Google’s default response to possible copyright infringement on YouTube is surprisingly mechanical and far from perfect. Consider TMZ’s recent report on the hapless Justin Bieber and his ubiquitous YouTube music videos:
Justin Bieber has been victimized by a brand new cyber-enemy … an enemy who found a way to get every single one of JB’s official music videos REMOVED from YouTube….YouTube has a yank first, ask questions later policy when a copyright claim is made — so they simply pulled the videos off the site … until the dispute is resolved.
Of course, there are myriad problems with such a system, as Ernesto over TorrentFreak elaborates:
YouTube describes its Content-ID anti-piracy filter as a state-of-the-art technology, but those who look closely can see that in some cases it creates a huge mess. The system invites swindlers to claim copyright on other people’s videos and make money off them through ads. It automatically assigns thousands of videos to people who don’t hold the copyrights, and its take-down process appears to be hugely biased towards copyright holders.…
Content-ID allows rightsholders to upload the videos and music they own to a central ‘fingerprint’ database. YouTube will then scan their site for full or partial matches, and if there is a hit the copyright holder can automatically take it down, or decide to put their ads on it.
Although the above sounds like a fair and honest solution, not everything Content-ID does goes to plan.…One of the problems appears to be that people with bad intentions can claim copyright on videos they have nothing to do with, and even run ads on them. In the YouTube support forums there are hundreds of posts about this phenomenon…[although] most of the “misattribution” problems seem to be the result of screwups and technical limitations.
As Ernesto notes in passing, there is supposed to be an opportunity to counter a takedown request under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Unfortunately, Google’s Content-ID system doesn’t work this way, as Patrick McKay of FairUseYouTube.org elaborates:
Instead of requiring copyright owners to file a formal DMCA notice in response to a Content ID dispute, thus allowing users to invoke the DMCA counter-notice process, YouTube allows copyright owners to somehow “confirm” their copyright claim through the Convent ID system and re-impose whatever blocks were originally in place through Content ID. In this case, a message will appear on the user’s “View Copyright Info” page for that video saying, “All content owners have reviewed your video and confirmed their claims to some or all of its content.” After this, as far as I can tell, there is absolutely no way for the user to file a dispute and get their video restored.
Certainly, Google is under no legal obligation to provide video distribution services to anyone who asks for them no matter how contentious the content’s ownership. At the end of the day, Google is a business, and dealing with the minutia of these copyright ownership disputes is expensive. It’s obvious why Google wants to bow out of the fight as early (and cheaply) as possible.
Nonetheless, it is extremely troubling that Google is silencing some users’ speech without allowing them to defend (at their own risk and expense) legal rights provided under the DMCA.