What happens in a copyright dispute on YouTube?

One the the benefits of my free agent status is that I can occasionally push the envelope on certain rules in a spirit of “see what happens” realizing that some small town in Vermont won’t be bankrupted if I get sued. I’ve often said that I’d like to see more civil disobedience from libraries concerning copyright legislation (especially concerning public performance rights to movies and ability to make copies of our own content) but it’s not happening quickly. That said, as you may know, I make some videos and have put them on YouTube. One of them was popular for a little while. Sadly, that one had a soundtrack from a Beausoleil album that I liked and did not have permission to use. The other much less popular video was just some shots out the window driving in a rainstorm while listening to the radio. The song in question comes on the radio for about the last minute of my video.

Last week I got an email from YouTube saying… I don’t still have the email but in short their Video Identification tool had matched a song in two of my videos and my videos had immediately been removed from public viewing. My options were to 1. delete the audio and/or use their AudioSwap feature to replace it 2. dispute the copyright claim on a few grounds 3. delete the video. I opted to try AudioSwap for my popular video, sort of sad because it removes my voiceover and other sound effects, but decent because it’s a better option than removing the video entirely. I replaced the soundtrack with a free track from AudioSwap. If I felt like I had time and energy I’d write to Michael Doucet and see if he’d give me permission, but it’s probably not even him but his record company, etc. The AudioSwap interface is clunky and may or may not put an advertisement in your video (and hasn’t worked yet for me but I keep trying) but it’s a good option to have.

In the second case, I really feel like I have a decent Fair Use case, so I filled out this form. The form says that I think the clip is fair use under copyright law. It’s my responsibility to “understand the law” according to YouTube, and that is my understanding of it. I had to “sign” it and also type [well copy/paste] the line that says I’m not intentionally abusing the dispute process. After I did that, I was sent to this help article to see what will happen next. The article warns

If the content owner disagrees with your dispute for any reason, they will have the option to submit a copyright takedown notice which will result in the disabling of your video and/or penalties against your account. To avoid penalization, only submit legitimate dispute claims.

So, we’ll see. I think I’m right. I hope the copyright holder thinks so too. At the very least they will be bored with four minutes of windshield rainstorm before they even hear their song and even then they’ll probably be straining saying “Is that it?” At the worst, I’ll get some sort of “penalty against my account” of unspecified awfulness. So, for those of you too timid to try this at home, or possibly being cavalier about the audio you swipe, that’s my report of the consequences … so far.

10 Responses to “What happens in a copyright dispute on YouTube?”

  1. Scot Colford Says:

    Dang! The Ubuntu video?! Shoot, I showed that to students last semester. Yeah, that’s a pain your voiceover is gone.

    I’m eager to find out how the second situation turns out!

  2. Chris O. Says:

    While I understand that Google does not wish to be sued, it is not up to the copyright holder what does and does not comprise fair use, so their help file is too punitive for my tastes. Ideally they’d have someone familiar with copyright law review cases when the user and copyright holder disagree.

  3. Cory Says:

    I’m no lawyer but I’m with Chris O. It seems as though Google, like so many corporate entities, are so eager to show their good intentions so as to not infringe on copyright holders’ rights that they veer too far away from the rights of everyone else.

    And, Jessamyn, I really liked this post. Now that I’m not employed, I ought to push the envelope also. It hadn’t occurred to me at all.

  4. Daniel Cornwall Says:

    I have successfully defended two of my videos on YouTube. In both cases (Marines Get Around and Navy @ Your Library) I was using the service song, composed before 1923 and played by the service military band. Some company claimed coopyright over the the audio, I don’t have the name on me. I used YouTube’s VERY clunky form that doesn’t even have a spot for “This is in the public domain, darn it!.” In both cases within a week I got the restrictions on my video lifted. But what bothers me is the thought that this same company may keep filing claims against my other videos with public domain soundtracks to see if I get tired of responding.

  5. Mike Finn Says:

    I got a similar email from youtube. They found copyrighted music on a video that I had marked ‘private’. But the copyright owner did not request that it be taken down, but reserved the right to make money off of my video (i removed the name of the video and copyright holder):

    Your video “video_title” is still available because “copyright_holder” does not object to this content appearing on YouTube at this time. As long as “copyright_holder” has a claim on your video, they will receive public statistics about your video, such as number of views. Viewers may also see advertising on your video’s page.

  6. Nancy Says:

    I guess I am the only one who would defend the copyright holder for taking down unauthorized use. I do think if you were making money off your creative work, you may be on the other side of the copyright enforcement issue, just as Stephen Colbert suggests in his interview with Lawrence Lessig.

  7. Wicked Smaht Says:

    I regret to inform you all that you will not be able to read the brilliant comment I wrote a few minutes ago. I forgot to include my email address, and my ingenious thoughts were gone when I clicked the “back” button to add my email address. DOUBLE FAIL.

  8. Robert Says:

    So why are they picking on your background radio when there are thousands of music videos on YouTube?

  9. Nick Says:

    I submitted a dispute form, under the pretense of my video being fair use. In all actuality, its youtube. How can one make money from youtube? Its really just a community of people who like to watch things.

    I always thought it is what made Music Artists popular. It is what got me into some of my favorite groups.

    All that will happen, according to the Youtube Dispute Page, is that they will delete your account and videos if they believe that you are in the wrong. You wont be sued, but you will be banned from posting more videos. Its Youtube’s way of saying, ‘Yer funny!’ I just dont know how long it takes for the dispute process to come to a close.

  10. haro690 Says:

    Greetings from Croatia. I also have the same problem and I do not know what to do? Can I in some way be sued? Because I have a musical background in the video that I am recorded. Please help.