YouTube copyright issues

Last updated on 1 May 2017

When a person creates an original work that is fixed in a physical medium, he or she automatically owns copyright to the work. The owner has the exclusive right to use the work in certain, specific ways. In response to a lawsuit from Viacom, video sharing service YouTube developed a copyright enforcement tool referred to as Content ID which automatically scans uploaded content against a database of copyrighted material ingested by third-parties. If an uploaded video is matched against an asset in the database, YouTube warns the user of the match and applies a predetermined 'match policy'.

2013 controversy

In December 2013, YouTube enabled automated Content ID claiming on videos uploaded by users who were signed with multi-channel networks (MCN). Previously, videos uploaded to channels that were linked to MCNs could only be claimed manually or removed with a DMCA takedown. This led to a large amount of new claims which suddenly left uploaders unable to place advertisements on their videos until they disputed. Users such as Angry Joe created videos complaining about the changes and how they would negatively affect the livelihoods of video creators.

The sudden increase in claims especially affected channels which uploaded content featuring video games (such as Let's Plays) and movies (such as reviews).

Fine Brothers controversy

The Fine Bros. (Popular Youtubers) created a program called "React World" and trademarked the word "React". React World was a program where people could use the Fine Bros.'s icons to make their own videos for free, but there where limitations that your content must be monetized on YouTube (with Google AdSense) and that the Fine Bros. would take some of the money that the creator made. That started to cause controversy with the Fine Bros. and the "Reaction" video genre to the point where the Fine Bros. cancelled the program and lost many subscribers. During this event many live-streams of the Fine Bros.'s channel's subscribers going down, also the whole reaction genre developed a strong hatred around it.

2015-2016 fair use controversy

Outcries arose from the YouTube community in late 2015 and onward, regarding the unfair removal of YouTube videos and even entire channels based upon allegations of copyright infringement, many of which were invalid as no fair use laws were broken. Much of the controversy erupted when a review of the film Cool Cat Saves the Kids by the channel I Hate Everything was removed from YouTube on November 9, 2015. Videos by large channels such as Channel Awesome and Markiplier were being taken down and deleted from the website; complaints sparked across YouTube, as well as on the social media site Twitter.

On February 26, 2016, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki responded to the controversy on Twitter, writing "Thank you @YouTube community for all the feedback. We're listening".

On the 24th of May, 2016, YouTube user Matt Hosseinzadeh sued Ethan and Hila Klein of the YouTube channel h3h3productions citing a video that criticized his content. Fellow YouTube user Philip DeFranco started a GoFundMe fundraiser entitled "Help for H3H3". The initiative raised over $130,000. The Kleins later uploaded a video where they announced that any funds from the fundraiser left over from their lawsuit would be entrusted in to a 'Fair Use Protection Account', which other users could request assistance from in the event they were sued for copyright infringement.

On April 25, 2016, YouTuber and freelance video game critic Jim Sterling included clips of footage from Metal Gear Solid V, Grand Theft Auto V and Beyond: Two Souls, as well as the song Chains of Love, in a video largely discussing Star Fox Zero. Sterling explained this at the end of the video as a way of preventing Nintendo from claiming and monetising the video by including other material which was similarly flagged by Content ID, hoping that multiple claims would prevent anyone from monetising the video and running advertisements on his channel, which is intended to be ad-free and funded solely by Patreon. In a follow-up video, he claimed that the technique, which he termed the "copyright deadlock" had succeeded, as the video received multiple ContentID claims, one of which attempted to monetise the video, while two others prevented any monetisation, allowing the video to run advertisement-free. Sterling stated that this was indicative of a poorly designed system on YouTube's part, as a video which was well within the bounds of fair use had attracted three copyright claims. He also claimed that he would continue to include material which had previously received Content ID claims in videos likely to attract monetisation attempts from the copyright owners, since fair use was not protecting his videos from copyright claims, pointing out that he now felt incentivized to use as much copyrighted material in his videos as possible, the opposite of what YouTube's copyright policies were intended to achieve.

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