YouTube: Wobbling Toward Responsibility

August 17, 2019

With all the problems plaguing YouTube these days, the issue of its copyright infringement reporting system may seem easily overlooked. However, we learn the company has not forgotten about that particular headache in Gizmodo’s article, “YouTube Announces Some Changes to Its Infamously Awful Copyright Infringement System.” While it is important to protect the rights of copyright holders, YouTube’s system for handling infringement claims is famously easy to abuse. Users have often cited videos as violating their own copyrights either in error, by not confirming the use is a violation, or maliciously, as a tool to censor critics or monetize the work of others. Due to the liability rules the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, the platform has reason to err on the side of those who make these claims. Content creators wrongly accused suffer takedowns and, often, financial losses as a result. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, among other critics, have objected to the disparity.

Now, though, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki has promised several changes meant to curtail such abuses. First up—narrowing the window of accusation. Writer Tom McKay explains:

“The biggest change is that anyone filing such a copyright claim will have to enter exact timestamps of the alleged violation, which is intended to prevent copyright holders form flagging entire videos in violation willy-nilly. … This is important because creators previously could be left in the dark as to precisely which content was supposedly infringing, whether the video was 10 seconds or multiple hours. YouTube added that it will be reviewing the accuracy of timestamps and ‘copyright owners who repeatedly fail to provide accurate data will have their access to manual claiming revoked.’ (This seems kind of like something that should have already been happening, but okay.)”

Indeed. McKay also observes:

“While these changes will provide some much-needed clarity for YouTubers plagued by copyright claims, they notably don’t do much to level the playing field between rights holders and individuals claiming fair use of material for purposes like criticism, education, news, or research.”

TechCrunch reported that YouTube is changing its music copyright posture. DarkCyber noted this statement in “YouTube Shuts Down Music Companies’ Use of Manual Copyright Claims to Steal Creator Revenue”:

Going forward, copyright owners will no longer be able to monetize creator videos with very short or unintentional uses of music via YouTube’s “Manual Claiming” tool. Instead, they can choose to prevent the other party from monetizing the video or they can block the content. However, YouTube expects that by removing the option to monetize these sorts of videos themselves, some copyright holders will instead just leave them alone.

Quite a situation? Yes, indeed.

Cynthia Murrell, August 17, 2019


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