YouTube’s New Tools to Handle DMCA Claims Could Disappoint

YouTube has released new tools to better handle DMCA claims, though creators could be left disappointed by what those tools are.

DMCA claims have long plagued YouTube creators. Videos get hit with DMCA claims whether or not it contains content the complaining party owns.

Over the years, we’ve seen countless instances of copyright abuse on the platform. In one particularly extreme example, one copyright troll simply made random claims on video’s that person never owned. The troll then demands a ransom payment to have the copyright strike lifted. If the YouTube channel owner refuses to comply, the troll would then abuse the DMCA system further by lifting the address from the system and then SWAT them as an additional pressure tactic. The case was so extreme that YouTube itself actually stepped in and sued the copyright troll.

In another instance, Chris Knight shot his own video of bees flying around. He then took sheet music from the public domain and fed it through a MIDI synthesizer. The music in question is called “Flight of the Bumblebee”. After posting the video, alleged copyright troll, “Adrev”, issued a DMCA notice against the video. The video had all ad revenue funnelled into Adrev’s account, depriving the creator of all revenue from the video in what some might call outright theft. In response, Knight suggested that this demonstrates how YouTube is developing a bias against creators. In that same report, we also mentioned the censorship case Dan Bull faced as well.

Even famed trance DJ, Ferry Corsten, is not immune to the abusive nature of the DMCA system. Corsten, of course, creates the radio and podcast show, Corsten’s Countdown. Producers generally send him tracks so that they get airplay all over the Internet. Despite the authorized nature of the show, two episodes wound up getting hit with DMCA takedown notices anyway. While the disputes were eventually resolved, it highlights, yet again, how no one is immune from the copyright abuse that plagues the platform.

With so much copyright abuse, it might initially come as a relief when YouTube unveiled new tools to handle DMCA disputes. One might greet headlines with a certain degree of optimism. Maybe YouTube is offering a new way for creators to show that they actually own the content. Maybe those who send copyright claims need to prove to some degree that they actually own the content in the first place. Unfortunately, it seems to be mostly about allowing creators to simply cave faster to anyone who makes a complaint – no matter how flimsy the complaint may be. From The Verge:

The new update now lets creators address copyright disputes directly from their digital back-end workspace and gives them the option to trim out the claimed content in question. The “Assisted Trim” option is the biggest feature rolling out with the new Studio update, with the “endpoints of the edit pre-set to where the claimed content appears in the video,” according to a Google product blog. The team is working to allow adjustable endpoints so creators can cut out the specific portion of their video that makes the most sense, but that isn’t available just yet.

Copyright disputes between creators and music labels or third-party companies are a consistent problem on YouTube. The company has tried to work with different companies to ensure that creators aren’t constantly facing copyright claims, but it’s been a tedious battle. Earlier this year, creators specifically called out groups like Universal Music, which owns one of the largest catalogs of songs, for being overzealous with copyright claims.

YouTube rolled out a new policy update in July addressing concerns, noting that copyright owners like Universal now must state exactly where copyrighted material appears in a video, something they didn’t have to do before when reporting a case of copyright infringement.

Creators can also filter through their video feeds in Studio to specifically see which videos were hit with copyright claims — leading to demonetized statuses or blocked videos entirely — much more easily. In an effort to be more transparent, the YouTube team is also showing copyright strikes, which are different and far more severe than copyright claims, directly on their Studio Dashboard.

YouTube also said that many more updates are forthcoming as well.

Essentially, they are now telling you which video is being claimed against. Additionally, they will tell you what part of the work is infringing. Also, when a claim hits one of your videos, you are able to trim out elements that are claimed against so you can re-post it.

In a practical sense, these changes are, at best, baby steps. At worst, these changes are hugely disappointing. While some progress is being made to address certain issues, the system still automatically assumes that the complaining party is right and honest. As we’ve noted above, that is not always the case. It simply fails to address the issue of trolls claiming copyright over videos they have no actual ownership over.

In the Knight case, a small portion of the music was claimed. The actual sheet music was repeated many times over. Presumably, this is so that the “company” can simply return to the video and claim a different part of the video, issuing never-ending complaints until the video is beaten into submission or the creator forks over all revenue.

With all of the above examples, these changes would only help solve the last one – the Corsten case. In that case, more transparency would be put in place to determine which work is being claimed against. After that, a small portion of the video could be muted or removed entirely. It would make for a messy transition with time-stamps with the remaining video, but it would at least be, in theory, manageable. With all of the other cases we’ve noted above, it would mean exactly squat for the creators in question. They would still be in the same boat of having to deal with a copyright troll making questionable claims on YouTube and getting away with it.

So, while the idea of YouTube trying to fix the copyright mess might be welcome news, the changes released so far are likely to disappoint. It’ll be interesting to see if the problem of false copyright claims gets addressed to some degree. Unfortunately, so far, creators will have to wait even longer for a resolution on that.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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