YouTube is offering legal support to some of its creators facing copyright challenges.
More than 400 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. That means that you will never be able to watch everything on YouTube. So to enforce intellectual property rights, an automated system is in place to detect unauthorised use of existing content, such as clips from TV or music.
But there’s a loophole in the legal system called “Fair Use” (or, in the UK, “Fair Dealing”), which allows work to reuse existing content in a variety of circumstances, from news reporting to something inadvertently or unintentionally captured in the background. In the case of parody and satirical content, Fair Use is vital to free speech and allowing for creativity to flourish. From now on, YouTube says it will protect some of the best examples of Fair Use clips on YouTube, even to the extent of defending them in court.
The announcement by YouTube arrives at a time when copyright is more topical than ever, thanks to both piracy and, in the vlogging industry, the republishing of other people’s content without their permission – for example, a YouTube video being uploaded to someone else’s Facebook page. Facebook has come under fire for its lack of IP protection, something that YouTube has long enforced. While Facebook hastily develops its own content recognition software, YouTube is taking a step back to look at the bigger picture of copyright on the web – and reinforcing the sense of community and support that it has cultivated around its creators.
The legal support will not be for everyone – YouTube says it will only be for “a handful of videos” that “represent clear fair uses which have been subject to DMCA takedowns”. In these instances, YouTube will keep the videos live in the US and feature them in the YouTube Copyright Centre playlist as key examples of Fair Use and cover the cost of any 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,” says YouTube. “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 defines, we’ll continue to resist legally unsupported DMCA takedowns as part of our normal processes,” adds the site. “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.”