Find out more about recording and duplication

Recording, duplication, distribution or re-streaming Virtual Railfan content is strictly prohibited without prior consent of Virtual Railfan, Inc.  If consent is granted this will NOT include special events, accidents, or incidents.  Virtual Railfan, Inc. will utilize all legal means necessary in order to protect our copyrighted works including but not limited to DMCA takedowns, copyright strikes, channel removals, and legal action.

Sharing of official Virtual Railfan social media posts is encouraged and appreciated. Screenshots (still images) taken from our cameras and shared in social media posts is also permitted, with attribution to Virtual Railfan. 

Copyright FAQ

We’re absolutely NOT in the business of taking down railfan channels or handing out copyright strikes every chance we get! Those actions are always a last resort, or the content is too sensitive to wait for responses to our informal removal requests.

Because our fan base has gotten so large, we don’t consider sharing a necessary source of advertising for Virtual Railfan. In fact, it simply creates a headache and a cost for us. We know that there are thousands of videos on YouTube that contain our content. Not only does that dilute the number of viewers who watch our content on our own channel, there are plenty of large channels who actually make money off of our stuff. While we simply can’t go searching for our material in all the small channels who have limited subscribers, we do go after bigger channels when we are alerted to infringement, particularly those that are monetized.

We do! YouTube makes copyright law and their own policies very clear in their Help documentation, and it’s on your shoulders to understand those rules before you post. But Virtual Railfan would much rather educate than punish. 

Here are the 3 steps we take for YouTube videos that are in violation:

  1. We try to make personal contact with the channel’s owner and request the removal of the video
  2. If that fails, we file a 7-day takedown request through YouTube. This alerts the channel owner via email (which we can’t always find ourselves) that they have 7 days to remove the video before YouTube takes action. If the channel owner doesn’t remove the video during that window, YouTube will take it down, which results in a copyright strike. The copyright strike will disappear after 90 days, as long as you don’t get 2 more during those 90 days. Three strikes, you’re out!
  3. In rare cases, we go right to video takedown/copyright strike. See next question!

While we don’t approve of ANY duplication and posting of our content at any time, there are certain circumstances in which we need to act swiftly:

Graphic Incidents – people/train encounters don’t usually end well. We’ve done a very good job keeping most of that out of the public eye, by shutting down the feed and staying on top of screen-grabbed versions that have been posted illegally to YouTube. The only way that we can be successful in stopping the spread is to quickly request a takedown of those videos, which automatically results in a copyright strike against the channel.

Newsworthy Events – when something really extraordinary happens in front of our cams that catches the eye of media outlets, we provide that footage on request for one simple reason — Fair Use. News organizations have the right to use a small portion of our content as part of their reporting. Sometimes the incident may be disturbing or alarming, but it’s still news, and not in our control to decide. We also can’t control the spread of our content at that point, given the reach of these media outlets. We usually post the “official” version on our channel, since the news outlets attribute Virtual Railfan as the source of the content. At that point, hiding it from our channel accomplishes nothing.

Location Host Requests – sometimes, incidents happen in front of our cameras that might not be graphic or particularly newsworthy, but we are asked by our hosts to not make them publicly available for legal, investigative or internal affairs reasons. Again, we must act fast before the spread of the video gets out of hand. Maintaining good relationships with the hosts of our cameras is far more important to us than a single incident.

Law Enforcement Activity – this can encompass a vast range of things, but if any agency requests a stream or a video be prohibited from receiving wide-spread public attention, we will do our best to honor that without hesitation. 

Definitely! Copyright strikes can be reversed. Again, we aren’t interested in hurting railfan channels, just communicate if it happens to you! Email us at support@virtualrailfan.com. As long as you didn’t post a video disparaging us with our own content, you didn’t repost our content after a warning/copyright strike, or you didn’t heed our instructions/guidance about copyright law, we are happy to retract our claim. Remember, even if you do nothing, the strike will disappear on its own after 3 months.

YouTube has spelled everything out very clearly here in their Help Center: https://support.google.com/youtube/topic/2676339?hl=en&ref_topic=6151248 

Just a few pointers from us:

Fair Use

This is NOT blanket protection for anyone to use our content. The law only allows for short clips for the following purposes: criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. Even if you voiceover our content or add a text overlay, if you’re not adding anything substantially new to our content, it’s not Fair Use. Also, the law does not look favorably on usage that diminishes the value and the benefits to our company (competition for viewership on the same platform, lost revenue opportunity, etc.). 

Furthermore, Fair Use requires a significant transformation of the content. Are you using a clip as part of a larger investigative piece on Amtrak? Or simply because you like what you see, or you know it will bring lots of views to your video?

What does not fall under Fair Use:
  • Simply re-posting our content, no matter what the length
  • Making memes with our content. While satire and parody may fall under “criticism,” memes are neither unless there is clear social commentary. Simply being funny is not protected
  • Using a short clip that constitutes the “heart” of our content (a collision, a special train, any other unique moments) purely for entertainment value, such as a compilation reel
  • Visually altering our content by zooming, changing the aspect ratio, putting it in a box, etc. as a way to “transform” it
Giving Virtual Railfan credit or posting a Disclaimer

This does not get you off-the-hook from following copyright law.

Claiming a Creative Commons License

A Creative Commons License enables content creators to retain copyright while allowing others to copy, distribute, and make some uses of their work. This can only be issued to the copyright holder. You cannot claim to have the license on videos that contain our content. It does not protect you from a copyright claim. We’ve never requested a Creative Commons License, nor will we in the future.

Know Your Source!

Just because the content is clearly taken from one of our cameras, it does NOT mean that Virtual Railfan published it. There have been plenty of instances in which people have used our content from illegal screengrabs made by others, before we took the live stream down. If there is no video of an incident to be found on Virtual Railfan’s channel, it means that we never intended for it to be public (graphic accidents, in particular). Nor do we receive any revenue for content that we haven’t published ourselves.