share it online. Is it illegal?

    • Sara Hawkins October 4, 2017 at 1:54 pm - Reply

      If the underlying work (i.e., the livestream) is copyrightable, the unauthorized recording and use could likely be deemed a copyright infringement. There may be exceptions, but, generally, the copying, recording, or rebroadcasting of a copyrighted event is a violation of US copyright laws. This is why there are warnings on sports and live music broadcasts.

  22. Dan October 12, 2017 at 2:35 am - Reply

    So i have a small youtube channel and had an idea to go into streams to ask the streamer a pretty particular question are there laws against me using the footage i get from them reaction?

    • Sara Hawkins October 30, 2017 at 6:55 pm - Reply

      Privacy laws and Personality Rights laws should be examined. Even if it’s not a privacy issue, state laws related to personality rights – the right to control one’s name/likeness – is a patchwork and may vary not only from state to state in the US but also vary from country to country.

  23. Anthony B October 19, 2017 at 7:46 am - Reply

    Hi Sara,

    We live in Florida and have a 12 yr old daughter that plays fastpitch softball. We also have a FB page dedicated to the team. It has been my wifes custom for many seasons now to film my daughter and her teamates in action and post to our team page after tournaments.
    Recently an opposing team members parent flipped out about us possibly capturing her daughter in our videos and has threatened legal action.
    Bear in mind the focus of these pictures and clips is both to highlights our kids tournaments to family and friends who reside afar and also to allow some of our team sponsors to see the team they sponsor in action.
    My question is are we violating any privacy laws by posting game video on our FB page ?

    • Sara Hawkins October 30, 2017 at 6:41 pm - Reply

      The general rule is that photos and videos taken in public do not violate an individual’s right to privacy. Of course, there are exceptions and the specific circumstances of a situation may give rise to privacy rights. But, as a general rule anyone can photograph or video other people in a public setting. Often it’s what is done with those photos/video where the questions arise. Using the photo/video legally obtained in public may have use prohibitions if they are sold or if the individual has the right to control how their name/likeness is used. Many people threaten legal action but don’t follow through. If it is not a violation of Facebook terms a false takedown request could pose problems for the person filing the removal request.

  24. Steven Parker October 26, 2017 at 12:12 pm - Reply


    We are a live streaming company that streams Conferences and Events mostly for Associations. We are hired by the Association to provide such service. If the organization is playing music at their physical event, that we subsequently stream through our platform to a virtual audience, who is responsible to have the music license, the organization, us or both? Would we be liable in any way?

    • Sara Hawkins October 30, 2017 at 7:15 pm - Reply

      The organization presenting the event is responsible for all music used within the scope of the event. As the provider of streaming services reading the contract would be very important to ensure no responsibility has been pushed off to vendors. Livestreaming rights do not necessarily come with the license for the event. All major music licensing companies have separate license fees for live streaming because it’s treated differently than a live performance at an event.

  25. Ryan Smith November 5, 2017 at 10:20 am - Reply

    I’m planning on streaming a high school music festival that will have a number of different schools all performing non-original music. Will I need to find out if each visiting school has the proper performance rights, or just the school at which the performance is taking place?
    Also, if a concert is broadcast but not recorded and made available at a later date, why can’t the broadcast be considered an extension of the performance?

    Thank you!

    • Sara Hawkins November 8, 2017 at 3:05 pm - Reply

      Ryan, interesting question:

      Live streaming high school music festival: Unless the school or venue has the appropriate license to broadcast the performance over the internet, live streaming without such a license could likely be copyright infringement. High school performances, while they may be public, don’t often have the license to stream or permit recording of the performance. Those type of licenses can be costly and rather than purchase them the school will prohibit that type of transmission to avoid the risk of being hit with either a copyright infringement suit or a huge bill for not having obtained the license prior to such transmission.

      If there are multiple schools performing (like a marching band or choir competition) the school or venue where the live performances are taking place holds the primary responsibility for having the appropriate license.

      Broadcast rights have long been held to be separate from live public performance rights. The internet has changed how information is obtained, but that doesn’t mean the laws have changed along with it. The reason the live stream broadcast can’t be considered an extension of the public performance is because the laws related to copyright say so. There really is no other reason and arguing that it shouldn’t be this way and having excellent arguments to support that position are irrelevant as long as the current law says that broadcast over audio, television, or the internet requires a license then a license is required.

      There are certain exceptions and one that may apply but rarely does is if there is no commercial advantage to anyone. This rarely applies, especially with high school programs, because someone is always selling something. Whether it’s a program that was printed by a third party, concessions where the money goes to anyone other than the school, shirts, recordings, paid adjudicators, awards that were purchased, etc. it is the very rare situation that there is no commercial advantage to anyone.

  26. Al Paisan November 8, 2017 at 11:06 am - Reply

    Hi Sara,
    I have just discovered that someone maliciously recorded my live stream on a dating app and then uploaded that recording on YouTube without my consent, with harassing captions and misleading title. I have contacted YouTube to remove that video but they said the user does not violate any of their guidelines, but a quick check on their policy revealed that the user not just violated one but at least four of what they describe as harassment.

    What can I do?

    • Al Paisan November 8, 2017 at 11:10 am - Reply

      Please help. I’m in a lot of distress right now 🙁

    • Sara Hawkins November 8, 2017 at 3:52 pm - Reply

      The recording and uploading without permission of a copyrighted work raises copyright infringement concerns. In addition, in most states individuals have the right to control how their likeness is used under right of publicity laws. I’m not in a position to help you with regard to your dispute. You may with to continue to reach out to YouTube to state your case.

  27. Craig November 10, 2017 at 7:52 pm - Reply

    Sara you have a great webpage, my question is I was watching a ufc fight the other nite on facebooklive , it was a ppv but some guys in ND were showing it on their i-phone and some people commented in for them to turn the sound on but others commented in and said that with the sound off it was legal to show it, with the sound on it would make it illegal . Can you clear this up for me,thanks.

    • Sara Hawkins November 16, 2017 at 8:05 pm - Reply

      From the perspective of the UFC’s attorney’s I’m sure they take the position that their copyright to the broadcast extends to both the video and audio portions. While copyright law may require certain types of licenses for only video or only audio, when it comes to streaming it’s highly unlikely there are any protections under copyright law that would support the argument that it’s only video and not the synchronized audio that is being streamed. The US Copyright Act is very pro-copyright holder when that copyright holder is broadcasting or providing transmission over cable.

  28. David R. November 13, 2017 at 10:33 pm - Reply

    Hi there! Thanks for this post. I have a question regarding personal privacy and live streaming. If someone is recorded (Periscope), in their own home, without their knowledge and without their consent, can the video be used against them as evidence in a criminal case? There was no crime committed on the live stream, it’s trying to be used more as a judgement/evidence of character of the person.

    • Sara Hawkins November 16, 2017 at 8:24 pm - Reply

      While there may be an expectation of privacy in the home, if a video is created in violation of such a right, it may be admissible as evidence in a criminal case. The rules for admissibility of evidence take into account a number of different legal aspects and are often very fact specific. It would be impossible to say absolutely yes or no with regard to the admissibility of evidence, especially in a criminal case.

  29. richard November 16, 2017 at 1:03 pm - Reply

    Hello, I am hoping to setup a website with streaming a location. What kind of lawyer should I get in contact with to help me with all the legal stuff

    • Sara Hawkins November 16, 2017 at 8:38 pm - Reply

      You would want to engage an attorney knowledgeable in copyright law related to streaming content.

  30. Sarah November 22, 2017 at 7:52 pm - Reply

    I work in the sports industry and the club has recently put up security cameras that send I live feed to the owner, it is a privately owned organization. This camera is filming children between the ages of 2 and 16 and as far as I’m aware the parents do not know this has been brought in and staff members do not know the reasoning for cameras. Is this legal?

    • Sara Hawkins November 25, 2017 at 9:54 am - Reply

      Video surveillance laws vary from state to state. Video and audio surveillance legal questions often focus on who is the subject of such surveillance, what is the purpose, is there disclosure, what is the location of such surveillance, as well as other more nuanced questions.

  31. Thomas Alger November 25, 2017 at 10:26 am - Reply

    Hi Sara,
    Wonderful article! A group of us were recently at a public bar, and a man there was liverstreaming, and our group appeared in the background of the livestream. We asked him to stop and he wouldn’t. He was also recording audio. Was what this man was doing illegal? Thank you.

    • Sara Hawkins December 21, 2017 at 2:46 pm - Reply

      Livestreaming, in general, in public is not illegal. However, if the bar had a policy perhaps it was in violation of that policy. Recording audio may be illegal, depending on what type of audio is being recorded. Unfortunately, there are so many ‘it depends’ when it comes to the legalities of livestreaming that a very close examination of all the specific facts must be undertaken before there is a determination of whether there were any laws violated.

      I can imagine it’s quite frustrating to be part of someone’s livestream when you don’t want to be. If they won’t stop recording in a private establishment it would be best to speak with management to get them to intervene on behalf of other patrons.

  32. Jay St John December 1, 2017 at 4:07 pm - Reply

    Simple question, and hard to find the answer. If you have an ASCAP streaming, broadcast license, can you stream to FB live?

    • Sara Hawkins December 21, 2017 at 3:17 pm - Reply

      According the the New Media License from ASCAP: Public performances of ASCAP music via most third-party players are licensed through arrangements between the third parties and ASCAP and, therefore, sites or services utilizing such players do not require additional licensing by ASCAP. If you are unsure whether the player you use is already licensed by ASCAP and/or if your site or service is performing ASCAP music through other means, you should contact ASCAP. Facebook does have licenses with many of the music license companies, but those licenses don’t usually extend to users streaming content. Definitely something you’d want to verify specifically so you don’t lose your license and/or FB Page.

  33. Jay St John December 1, 2017 at 4:22 pm - Reply

    Further to my previous comment just posted concerning streaming copy protected music to Facebook Live and having a broadcast, digital streaming license from ASCAP:

    My Source: Facebook help page. Notice in paragraph two, the sentence that states “if you’ve gotten permission (for example, a license)

    Copyright and Posting Content on Facebook
    How can I make sure the content I post to Facebook doesn’t violate copyright law?
    Under Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and Community Standards, you can only post content to Facebook if it doesn’t violate the intellectual property rights of another party. The best way to help make sure that the content you post to Facebook doesn’t violate copyright law is to only post content that you’ve created yourself.

    You might also be able to use someone else’s content on Facebook if you’ve gotten permission (for example, a license), or if your use is covered by fair use or some other exception to copyright. It’s generally a good idea to get permission before posting content, and to get that permission in writing. Please note that Facebook can’t help you obtain permission to use copyrighted content.

    Sara, does that explanation in the second paragraph pretty much cover me streaming copy-write music that falls under my ASCAP streaming license?

  34. Anonymous January 24, 2018 at 10:38 am - Reply

    Hi Sara,

    This is very helpful! I think I know the answer already, but could I read a book that has been copyrighted aloud? It seems like that would be like a live reading at a library since it’s not saved, but I can’t imagine that it’s legal…

    • Sara Hawkins March 27, 2018 at 7:43 pm - Reply

      If a book is still covered by copyright, public display and performances are illegal without the copyright holder’s permission. Libraries often have live readings of short children’s books, not large works, and those are likely covered by fair use for a number of reasons.

  35. Rachel January 24, 2018 at 10:39 am - Reply

    Hi Sara,

    This is very helpful! I think I know the answer already, but could I read a book that has been copyrighted aloud, one chapter at a time? It seems like that would be like a live reading at a library since it’s not saved anywhere, but I can’t imagine that it’s legal…

    • Sara Hawkins March 27, 2018 at 7:46 pm - Reply

      The short answer is ‘no’. If a book is still covered by copyright, public display and performances are illegal without the copyright holder’s permission. The long answer would be, it depends. There are a number of factors that could come in to play that would have such a live reading fall under an exception to copyright infringement, but a discussion of that nature is beyond the scope of this forum.

  36. Paula Scott April 17, 2018 at 12:28 am - Reply

    Can a news station use a clip of your live stream video to broadcast without your permission of use?

    • Sara Hawkins April 25, 2018 at 10:31 am - Reply

      Great question, Paula. Unfortunately, the answer is ‘it depends’. News stations are often covered by Fair Use in using third-party unlicensed copyrighted works. However, the copyrighted work that is used must meet all the criteria to qualify for the Fair Use exception or the copyright holder could prevail in an infringement claim.

  37. Blake June 1, 2018 at 11:38 am - Reply

    Hi Sara,

    I am currently working on a business idea where people would pay my company to rent my emplyee who would livestreamlive whatever city they are in for the customer. What are the potential legal ramifications of this and what would my way be around them if there were any?

    • sara August 12, 2018 at 1:49 pm - Reply

      Your question is beyond the scope of these comments. You should speak with an attorney knowledgeable in this subject to get the advice and assistance you need.

  38. rhiannon September 24, 2018 at 2:17 am - Reply

    HI Sara thank you for such an informative piece on a tricky subject. I am host of a professional conference event where we obtain written permission in advance from our speakers to audiorecord (or not) and we respectfully adhere to their wishes. We also have clear verbal and visual notification (on the conference screen several times per day) to all delegates attending the event to not film or audiorecord any of the conference sessions. However we have discovered that some individuals have filmed several conference sessions in their totality and live-streamed these recording via social media. Two of these livestreams included lectures from speakers who had declined to be recorded, even by ourselves. Could you advise?

    • sara November 14, 2018 at 9:08 am - Reply

      While I can’t offer legal advice, what I can provide is information. When there is clear language at a venue or in the registration materials that recording of any kind is not allowed, the recording is a breach of that contract and the person recording can face consequences if they breach that contract. While many believe that there is an unrestricted right to film in “public”, that is not true since there are many legal reasons supporting restricting the recording in what might otherwise be considered a public space. For example, when a posted notice that recording is prohibited or when an notice is posted on an admission ticket, when an announcement is made, when one is told personally, or when a person might have an expectation that recording would not be permitted.

      Depending on what a notice says, there may or may not be a copyright claim.

  39. Lori Broughton November 9, 2018 at 12:24 pm - Reply

    Just saw this post on Facebook. This is the UIL in Texas and this post was on Mason TX ISD Facebook page. Is this legal?

    UIL has released information that is against all UIL rules for any event or contest, athletic or academic to be live streamed. This rule prohibits any parent, student, community member, faculty, staff or sponsor to broadcast live from any entity of social media or internet streaming including, but not limited to Facebook Live, Instagram Live, YouTube, Twitter. Live streaming is in direct violation of the UIL Rules and their agreement with their broadcast partners. Mason ISD requests all spectators of events adhere to these rules.

    Thank you for your answer in advance.

    • sara November 14, 2018 at 10:51 am - Reply

      UIL, though a public school governing body, can place limitations that protect the interests of their broadcast partners. UIL has, for many years, restricted the filming and broadcast rights of spectators. With the advent of these new mobile technologies, UIL, and the governing bodies of many high school programs, are now faced with having to enforce restrictions that were once not seen as a major issue because the barriers in place (expensive equipment, lack of technology) did the work for them. Now, though, broadcast partners want to have the exclusivity they were promised and with big-dollar contracts at stake, organizations like UIL now face the difficult task of enforcing what seem like very restrictive rules.

  40. MeKayla White February 20, 2019 at 7:30 am - Reply

    what are some rules for live streaming and how does a social media site monitors live streaming? What are the benefits and is it worth the danger of live streaming?

    • sara March 6, 2019 at 11:18 am - Reply

      Your question is very broad, because live streaming presents new circumstances for the application of laws as well as social media monitoring. There are lots of benefits of live streaming – people get to experience something they couldn’t be at personally, entertainment value, informative, and so forth. The dangers, well, there are both legal and non-legal ones. Copyright issues with live streaming are a concern depending on what’s going on actively as well as what may be passive in the background. Of course there are other legal concerns such as defamation, breach of contract, invasion of privacy, and possibly criminal issues. Really, with live streaming the legal issues are as broad as with other types of performances or content sharing. How does a social media site monitor live streaming? Most have algorithms and bots, but they also rely on public reporting. Hope this helps!

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