Saturday, April 16, 2011

YouTube requires DMCA violators to attend "copyright school"

 YouTube has taken some more steps to counsel users about the possible consequences of uploading copyright infringing videos, as to what happens if a copyright owner makes a DMCA Safe Harbor complaint and takedown notice.

YouTube issued an advisory posting here.  An account holder sees a notice that her account is not in good standing, and is warned that repeat infractions will lead to permanent closure of the account. And the user is expected to attend “copyright school” and pass a quiz.

The “YouTube Copyright School” video, minutes, animated, with Russell and Lumpy, follows here.


Electronic Frontier Foundation, in an op-ed by Corynne McSherry April 15 (here), has offered the usual constructive criticism. Copyright holders ought to go to school, too; moreover, the video is defensive.  Many uses are “Fair Use”.  The video advises users to seek legal advice when in doubt. In practice, this means, assume “guilty until proven innocent”.  In the fast-paced world of user-generated content, there is not time or funds to try everything  in court.   Generally, you cannot safely assume you can “mix” someone else’s content or repost a media company’s old videos without permission, even though in theory you might win in court on Fair Use grounds.  As a practical matter, ”your” account could be jeopardized by too many complaints, whether legally founded or not.  The world, unfortunately, is often like that.

In the background, remember the Viacom case, discussed April 9 here. YouTube has been accused (by Viacom’s attorneys) of predicating a business model upon infringement. In fairness to YouTube, remember that this case is several years old, and that YouTube has made many technical changes since then to deal with the infringement issues.  A lot is at stake in the Viacom case, including keeping user-content out of the “downstream liability” risk for service providers, which could end the “Internet as we know it.”

I do think that original copyright owners should do a better job of archiving their own content (so that users need not copy it to find it), and of communicating reasonable policies for re-use and mixing without permissions.  That seems hard to do for public companies, that seem caught in the supposed “fiduciary” duty to protect all shareholder property interests in the abstract.  And a few of the smaller media outlets, as we know, have taken to the practice of suing bloggers (through Righthaven) for reposting even without DMCA notification or attempts to make legitimate income from their content first.

“Hot Hardware” has another account of the “copyright school” by “Ray Willington”, link here

Public Knowledge also offers a story, with a critique similar to EFF's, by Jodie Graham, "My First Day ay (YouTube Copyright) School," here. She compares it to traffic school after a speeding ticket (remember the last scene of "Social Network").

Another question occurs to me: what about embeds?  If a video embedded by others is taken down by DMCA, is the consequence for the embed users just limited to the fact that the embeds no longer work, or could a copyright troll go after them?  In the past, embeds have been said to be just "links".  

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