We own a list channel on YouTube, we make videos such as “7 Biggest Houses in the World” everything is under fair use (we have a voiceover over the clips and we use minimal footage as possible) and sometimes there are watermarks on video clips, are we allowed to blur the watermarks on the clip? I know for a fact that cropping a watermark is a direct violation of copyright law, as stated on “Section 1202 of the U.S. Copyright Act” but what about blurring a watermark? One of my competitors that has 3 million subs on YouTube and he always blurs watermarks on video clips, really confused on if blurring a watermark is a direct violation of copyright law or if it’s ok to do and legal? If you search on YouTube "the finest 15 biggest trucks in the world" and if you go to 2:27 - 2:29 of the video, they’re blurring the watermark on the video clip and they do this for every video, so is this legal? Because news channels do that as well where they blur watermarks on video clips.

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    Do you have permission to use the clips in your videos? Did that permission come with a license allowing you to alter it? Are you obtaining video clips from a source that includes a license?
    – Ron Beyer
    Jan 17, 2021 at 20:13
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    Have you read the section you cite? It pretty consistently uses the phrase "remove or alter", so if you think that removing the watermark would be illegal, then altering it by blurring should be illegal too. Jan 17, 2021 at 20:34
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    Nothing is definitely fair use until it's been judged so in court. Just because you believe your use of the copyrighted works falls under the provisions of the fair use clause doesn't mean you're right. If you have a lawyer who assures you that it's fair use, that's another thing, but even a lawyer isn't always right (and I expect no lawyer is going to assure or guarantee anything, merely advise based on experience and prior case law). If you or other content creators have not received any notices about infringement, that's not evidence of non-infringement. Just no one has noticed or cares. Jan 18, 2021 at 4:43
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    If anything, it could be expected that the removal of the watermark without permission to be claimed by an adversary as evidence that you knew that your use of the video was not legal and that you were attempting to make more difficult for the owner to exercise his rights.
    – SJuan76
    Jan 18, 2021 at 10:48
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    Are you sure it's under fair use? Many people think their use falls under fair use when it doesn't. AFAIK, "having a voiceover" is not a criterion for fair use...
    – user253751
    Jan 18, 2021 at 13:38

1 Answer 1


17 USC 1202(b) states:

Removal or Alteration of Copyright Management Information.—No person shall, without the authority of the copyright owner or the law— (1) intentionally remove or alter any copyright management information, (2) distribute or import for distribution copyright management information knowing that the copyright management information has been removed or altered without authority of the copyright owner or the law, or (3) distribute, import for distribution, or publicly perform works, copies of works, or phonorecords, knowing that copyright management information has been removed or altered without authority of the copyright owner or the law, knowing, or, with respect to civil remedies under section 1203, having reasonable grounds to know, that it will induce, enable, facilitate, or conceal an infringement of any right under this title.

In the suggested sample, it is impossible to judge whether the blurred SE corner is “copyright management information”, defined in para (c), because it has been, well, blurred. For example, if the blurred portion says "Call now, operators waiting" or "Don't do this at home!", that is not copyright management information. Assuming that this is the manufacturer's name (the video being a work for hire so Terex holds the copyright), then blurring that label without permission would be a violation of this section of copyright law.

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    "Removing the watermark" includes "disguising the infringement". You don't have to physically remove it, making it unreadable is enough to constitute removal of the mark.
    – Ron Beyer
    Jan 17, 2021 at 21:45
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    The part which I underlined from the US Code says "alter", so I don't know how you conclude that it says nothing about altering.
    – user6726
    Jan 17, 2021 at 22:34
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    @AdamL They might have paid for the right to do so. We can only speculate, since we don't know about private agreements they have with the copyright owners.
    – MSalters
    Jan 18, 2021 at 8:01
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    @Adam people, even big businesses, do all sorts of copyright infringing things all the time.
    – pjc50
    Jan 18, 2021 at 9:13
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    @adam, copyright law doesn't address "watermarks", it addresses Copyright Management Information. The blurred stuff could be anything: it could be done with permission. If you can locate an original video, we could at least limit this to "violation, or altered with permission".
    – user6726
    Jan 18, 2021 at 22:25

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