The clash between copyright law and the advancement of Internet has been rising to a thunderous cacophony for many years now. From fraudulent DMCA takedowns on legally fair use videos to copyright “entrapment” of images appearing on websites through syndication resulting in exorbitant fines, it has become increasingly clear that the copyright laws of old need to be reexamined and overhauled to take the Internet age into account. Beyond the original ethically sound approach of protecting content creator’s work, many of the takedowns and lawsuits that have appeared over the past few years have become more flagrantly cash-driven creating a profit system for corporate abuse.
The issue is the most egregious on YouTube where takedown notices and strikes are dolled out in unprecedented numbers – many times without any prior review of the content to ensure that there may even be a hint of justification in the initial notice. Such was the case of Brad Jones’ (“Cinema Snob”) Midnight Screenings being issued an account strike for copyright infringement on a movie review that only consisted of two individuals talking about a movie in the front seat of a car without featuring any incriminating film footage (even though the existing fair use laws would have justified film footage inclusion for review purposes).
And while there is no limit to the takedowns and strikes a content creator or studio can put forth on YouTube, there remains a brutal set of restrictions placed upon the defendant that make these conflicts a living nightmare to those affected (such as a limit of three concurrent appeals at a time which, given that the other side has no such limitations, already makes an uphill battle a ludicrous venture to begin with). The most damning aspect of these cases is that each time a notice is issued, the claimants get the video’s monetization redirected to their accounts. If the claim is proven false or dropped (a process that can take up to thirty days), the claimants still get to walk away with that cash awashing the whole system with a filthy layer of profit driven corruption.
The outrage regarding this debacle has spurred the online movement “Where’s The Fair Use” (#WTFU), headlined by popular YouTube personalities such as Doug Walker, better known as Channel Awesome’s Nostalgia Critic. The movement gained momentum with the release of the video below which outlines many examples and flaws in the current system.
Since the release of Walker’s video, many groups, such as Fight for the Future, have taken up the fight with online petitions in protest of the corruption. In a press release, they stated:
“The DMCA affects all Internet users and they should have an opportunity to express their concerns with the ways content is censored from the Internet, causing damage to free speech that can’t be undone,” said Tiffiniy Cheng, co-founder of Fight for the Future, “The Copyright Office has a responsibility to make sure these voices are heard.”
“Copyright laws are among the biggest threats to freedom of expression in the digital age,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future. “Taking down content from the Internet en masse doesn’t benefit artists and individual creators, it benefits large corporations. I supported my family as a musician for years before coming to Fight for the Future, and I believe creators should be compensated for their work. But the Internet is the best thing to ever happen to creative people and independent artists. We need to fight to defend it from those pushing censorship in our names,” she added.
This past Thursday, YouTube yielded to the pressure from critics and began to make a few changes to address a concerns specifically with its monetization fiasco. As their official blog elaborates, YouTube upholds that they’re “developing a new solution that will allow videos to earn revenue while a Content ID claim is being disputed. Here’s how it will work: when both a creator and someone making a claim choose to monetize a video, we will continue to run ads on that video and hold the resulting revenue separately. Once the Content ID claim or dispute is resolved, we’ll pay out that revenue to the appropriate party.”
In a response to YouTube’s changes, Channel Awesome reaffirmed their initial position. “While the side account for monetization claims is nice and something that we and others before us have pushed for, what’s to stop the claimant from just saying, ‘Nope still ours!’ and taking the money forcing us to dispute a claim and then risk a takedown/strike?” they stated. “These false claims still have no repercussions, and while this change could be good, it could also go into a horrible new direction. False claims can now get money during the dispute, and then the claimers can chose to not release the claim and steal more money. Before they made no money during the dispute, now a side pot of money is theirs for the taking.”
The outcomes of the #WTFU movement affect those beyond YouTube entertainment and can have a sweeping effect on online media presentation. With corporations having unmandated power to stifle legal free speech, it puts the public, small businesses, and entrepreneurs at a significant disadvantage to advocate their ideas, products, or services. For more information or to get involved, please visit takedownabouse.org to sign the petition or to share your personal stories.
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