YouTube copyright issues

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YouTube has various copyright protection methods, such as copyright strikes, Content ID and Copyright Verification Program. However over the years these have been criticized for favoring corporations and unfair claims on videos.

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.[1] 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.[2] 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'.[3]

2013 controversy[edit]

At the end of 2013, YouTube enabled automated Content ID claiming on videos uploaded by users who were signed with multi-channel networks (MCN).[4] 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.[5]

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[edit]

Popular YouTubers the Fine Brothers, received criticism for their attempts to trademark and license content. Specifically, the brothers, who produce multiple series of "reaction videos", applied for trademarks in 2015 for the word "react" along with the names of their different series such as "Kids React" and "Adults React".[6]

By having these terms trademarked, the Fine Bros. could use Youtube's copyright system to help them remove videos similar to their own.[6]

In 2016, they announced React World, a program where people could use the Fine Bros.'s icons to make their own videos for free, but there were limitations that their content must be monetized on YouTube (with Google AdSense) and that the Fine Bros. would take some of the money that the creator made.[6] 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 more than 400,000 subscribers, by some accounts.[6] Due to the criticism, the Fine Bros. also rescinded their trademarks and applications.[6]

2015–present fair use controversy[edit]

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.[7] 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.[8][9]

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".[10]

On the May 24, 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".[11] 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.[12]

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 monetizing the video by including other material which was similarly flagged by Content ID, hoping that multiple claims would prevent anyone from monetizing the video and running advertisements on his channel, which is intended to be ad-free and funded solely by Patreon.[13] 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 monetize the video, while two others prevented any monetization, 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 monetization 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.

On December 13, 2018, TheFatRat posted on Twitter that one of his songs, "The Calling", was content claimed by a user named Ramjets for unfairly using a song on the behalf of Andres Galvis, who had remixed the original track[14]. He originally appealed, but was denied as it is not YouTube, but the user claiming the content who has the final say over the appeal. He messaged YouTube to appeal, but YouTube said that they do not mediate copyright claims.

On Jan 30, 2019, ObbyRaidz, a channel with 6000 subscribers, tweeted that someone called VengefulFlame had messaged him saying that they had put two copyright strikes on his channel (he did not infringe on any content) telling him to pay $150 to get the strikes removed, or else his channel would receive a third strike and be taken down. When he tweeted it, VengefulFlame messaged him: "Hey, we saw you tweet about us, Not sure why you thought that was a good idea or if you thought you would remotely get any help, but this has violated any potential deal. Enjoy your third copyright strike." Kenzo, a channel with 60000 subscribers, said the VengefulFlame also messaged him to tell him to pay $600 or $400 worth of bitcoin and said they were paid by someone else to strike him.[15] YouTube however, stepped in and resolved the strike and terminated the channel.

In January 2020, Jukin Media has been criticized for extorting YouTubers (MxR and Potastic Panda) that they don't pay $6,000 for copyright infringement. In this case, one of the pair's reaction videos saw them watch four clips recently bought by Jukin Media, which has promptly issued them with an invoice for four cases of infringing on its copyright. Jukin Media scouts for online videos going viral and licenses them. Liang expressed concern in a video posted on January 13, 2020 that the pair were being "extorted" and could lose their channel if Jukin Media contacted Google with all four claims at once, as this could potentially break YouTube's "three strikes" rule. He added that the pair had previously paid Jukin Media when it demanded cash for copyrighted material.[16][17][18]


  1. ^ "What is copyright?".
  2. ^ "YouTube's Approach To Copyright Claims Could Scare Off Streamers".
  3. ^ "Youtube and the dreaded third party content match".
  4. ^ Campbell, Colin (December 11, 2013). "YouTube defends copyright crackdown". Polygon. Retrieved May 7, 2016.
  5. ^ Vargas, Joe (December 11, 2013), Youtube Copyright Disaster! Angry Rant, retrieved May 7, 2016
  6. ^ a b c d e "The Fine Brothers tried to trademark YouTube reaction videos. The backlash changed their minds". Vox. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  7. ^ Foxworth, Chris (November 13, 2015). "Daddy Derek: The Wiseau-Tier filmmaker and his fall from viral fame to viral hatred". TheFoxworth. Retrieved March 22, 2016.
  8. ^ Butler, Mark (February 4, 2016). "The Trouble With YouTube". Wow 24/7. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  9. ^ Chingcuangco, Alexi (February 21, 2016). "YouTube Fair Use: Nostalgia Critic, Alex of I Hate Everything, Markiplier Rally Against Unjust Copyrights". Morning Ledger. Retrieved March 22, 2016.
  10. ^ Tamburro, Paul (February 27, 2016). "YouTube Responds to #WTFU, Claims it Will "Strengthen Communication with Creators"". Retrieved March 22, 2016.
  11. ^ "GoFundMe For H3h3productions' Copyright Suit Raises $100,000 From Philip DeFranco, Markiplier, PewDiePie". Tubefilter. May 26, 2016. Retrieved December 14, 2016.
  12. ^ h3h3Productions (May 26, 2016), A New Chapter for Fair Use on YouTube, retrieved December 14, 2016
  13. ^ Hernandez, Patricia (April 27, 2016). "Game Critic Uses Brilliant Workaround For YouTube's Copyright Bullshit". Kotaku. Retrieved June 2, 2016.
  14. ^ Katzowitz, Josh (December 18, 2018). "YouTube stars say unfair copyright claims are making their lives hell". The Daily Dot. Retrieved February 8, 2019.
  15. ^ Katzowitz, Josh (January 30, 2019). "2 YouTubers say their channels were threatened by an extorter". The Daily Dot.
  16. ^ Wood, Charlie (January 14, 2020). "Two YouTubers with 2 million subscribers face a $6,000 bill over a copyright complaint and risk losing their channel if they don't pay up". Business Insider.
  17. ^ Gerken, Tom (January 13, 2020). "YouTubers face £4,600 bill over copyright claims". BBC News.
  18. ^ MxR Playz (January 10, 2020). "We're being taken advantage of and we don't know what to do anymore". YouTube.