Google Offers to Defend Against Some Bad YouTube Takedown Demands

Attempting to protect fair use from copyright claim abuse


You see, the copyright symbol is all broken because the … oh, you get it.
Credit: / photo on flickr

Good news for YouTube video posters who find themselves on the wrong side of an inappropriate copyright takedown request: Google has announced it will legally intervene on behalf of these users, keep the videos up online, and even cover the costs of defending against copyright claims.

What we're talking about here are situations defined under U.S. law as "fair use," when portions of somebody else's copyrighted works are used legally without the copyright holder's permission, such as in cases of criticism, news coverage, satire and parody, remixes, research, et cetera.

Since the passage of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998, which was created to fight online piracy, there has been a consistent issue that copyright holders have been using this tool to demand the take down of perfectly legitimate non-violating posts. Sometimes it's accidental due to automated request systems picking up smidgens of copyrighted material that are nevertheless being legally used. Sometimes it's a deliberate attempt to censor critics. (I delved into the problems that have come from the way the DMCA has been applied back in April. Read here.)

Google gets millions of takedown requests each month. Now it's going to attempt to push back in some cases, hoping to create a framework to help people understand what "fair use" means and to avoid abuse of the DMCA. From Google:

We are offering legal support to a handful of videos that we believe represent clear fair uses which have been subject to DMCA takedowns. With approval of the video creators, we'll keep the videos live on YouTube in the U.S., feature them in the YouTube Copyright Center as strong examples of fair use, and cover the cost of any copyright lawsuits brought against them.

We're doing this because we recognize that creators can be intimidated by the DMCA's counter notification process, and the potential for litigation that comes with it (for more background on the DMCA and copyright law see check out this Copyright Basics video). In addition to protecting the individual creator, this program could, over time, create a "demo reel" that will help the YouTube community and copyright owners alike better understand what fair use looks like online and develop best practices as a community.

While we can't offer legal protection to every video creator—or even every video that has a strong fair use defense—we'll continue to resist legally unsupported DMCA takedowns as part of our normal processes. We believe even the small number of videos we are able to protect will make a positive impact on the entire YouTube ecosystem, ensuring YouTube remains a place where creativity and expression can be rewarded.

So, they're not going to offer up their lawyers for each of the millions of takedown requests they're dealing with. And the description of it doesn't sound like it's going to do much about the mass amounts of automated takedown requests that come from major movie, television and video game companies. It's nevertheless good to see some more pushback on copyright claim abuse.

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  1. Great news, because I have this awesome idea for a parody using a segment of a movie called Downfall.

    1. You didn’t see the Downfall parody of the DMCA takedown notice on Downfall parodies?

      1. There have been so many Downfall parodies that people don’t even realize the original movie starred Bruce Willis and Chris Tucker.

        1. Chris Tucker does a spot-on Hitler. Only Idris Elba would have been more appropriate for that role.

          1. Nah, he’s too street.

      2. Downfall was virtually unknown outside of Germany until the parodies started showing up. I can’t imagine the producers of that movie haven’t made a ton of money in the US market because of the free exposure the parodies have given the film. That would be retarded to demand they be taken down.

        1. I rented it because of the parodies.

          1. And I thought they cut a deal with Google/YouTube on this?

          2. Is it any good?

            1. For someone like me who likes historical dramas, it’s good, though I can’t vouch for the accuracy.

              It’s kind of intense, though it would be a SPOILER if I explained why.

              But I suppose you guessed that a Hitler movie would be intense.

              1. I was kind of hoping it was one of those feel good love stories.

            2. I enjoyed it. Showing Hitler as a human being – even a human being that you can almost feel sorry for at certain moments – makes for a thought-provoking film.

              Spoiler: the Nazis lose WWII.

        2. I have no idea what you guys are talking about. What is “Downfall”?

            1. Ganz ernst.

              I tend to pass on Youtube “bits” so maybe that’s why.

          1. It is a German language film about the last days of Hitler. In it there is a scene where Hitler totally freaks out on his generals. A few years ago someone took that scene and replaced the English subtitles. The first one I ever saw was Hitler finding out the Giants beat the Cowboys in the 2012 NFL playoffs. It is fucking hysterical. Hitler goes on about how he was going to wear his Terell Owns Jersey and now he was going to look ridiculous. And it also contained the classic line after being told by his generals that Eli Mannning threw however many TD passes in the second half “Eli Manning? Eli Manning sucks”

          2. “Hitler learns that Rhywun doesn’t know what Downfall is.”

            1. Is it Hitler Hitler or just some actor? I hope it’s the real one.

        3. Horseshit, it was quite respected and played at the multiplex near me when it was released in the US. It was nominated for an Academy Award.

  2. Cool, Google is going to defend The Laugh Factory?

    1. Remember how I reserved judgment on this one?

      Slate denies the story – of course they’re Hillary shills, but now the accusers are in the position of needing to get evidence.

  3. Why doesn’t Google do a class action? The copyright holders are few. The fair use folks are a multitude.

    1. Because the individual circumstances of each case are too different.

      Class actions are not *just* about a lot of people wanting to sue a small group of defendants.

  4. Maybe I am an anomaly. If I am not, youtube is pretty much the end of the music publishing industry as we know it. Until the rise of digital music I was a big CD buyer. Then I became a big digital music purchaser. The last couple of years, however, I have purchased much less digital music. If I want to hear a song, I just go find it on youtube. I still buy music once in a while but not very often and less and less as time goes on. Understand, I at least used to be the kind of consumer who kept the music industry afloat. And moreover, I am not a teenager. So if I am not buying digital music anymore, I can’t imagine teenagers, who have traditionally been the real cash cow for the music industry, are either.

    1. Youtube is only one part.

      Services like Spotify also do essentially the same thing.

      1. I am not familiar with Spotify. I have used Pandora a few times. My problem with Pandora is that it gives you music it thinks you would like. What I like about yourube is you can find whatever music I want at that time. It only suggests similar music. I still only listen to songs I want to listen to. Maybe Pandora does that as well and I am just too dumb to figure out that option. But my experience with Pandora has largely been that it is only slightly better than satellite radio, which is not very good.

        1. My beef with pandora is the advertising.

          1. Youtube has advertising as well but it is not too noxious. Even with the advertising, there just isn’t much of a reason to buy music anymore. And I have the money to do it. If there had been youtube when I was a kid and didn’t have any money, I doubt I would have ever paid a dime for music or owned any music that wasn’t a gift.

            1. Well I was using Pandora in the days before they were really seeking revenue, so I got accustomed to an untenable situation. As for youtube, if you root your phone you can get apps that block youtube ads. But of course my cell carrier likes to shove mandatory updates up my proverbial asshole and I haven’t yet been able to root my phone in a way that lasts more than a few months.

              1. I have AT&T and an Iphone. And it streams really well, especially if it is just audio.

          2. Pandora is really great, and contrary to my usual behavior, I actually pay for Pandora and it’s been worth it.

            1. Diane,

              Can you make your own play lists on Pandora? All I could ever seem to get it to do was give me channels for of music based on this or that artist I liked. I hate that. I don’t want the music they pick. I want the music I pick.

              1. John, sorry for the slow response,

                You can’t really make your own lists on Pandora. You choose an artist or song, and Pandora uses an algorithm to find other music that fits the style and/or genre. It gets further tuned by you upvoting or downvoting songs.

                It’s been great for introducing me to music and artists I never would have found otherwise.

                But it is frustrating if you have a list of known songs you want to play.

                Spotify– as I understand– literally lets you pick the songs and play them.

          3. If you have ad block then Pandora is completely Ad free. It’s so seamless it actually took me a couple weeks to realize I was no longer have gaps in my music.

    2. Damn kids with their AppleTunes and Youtubes. Not on my lawn you don’t.

    3. Gah – I prefer to own my music. Plus I want to take it around with me, so I’m not going to run Youtube or some crap streaming service for that. Although I have used Pandora in the past specifically to discover new music. I wouldn’t use it daily though.

      1. Maybe I have really good cell service, but I find it works fine on my phone, even in my car. I still own music. But at this point I own so much music that I really don’t have much need to buy more. When you combine the music I own with the music I can get off Youtube, there isn’t much reason to buy more.

        1. To be fair, I don’t own my cell phone – work does, so I haven’t even tried it.

          But more importantly, I like *my* collection of music. I am very careful with the tagging and album art. I did find once or twice some really obscure thing on Youtube, and my first impulse is to buy it before Youtube takes it down.

          1. God help me for going all hipster, I am seriously considering buying a turn table and going back to vinyl. The sound from vinyl really is better than digital. At this point there has to be more reason to buy music than just to listen to it, since I can listen to it for free. So why buy more digital music? The only way buying music offers anything that I can’t get for free off the internet is vinyl. There you get the album art and you get a significantly better sound. I wouldn’t buy everything on vinyl but I think I will buy some.

            1. Lucky for me I just missed the vinyl era – I owned maybe a dozen tops and of course I threw them all away at the beginning of the digital era.

              Unlucky for me I grew up in the cassette era. I was only too happy to throw all of them out too.

              1. You can still buy vinyl Rhywun. It is a total pain in the ass. It is however a better sound. Cassettes, however, are utterly worthless. There is nothing good to look back on them.

                1. You can still buy vinyl

                  Don’t I know it – I have hipster friends. Me – I couldn’t care less. I don’t hear any difference, and anyway they’re just a pain in ass.

                  ITA about cassettes. Good riddance.

    4. Also, aren’t the vast majority of songs on Youtube obvious copyright violations? (Not including of course the few songs that artists put up themselves.) I would think if Google wasn’t swamped these would be first thing to go.

      1. They are total copyright violations. Yet, they remain on youtube. So either the rights holders are okay with it or there is no way to effectively police it if they are not. Youtube has been around long enough that if copyright was a real issue, it would have been one by now.

        1. They are total copyright violations. Yet, they remain on youtube.

          And yet the proprietors of torrent sites or megaupload types of sites, are chased around the globe by DMCA hit squads because they’re made personally responsible for the 3rd party content hosted on their site. Meanwhile the google and youtube execs are not held to that same standard.

          1. That almost makes me think Google being big Obama supporters and loaning their IT know how to both his campaigns has something to do with that. But that is just me being THE RACIST.

            1. Whether or not it’s directly related to Obama I don’t know (I also don’t doubt), but I’m certain that google’s coziness with various governments has everything to do with it.

          2. And yet the proprietors of torrent sites or megaupload types of sites, are chased around the globe by DMCA hit squads

            So is the occasional user.

            1. The ones stupid enough not to use a reliable VPN. And there are plenty of those.

          3. Usually the copyright holder leaves it up for publicity purposes. I can’t find the article anymore, but in 2007 or 2008, Disney said it was going to leave up any of its older cartoon shorts they didn’t find too offensive on YouTube, that way they would promote themselves, and provide a source for them. The only time they even take down any of them is when they come out with a collection of cartoons from Disney (which has been fairly rare for the older ones, because I’m looking, and not finding the ones I want to own).

      2. I think they are allowed under the same logic as radio is allowed. It’s free advertising for your concerts, and occasionally folks will buy for transportation reasons.

        1. Except songwriters get paid for radio performances.

    5. The Giving tree at my work had the number one request being CD players. I guess currently poor people are keeping the music industry afloat.

      1. Maybe they are hipsters and have moved on from vinyl to being ironic by owning CDs and Sony Diskmen.

        1. Twelve year olds are a little young to be hipsters.

          1. Sadly, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was not true. We live in dark times.

          2. Twelve year olds are a little young to be hipsters.

            I thought so too, until i saw some of my kid’s middle school classmates.

    6. I love spotify. It is worth every penny of the 10 dollars per month to listen to (almost) any song on demand. Usually the music I cannot find is available on soundcloud. The playlist creation and sharing is fantastic. In the desert, I ran my camp bar’s entire soundtrack off of downloaded spotify playlists on my phone.

      I used to pirate music, but spotify is so much more convenient. That’s how you beat piracy. By offering a better product.

  5. I made a crappy little laser o-scope, posted a video of it scoping out Doin Time. My 1st and only takedown. Was a bummer, but I guess I should have used a drum machine or similar audio source.

  6. This article has nothing to do with Syrian refugees or ISIS terrorism. You know, for a magazine called Reason they should at least have an article or two

    1. Who is Donald Trump? If Reason would get around to writing an article about the guy we might know who.

    2. It is terrible. They are ignoring the Syrian refugee issue just like they ignored homo marriage and Sarah Palin.

  7. My Magic Mike remake can finally be aired!

    1. Magic Mike Mike?

      1. That’s a dick joke.

  8. Comments not working?

    1. All better now.

    2. Yeah, I don’t see your comment.

    3. For a minute there I thought my previous day’s woodchipper comment got me some kind of ban or subpoena or something.

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