Written by Patrick McKay
The cases listed above are just a few instances of the widespread, systemic abuse allowed by YouTube’s Content ID system. There are many others–too many to list here. One more egregious case I became personally aware of was when a user contacted me about a false copyright claim by the YouTube partner channel eurozeitgeist.
In that case, the false claim (which of course had been “reviewed and confirmed” after he disputed it) allowed this channel to hijack the ad revenue from his popular (and completely original) viral video, which had been making its creator around $20,000 per year in ad revenue. Fortunetely in his case, his frantic posts on the YouTube help forum
were noticed by a senior poster who was able to forward his messages to a YouTube employee, who managed to resolve the problem in less than a day. He was fortunate. Most users in this situation aren’t so lucky.
More and more, the tech press is beginning to take note of the flagrant abuses and damage to legitimate speech caused by Content ID. Below are three excellent articles highlighting these problems (I was interviewed in two of them):
Despite the negative press coverage and increasing pressure on YouTube to reform its Content ID system, YouTube’s response thus far has been stony silence. Thus far, it refuses to directly acknowledges that abuses of the Content ID system even exist. According to the Wired article:
“Our Content ID system works by checking user-uploaded videos against reference files provided by rights owners prior to publication on YouTube,” spokeswoman Annie Baxter said in a statement. “If the system finds a match, the rights holder determines the policy applied to that video — either block, track, or make money from the video using ads. Partners found to be abusing or attempting to abuse Content ID will be subject to disciplinary action, including the possibility of account termination.”
Google declined further comment. The search giant said company policy prohibited it from saying whether YouTube was even aware of the situation, and whether it has ever taken action against any company for abusing Content ID policy.
I too managed to get in contact with Annie Baxter regarding the problem of YouTube allowing Content ID claimants to unilaterally confirm their claims with no recourse for users. Her only statement was:
This is one of those corner-case outcomes that emerges from several different rules, none of which was intended to yield the result you’ve encountered (i.e., DMCA takedowns are global, but Content ID ownership claims are territorial). Unfortunately, addressing it YouTube-wide is going to take some time, both for pondering and implementing.
So while we can promise you that we’re thinking about this, we can’t promise you a fix or time-table. And feel free to tell the OVC we’re looking at it and trying to come up with something.
While YouTube “ponders” implementing a solution, YouTube users must live with the knowledge that no video on YouTube is safe from being subject to an illegitimate copyright claim through the Content ID system, from which there is no practical recourse through YouTube’s broken and unfair dispute process. As it stands, if this does happen to you, your options are basically (1) complain really loudly on the YouTube help forums and hope a Google employee sees your post and rectifies the situation, (2) contact the claiming party directly and demand that they retract their claim (sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t), or (3) delete the falsely claimed video from YouTube to keep the third party from profiting from it and host it on another video sharing site like Vimeo that doesn’t have an automated copyright filter like YouTube.
With all of Google’s talk about not being evil and fighting for ordinary Internet users, how did it come to this?