on Aug 24, 2009
The “copyright dispute” system in YouTube is pathetic. Remember my Reset Button video?
Someone claimed I was using their “copyrighted material”. That’s pretty hard to believe, since I made the content myself. There are a few still images used in there, but they’re from promotional materials from Nintendo, Sony, etc. and they fall easily under fair use. But someone from the Japanese YouTube channel eb!TV claimed that some unspecified portion of my video infringed on their content. Now they get a free link from the video’s page, which accuses me of stealing content. Also, ads now run over the bottom of my video.
I disputed the claim, but now I have to wait for a response from the accuser. I don’t think he has much incentive to get back to me in a hurry, since the longer he takes the longer his ad sits on my page for free. This entire system is preposterous. I’m not crazy about the guilty-until-you-can-prove-yourself-innocent attitude of it, although I guess that’s necessary on YouTube’s part because they don’t want to end up mediating a bunch of disputes. However, the system of giving a free link to the accuser and then making the accused fight to get rid of it is a nasty one, since it sets up incentives for people to game or abuse the system in order to increase traffic. The fact that the accuser doesn’t even need to make specific claims is even worse, since they can make drive-by blanket accusations claiming that “some unspecified portion of your ten-minute video is taken from us” and then leave all the legwork to the accused to figure out what part they might be talking about and address it specifically.
This sucks. I can’t stand that eb!TV gets a link and a finger in my eye every time someone visits the page. (The accusation the “this uses content from eb!TV” bothers me more than the link itself.) I’ve scanned through their archives. The only thing I could find is this Mirror’s Edge video, which is a lame-ass shot of the game taken from a camcorder aimed at a TV. The thumbnail view of their video looks like the opening of mine, except mine was taken directly from the game and not that amateur-hour setup they have going there. But all Mirror’s Edge footage looks more or less the same. Is that the basis of their claim? That I somehow swiped the crappy TV footage and magically turned it into my nice, clean direct-feed footage? Or is it something else? How am I supposed to defend myself against this sort of nonsense?
Do I take my video down? It’s only got 28k views, which is pretty small. Having said that, doing so will hurt me (my hard work gone) more than it hurts my accuser. (Who will lose the tiny trickle of traffic I bring them, perhaps a visit a day or something similarly meaningless.) It doesn’t help that the accuser is Japanese, and thus operating under an entirely different language and set of IP laws.
A system where you’re guilty and punished until you can prove yourself innocent against lazily vague claims (the details of which have never even been shown to me) of infringement with no cost or penalty to the accuser – even if they are proven wrong – is unjust and unhealthy. eb!TV should have been required to not only cite what portion of my video infringed, but also where I supposedly took the content from. That can still be faked, but at least it would require the accuser to commit an act of deliberate deception rather than just fire off an email and get free advertising at my expense.
As it stands, I could do a bunch of legwork, harangue YouTube for details, and maybe win the fight and get the video cleared, and all that will happen is that my video will return to normal. Adding to the injustice is that fact that drawing attention to the problem increases their benefit even more. Now lots of people will click on that link and view their channel.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.