Dubsmashing The Law

Dubsmashing The Law

As Dubsmash celebrates its first birthday, let’s revisit the concept behind this video selfie app which has garnered more than 50 million downloads.

Rewind to November 2014 and envisage “an app that will enable people to act in front of a camera and record the scenes of their preference after being watched either on TV, at the movies, on a soap opera…there are so many lines that people will never forget like the one in Jerry McGuire ‘show me the money’…it’s a great chance for people to become part of the movies, be part of the people that are the protagonist in our daily life. We all become celebrities by imitating their gestures, voices, movements, memes, intentions and mostly, their emotions. It could be a single participant, a couple, a group of people or a whole city. The beauty of this app is that it could be recorded in any language since each country has its own shows, artist, celebrities, politicians and community conspicuous characters. It presents a variety of business venture, among them, the possibility to act as a scout agency in order to recruit potential actors willing to be part of the real deal: Hollywood.” *

Today, Dubsmash is enjoyed not only by individuals wanting to live their moment of fame in front of the camera, but celebrities alike. Dubsmash has served as a great marketing tool for actors and musicians to publicise their upcoming release.

Bottom line, everyone enjoys a good Dubsmash.

But what about the legalities?

Individuals can upload their own content or select from a list of clips uploaded by other users. Putting their creativity to the test, the audio is dubbed and the video performance then shared through various social media platforms including Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram and Youtube. Websites collating the best dubs have also been set up for the more competitive performers.

If you are a user of Dubsmash, you will no doubt be familiar with the Terms & Conditions. After all, how can one imagine downloading an app without actually reading the terms of use, right? Individuals uploading content (the “Content Provider”) retain liability for the same and must ensure that all necessary permissions and consents have been obtained from third parties who own the underlying copyright to the sound recordings (the “Right Holders”). Unless a licence has been granted allowing the Content Provider to share the recording with the public, Content Providers leave themselves open to possible claims for copyright infringement.

Separately, by using these clips to create unique videos, all users agree not to infringe the copyright that subsists in the sound recordings. Videos may be enjoyed for private use, but sharing them on social media may constitute a breach of copyright, and under the Terms & Conditions, users may find themselves liable to compensate for any losses or costs incurred by Dubsmash resulting from the breach.

In reality, the sound recordings remain unlicensed. Rights are reserved for copyright holders to serve notice for removal of the content, but practically, the option remains for right holders to negotiate a deal with the app owners in an attempt to monetise. Surprisingly, Dubsmash has not encountered any serious complaints as yet, and until such point, it would appear that Right Holders, too, are enjoying their 20 seconds of fame.

*An extract taken from The Pitch by Miguel Carrillo Pinto


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of any organization with which she might be associated.

Sarah Mubashir

Author: Sarah Mubashir

The writer works in the Residential Property department at an international law firm.