As an avid viewer/reviewer of horror films and one who publishes video reviews online, mostly, but not exclusively on YouTube, one finds one’s self at loggerhead with a number of issues.
Firstly the main problem an amateur reviewer can face is the DMCA and the lengths that certain sites goto to avoid the risk of being sued. I understand this, if I were YouTube I honestly don’t know how the problem can realistically be addressed. Why? Well the problem is the legislation that is the DMCA. It requires any host site to take down any material that a DMCA is filed against. Sounds fair? Well it’s not as clear-cut as that…..
The initial problem here is that the DMCA can be abused by the automation that allows claimants to register their copyright notice against a particular video. YouTube for instance has a very easy way to flag copyrighted material, it takes a few seconds to do and requires nothing more than a claim from a user (in the guise of their account) in order to cause the ‘offending’ video to be withdrawn. The only response a recipient of a DMCA has is to file a counter notice only to do so requires the submission of personal details such as contact information. All this is very well but the original claimant does NOT have to do the same in the initial claim.
So the victim here has a choice….either allow the claimed against video to remain withdrawn (effectively censored by the potentially false DMCA) or counter notice it and give out his/her personal details to a stranger who does not have to do the same. This obviously has certain personal security issues when the claimant quite often has a personal grudge against the target of the DMCA notice. So what we have is a one sided bludgeon for trolls to use against the vlogger. Not helpful.
Then we have the automation of copyright detection. This I have personally been a victim of. This works as such. Fox goes to YouTube and supplies (what I suspect is) a soundtrack to the movie/album etc. YouTube takes this and puts it in its data base and checks all uploaded video’s against it to see if copyrighted material is contained in the video….
Again this sounds fine on paper, however the system cannot detect if the material is being used in context of the ‘Fair Use’ clause which allows for copyrighted material to be used in certain circumstances….i.e. a review. So anyone putting together a professional style video based movie review, containing footage and clips from the movie, can quickly find themselves up against instant decisions by YouTube to not publish the video because they have detected copyright material within it. Not exactly conducive to free speech or the Fair Use clause.
A ray of hope came in the form of a message from a fellow YouTuber that I have a lot of respect for, davidscribe informed me of a brush he had with YouTubes copyright Robocop.In some cases the copyright owner can leave the ‘offending’ video in place but add adverts to the video, say linking to a place to buy the CD or DVD for instance. This however does rely on the charity of the copyright owner to not pull the video at any point they decide they dont like it, in which case you will probably not have much say or course to appeal, other than a court. Of course if you’re monitising your video then any claim will render your revenue stream suspended, sometimes across the body of your work. If you’re making your living out of the videos this is a critical problem and it essentially means that no-one NO-ONE on YouTube should rely on their work as their income because it can be shut off in a heartbeat at the whim of a stranger who’s identity you’ll not get to know and even if you appeal it to the wire and win, well that’s a process that can take anything up to a month.
To the left here is one of the messages you are presented with which gives the options of what happens from the point of recieving a copyright strike.
1: you can chance it and carry the strike and hope to fucking hell you don’t get another one or worse still two more which will shut your account down. Most take this because it gets scary from this point on.
2: Go cap in hand to the claiment and ask them to drop the claim. This is very hard to do as you get no contact info. If you go through the appeals page it can result in an automatic and harsher strike against you for having the audacity to protest. It’s usually just another button push for the strike ninja on the other end and your attempts to reason with them are often simply ignored. EGEDA, a company I have many dealing with are notoriously bad for this.
3: Counternotification…. Make no mistake, this is the serious shit at this point. This is where things are down and dirty legal with all the implications of fines and court cases that follow. It’s scary, particularly for most uploaders who are not used to legal matters. The only light at the end of the tunnel here is that it’s extraordinarily unusual for the claiments to continue from here for anything that is even slightly ambiguous. it doesn’t make it any less intimidating though and if they did take you to court, even if you win, it’s going to be expensive and upsetting.
Now if the rumblings are right and the US government are going to cede more ground to the digital copyright thugs in the big distribution companies (Fox, Sony, Paramount etc) then were seem to looking at a bleak future for the internet and user produced content as every host site will simply not allow anything that has the vaguest sniff of copyrighted material no matter what the context or purpose of that material is.
After all, how can a successful behemoth like YouTube actually police its content without arbitrary copyright bots automatically doing that substantial task?
Quite aside from the minefield that is the copyright saga there is then the subject matter…In my case, horror, the DPP list more specifically.
In particular, but certainly not uniquely, YouTube and other host sites (Metacafe, Dailymotion etc) have some form of ‘decency’ panel whether that is the users and a flagging system or a upload review panel who accept or reject seemingly on a very arbitrary and personal level. While this is fine and well, certainly a panel is preferable to an automatic system or especially to the whim of a troll who doesn’t like what you had to say about his favourite movie, you now not only have to navigate the grey area of fair use and copyright you have to deal with the tastes of strangers who can make your video ‘go away’ without so much as a right to reply. When one is dealing with a subject that has many areas that are antagonistic towards people’s sensibilities, then how can we approach them without being simply countered with a single mouse click on a flagging button? When it comes to what is considered out of bounds, well it may be the subject, it may be the tone, it could be bloody anything, YouTube certainly wont tell you beyond the vaguest terms, but the subject matter offends one person and the work can be pulled, no right to appeal. A channel like my own is very clear about what it is you’re about to sit through, there are no surprises and while Youtube now allow the uploader to age restrict videos it is still a constant concern when putting anything slightly controversial, gory or naughty on the channel that it will garner a T&C’s strike. Make no mistake it is a strike offence too, three strikes and you’re gone, permanently, unless you can convince Youtube otherwise and good luck with that as they are all but impossible to contact. Instead of a human being you’re dealing with forums and frequently asked questions pages, in short you are put on an electronic merry -go-round that will leave you frustrated, hopeless and lost. I’ve been there with the copyright strikes, I’ve been faced with trying to get something other than an automated fuck-off and it’s nigh on impossible. Instead what do we get…. Well we get an extremely patronising ‘Happy Tree Friends’ guide to copyright…. one that in the case of a copyright strike mockingly portrays you as a pirate. Fuck you YouTube… fuck you.
What I’m trying to get at here is that the odds of your work surviving is becoming ever shorter due to the multiple booby traps of commercial bullying, troll tantrums, uninformed moralistic flaggers and the lack of understanding from the host site about the subject you are talking about and the audience you are talking to. Given that the internet is possibly the single most important invention in the history of mankind in terms of mass communication, it’s important to defend ‘fair use’ and freedom of speech and resist those who seek to limit it.
Film companies are NOT going out of business due to piracy, the music industry has survived Napster AND the advent of torrenting, software companies have always had to deal with piracy but are still being set up and thrive despite this and a 10 minute video movie review has never superseded the film itself. It’s an old scare story that just hasn’t born out. Funny enough content makers, like myself, are not unsympathetic towards the need to protect copyright but Fair Use/Fair Dealing exist for a reason and though the numbers of people exercising their right to fair use is much larger it’s still as necessary now as it was when it was created… More so in fact. Our media has changed to a massive degree, we all now have the ability to produce works and much like when DJ’s began kicking out sampled music in remixed forms back in the 80’s the industry has failed to accept the change and has done everything in its power to keep things the way they like to think they were. Content like my own, which is transformative, comments on the material and doesn’t present its subject verbatim or with the intent to supersede the copyrighted material commercially speaking is not a threat. Uploading an old ad off the TV isn’t a threat to any business interest, having some music in the background of a video is hardly going to bring the industry down. Of course there are going to be grey areas where the use should be authorised, if you’re making a commercial film then you should pay the artists involved, but when it comes to something like criticism which is using the material in context of criticism or its a tiny little amateur video then for gods sake use some judgement and stop acting like a spoilt brat who’s had a bully pinch his ice cream.
It may seem a disparate selection of subjects to lump into one blog, and I agree to a great extent but all these things are linked by a common theme of our ability to make commentaries on contemporary culture apart from anything else. Times have moved on and parody, commentary and reportage are now in the hands of the common person and require more modern presentation, but the stifling forces of an industry that refuses to alter its business model means we have to resist the retardation of creativity whilst simultaneously looking to accommodate the rights of the creative forces.
There has to be a common ground, and industry alone cannot be allowed to define that unilaterally.