Let people talk over disputesWhy doesn’t YouTube make it easier for people to work things out when there’s a dispute over content?

Every week it seems there’s a new headline bemoaning content that has been mistakenly removed from YouTube due to bogus copyright claims.  This so-called “takedown abuse” makes for good headlines, but per usual, there’s much more to the story of what happens behind-the-scenes on YouTube with various types of claims on copyrighted content.

Perhaps in reaction to some of these inflammatory headlines, YouTube recently announced it was creating a team dedicated to “minimize mistakes” when videos are removed from the site.  The announcement came via a post on Google’s own blog:

…Recently, there’s been a lot of discussion about the enforcement of our policies, from video takedowns to channel demonetization. We want you to know that we monitor video takedowns very closely, and while we haven’t seen a big change in the overall rate of removals, it’s true that we do make mistakes. For this, we’re sorry and we strive to do better by you, our community.
The good news is that the feedback you’ve raised in comments and videos on YouTube and beyond is having an impact. It’s caused us to look closely at our policies and helped us identify areas where we can get better. It’s led us to create a team dedicated to minimizing mistakes and improving the quality of our actions. And it’s encouraged us to roll out some initiatives in the coming months that will help strengthen communications between creators and YouTube support. We’ll also make improvements to increase transparency into the status of monetization claims. And of course, as we work to implement these improvements as quickly as we can, we’ll continue to take your feedback seriously.
— Spencer from YouTube’s Policy Team

Improving “transparency” on YouTube’s Content ID System would across the board is needed

YouTube-Content-IDUnfortunately, YouTube’s new initiative seems only to address “transparency” having to do with monetization claims, not Content ID in general. Content ID is the fingerprinting system that YouTube established to help rights holders protect their creative work from online piracy.  Though imperfect, it’s certainly better than nothing but there are many ways to improve it.

If the YouTube team is serious about improving the way Content ID works it could help fix what’s broken is by increasing transparency throughout the system, particularly when it comes to disputes over how content is claimed.

In particular, I’d suggest a simple fix that would benefit both copyright holders and YouTube uploaders–allow people to communicate directly when Content ID claims are disputed.  If this happened, many misunderstandings could be worked out to the satisfaction of everyone involved.

I’ll give you an example.  Let’s say you have a film and someone uploads some scenes from it that are matched via Content ID.  It’s a clip that lasts, only several minutes in length and you’ve set up Content ID to match and monetize clips of this length.    The matched content is not commentary or a review, only a mashup of scenes taken from  your film.  You receive notification via your Content ID dashboard that the uploader has “disputed” your monetization claim.  (Never mind that this doesn’t involve a takedown, only monetization of the clip).

You take a look at the claim and the justification for filing the dispute.  It says:

Reason: All non-original content is in the public domain

Note: Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use”; for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

Ok, clearly there’s some confusion here.  First of all, the uploaded clip is NOT in the “public domain” –it’s surprising how often I see this justification and how many people don’t have a clue as to what it actually means–and secondly, there’s no real criticism, comment, news reporting, etc. going on with the excerpt.

Even so, you have no wish to actually remove the clip from YouTube, only claim it and monetize it.  Seems reasonable right?  Well, in this case, the sender does not allow messages to be sent (via her channel) and no email is provided so there’s no way to contact her to explain the situation.  You only want ads to appear with the video (to help you pay down that production debt)–not remove or block it.  In this case the only recourse is to “reinstate” the claim and hope the uploader doesn’t file–what would be–a bogus counter-notice.

YouTube dispute with no contact info

YouTube user disputed monetization claim with erroneous justification

Why doesn’t YouTube provide a way for parties to contact each other?

All this confusion could be avoided IF there was simply a way for both parties to discuss things.  Why doesn’t YouTube, as part of this dispute form, allow the recipient to send a message to the uploader who disputed the claim. Personal information could be protected, BUT a conversation (via email or message) could be had and most likely clear up any confusion over the claim.

As shown in example below, this uploader who filed a dispute doesn’t have a contact sender option on her YouTube channel.  In this scenario the rights holder’s only recourse would be to do nothing OR reinstate the claim and risk further misunderstanding.

No way to send message

Not every dispute needs to escalate

Because there’s no way to have a dialogue these situations often escalate into an actual counter-notice being filed.  It’s ironic that at that point the party that files a counter-notice has to provide accurate contact info.  Of course, many do not but that’s a post for another day.  When a dispute reaches this level, the only way for the rights holder to keep their work off YouTube is to spend money and file in federal court.

For most indie creators, this is where the story ends.  Their content goes back up on YouTube and nothing more can be done.  For all the talk of abusive takedowns, there’s not much press coverage for the ongoing problem of abusive (and false) counter-notices.

Bottom line, in many cases, folks could simply work things out if YouTube made it easier to communicate.  Seems like a simple move.  Can’t we just all try to get along?