You might remember that earlier in the week we talked about SF Debris and the way Chuck Sonnenberg was driven off of YouTube because his videos were being flagged as copyright violations. Some people pointed out that you can dispute the YouTube claims. While I can’t speak for Sonnenberg or how things went down for him, I will say that this might be more of a pain in the ass than it’s worth.
When something gets flagged on YouTube, you get a notice and the content is removed. (It’s not actually deleted.) You can then fill out a form. Two weeks later, your content might be restored. But even when that happens, there’s nothing stopping it from being re-flagged and getting taken down again. Here is the story of one person who experimented with the process for educational purposes. Perhaps it was simply too much work to try and rescue all of his three-year SF Debris archive. Maybe it was infuriating to upload a video, have it live for four days, then down for two weeks, then back up again. I imagine that’s a real discussion-killer, not to mention a great way to lose viewers to confusion and frustration.
Here is one of my favorites from the SF Debris archives:
Man, if someone was doing long-form reviews of my forty year old material, my first response would not be to silence them, but to encourage them to do as much as possible. Watch the above episode and tell me it doesn’t make you want to check out Star Trek: Original Flavor. This is more effective than any advertising CBS could buy, and all they need to do is stand aside and allow it to happen. (And no, you’re not obligated to chase down copyright ‘violations’ or risk losing them. That’s trademarks.)
In any case, I don’t blame Sonnenberg for leaving YouTube. It’s an awful situation.
As was explained to me in an earlier post:
But! The DMCA creates a provision to protect YouTube from lawsuits. They are immune to lawsuits from (say) Viacom, as long as they immediately and without hesitation remove anything that Viacom says infringes on their copyrights. So, it effectively outlaws careful review and arbitration. The effect is that Viacom can spam everyone and everything that might possibly infringe on their copyrights. Those videos are removed almost instantly, and then the creators of that content can enter a long and annoying process to have their unjustly removed material restored.
In criminal cases you’re innocent until proven guilty. You can’t be arrested without evidence and you can’t be searched without probable cause. Even when fighting things like rape, murder, and theft, the police are (theoretically) bound by firm rules to keep their power in check, because injustice is worse than no justice at all. But here we’re dealing with simple civil cases. They are combating against situations which may infringe on copyright in a way that could be financially damaging. And in the face of this extremely mild (compared to criminal justice) threat, all the rules go out the window. Justice is, “Throw a bunch of random people in jail. The ones that can fight their way back out are probably innocent.”
There’s a saying: “It is better to let nine guilty men free than to convict one innocent man.” That thinking is now inverted, and it’s better to punish nine innocent parties than miss a single copyright infraction.
So, yay. Nice law there. I’m sure The People were really demanding that.
The thing is, CBS, Viacom, BBC, and some of these other bullies don’t actually have to spam these takedown notices. There’s another option available to more reasonable people, and that’s to simply assert their ownership of the material and make money off of it. Ads begin running on the video, and they get [some of?] the money. While I’ve never been hit with a wrongful takedown, I have been hit with this latter option a few times. We had it happen to Spoiler Warning S5E14: A Night on the Town, and here is how that worked:
YouTube starts off by notifying you that their content-sniffer has detected that you have used “Third Party Content”. It tells you what kind (audio or video) and who the owner is, but that’s it. It doesn’t name the original work, give a timestamp for where it was detected, or even provide a link to the alleged owner. There’s no contact info and you can’t ask for clarification. In the past, I’ve had people assert “ownership” over segments of freely-available game trailers. (They did not own, produce, market, or publish the game, the trailer, or the footage. It was just some asshat who put up a trailer and said, “I own this”.)
The thing that annoys me here is that this third-party company can come in, right away, and put and ad over our video and start making money. See, when I did Drawn to Knowledge, the video would have to sit there for days before YouTube would give me the option to monetize it. Once I got the option, I had to apply, and wait several days more. Then at last, over a week after the video had run its course and gone dormant, they would start running ads. I found it impossible to make anything (not even pocket change) on content I had produced myself, but here someone else can swoop in and instantly start making cash on my content? That is really frustrating.
Now, this video contains three pieces of music. The first is the snippet of the Fallout: New Vegas menu music, which plays during the intro. The other two are used under the Creative Commons and are by Kevin MacLeod. Which piece of music is under dispute? If it’s the intro, we need to claim fair use. If it’s the other two, we can assert that we have permission. Or maybe it’s a complete mis-identification like the game trailers problem I encountered before.
There is no way to address this properly because YouTube doesn’t give you enough information to answer honestly.
Here is the final page of the dispute. You “sign” it by typing your name, and then copy & paste the Good Faith Statement into the Good Faith Statement Box. That is bureaucratic perversion worthy of GLADos herself.
I went over this with Josh and he found some information on Kevin MacLeod’s site detailing how he was setting things up with a third-party to help him make money from his music. The company was AudioMicro1, the same group that filed this claim against our video. On Kevin’s site, he said you were free to opt-out if you don’t want to share with him. (By opt-out I assume he means file this counter-claim.) So YouTube didn’t give us any of the information we needed. We worked it out on our own.
YouTube (using its magic content-detection rays, which NOBODY else can figure out) noted the presence of Sock Hop, which were somehow registered to AudioMicro1. So YouTube told us we were infringing without giving us the crucial info. It began running ads over the episode in question. That ad money will go to AudioMicro1. (And from there, we hope, it would go to MacLeod.)
Need to draw a friggin’ flowchart, here.
In the end we didn’t file the claim. I’m happy for MacLeod to make some money at this. His music has been a benefit to the show, and we are more than happy to see him profit from his skill and labor. But this entire system is a horrible, horrible mess. We nearly mistook this for some copyright troll and disputed the claim.
- Too vague: The entire system is too vague. You’re obliged to “sign your name” to documents without being given any way to know what you’re being accused of misusing or who is accusing you. Sure, you can Google the name given, but there’s no definite link between your accuser and the Google search results. I understand the DMCA imposes some enforcement duties onto YouTube, but this is completely unacceptable. More transparency is needed. I understand these third-party guys can make YouTube act as their muscle, but they shouldn’t be able to hide from the accused.
- No penalty for wrongful claims: CBS was able to harass SF Debris right off of YouTube. They filed over 100 claims against his show, and all of those claims were false. Even imposing a $1 penalty would go a long way to stopping this senseless claim-spam.
- It’s easier for THIRD party content owners to make money than FIRST party content owners: The system to monetize your videos is slow, cumbersome, and unresponsive. The system for third-party owners appears to be completely automated and turnkey.
- All or nothing: If I make a twenty-minute epic of breathtaking depth and insight, and use a nine-second music clip for the opening, and if the owner of the original song comes after me, they get everything. A split would make much more sense. If I was a record company, I’d LOVE to simply allow everyone to use my catalog for their YouTube projects, and just take a little cut from all of them. That would be “free money” from my standpoint. Nobody is going to want to use my music if doing so means I get everything. I’d rather skim a few percent from millions of people than haggle over a 60/40 split with one guy.
I understand that YouTube has to do some of this stuff in order to comply with the DMCA, but I don’t think the law requires that the system be this unfair, arbitrary, vague, and heavy-handed. It’s been this way for a long time, and I don’t see them moving to improve it.
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