But this is not the issue here. I’m sure you are all very well aware of the Fair Use question on YouTube. Many channels, including very large and powerful ones, have taken massive hits and copyright strikes when their content falls into Fair Use protection without question, and despite YouTube making an effort late last year to start an initiative to fight back against this, the first two months of 2016 have been notable for many major channels disappearing or taking up the fight to be restored.
I Hate Everything was taken off twice, first for providing a negative review of Cool Cat Saves the Kids in a blatant abuse of the DMCA system by the movie’s creator in order to censor criticism, and again for no clear reason other than “spammy content” for uploading a video where he destroys DVDs of The Little Panda Fighter (an obvious rip-off of Kung-Fu Panda). Channel Awesome, home of the Nostalgia Critic, was hit with a strike and now has a limited account for matched third party content despite that he is providing commentary, review and other original additions to the clips that all fall under Fair Use laws. Today, Nintendo hit Jim Sterling for using Splatoon clips in a previous episode of the Jimquisition and put ads up on the video in order to collect revenue all for themselves. When YouTube launched this Fair Use protection system, Jim Sterling was one of the channels used in order to show creators what constitutes Fair Use in the first place, and now here he is a victim of the system.
I have not been unharmed from this. Last year, my recording of Mozart’s “Alla Turca” was hit with a copyright strike by a German symphony orchestra. Their version, as you can guess, is a full orchestration of the same piece, while mine is a solo piano recording. It didn’t matter, and my video was removed within a day of uploading it. First, these recordings are in no way the same. Second, it is my recording, my performance and my engineering work. I own it. Third, the damn music is in the public domain! If you want a good example of public domain classical music, saying Bach, Beethoven and Mozart is the best way to get anyone to understand the nature of PD’s “life plus 70 years” component! It took me a month to get that one video back online after filing a counterclaim to state that I was the creator, the music is public domain and my performance is in no way remotely close to the orchestra version that I was being falsely accused of infringing on. And even then, it only was restored because the channel that filed against me didn’t do anything after 30 days and the claim expired on its own.
This wasn’t the first time either, I got hit for uploading my first film in over nine years, Deliverance Chips, because someone made a claim on the Mendelssohn music I used as the soundtrack which was, once again, my performance and recording of a public domain piece.
What sort of repercussions did these channels face for filing a false copyright claim against me? Absolutely nothing. You can currently abuse YouTube’s copyright algorithm as much as you want without any consequences. But if you get hit three times with a copyright claim, you are deleted and banned. Show’s over, kid.
And what gets me is that if you did this in the “real world” and brought phony charges against someone, you’d be in a whole mess of legal shit as a result of lying in a court of law and making false claims. But I guess the Internet isn’t the “real world” despite how we all rely on it for information, we can make livings on it, we can work through it instead of having to commute to a stanky office five days a week, and how it is the centerpiece of all modern functionality, communication and commerce on a public and private level.
YouTube is becoming the virtual embodiment of the Orwellian nightmare your Libertarian friend is always talking about, except in this case it’s real and it’s happening. If the corporations in bed with Google don’t like something critical, say a negative review of After Earth, or just want to make more money (because it’s what they do best), they can strike your videos and take your money for themselves without any protections for the creator even if their content falls into Fair Use guidelines, such as a film or game review that used a small number of clips to showcase what they were talking about.
Musically, this has made posting cover songs almost impossible today. This is how many artists get their start, or in the very least, become popular. My cover of a Kelly Clarkson song on SoundCloud has more hits than any other track at 6227 listens as of this writing. However, posting this would get a strike instantly on YouTube with the state of the current system, despite that cover songs are your own work, and therefore, Fair Use. The music industry goes even further and protects cover songs under a compulsory licensing system, meaning that the original creators have no right to say, “You can’t record that, it’s our song, and only our song!”
Hell, there are even musicians and filmmakers who are getting copyright strikes for posting entirely original material just because someone saw their video and thought “Maybe I can make something off of this!” flagged it, the real creators get a strike, and now the channel that made the fake claim is getting all of the ad revenue without having done anything besides making a false copyright allegation. They can make that money for a month before deciding the actual creator’s counter claim is legitimate, or the claim expires from the faker not bothering to pursue the matter any further (because it would require moving to court in most cases). The original creators do not get that money back for the lost month.
This is a system that benefits only the claimants, provides no defensive measures or leniency on the creators being accused of copyright infringement and can be abused with a few mouse clicks. Even a blood-drenched inmate at a maximum-security penitentiary who has been accused of brutally attacking another prisoner has better access to defensive procedures than any YouTuber. We may as well have no regard for any copyright if we can’t even work within the laws now. YouTube shows absolutely no respect for copyright if they are willing to disregard it entirely when it comes to content that is Fair Use.
For this reason, I am considering discontinuing all use of YouTube for my own needs outside of watching and managing my subscriptions. Vimeo provides hosting for my films (because I have a lot more coming now), but I don’t like their plug-in; you can only get SD or HD (no specific quality choices), the player isn’t shaped that well for browser viewing, and it just looks like a mess. Also, they’re starting to get on board with YouTube’s train wreck when it comes to copyright claim abuse. The one that comes with my site is garbage and can only play a couple seconds before it has to buffer. This isn’t the early 2000s and dial-up! Get with it Weebly! I’ve been looking into the JW Player now for a couple years, and the pricing has come down, but I want to make sure it won’t quit on me because my viewers have exceeded the bandwidth limits or other background issues. I also notice it skips like a worn record on Cinemassacre from time to time, forcing me to watch the YouTube versions to avoid that sort of steaming clunkiness.
But I’d rather use something like the JW Player to avoid the arbitrary third party content matches that YouTube generates through an algorithm that you have to fight on every upload, the abuse of the copyright system, and the site’s own inability to work with Fair Use and let billion dollar companies walk all over creators who are in no wrong. That way, anyone who thinks that their copyright is being violated has to deal directly with me. And because I don’t pirate media and create all my own work, this isn’t an issue. But don’t tell that to YouTube because they clearly don’t know what it means to be a commentator, a critic, a gamer, and now, even a completely original creator.
Where’s the Fair Use?