We’ve been reporting on the latest round of arguments between the music industry and YouTube over the latter’s music payouts and its safe-harbour protection.
YouTube’s music boss Christophe Muller had his say in an opinion piece published last month, but the latest attack on YouTube from Irving Azoff has sparked a response from influential YouTuber Hank Green, co-founder of the VidCon conference, with an op-ed on tech site Recode.
Green is firmly in YouTube’s corner in this fight, describing its ContentID technology as “amazing… not an expensive game of whack-a-mole, it’s 100 percent automated” while criticising music rightsholders’ claims that keeping copyrighted songs off YouTube is expensive and time-consuming.
“If you don’t want your song on YouTube, upload it into the ContentID database and issue a blanket takedown for all videos using that song,” wrote Green. “Boom. Done. And yet, this is done only very rarely.”
Green also raised an issue that has been bubbling in the background of these disputes: fair use. “When Mr. Azoff bemoans that it is possible for YouTube creators to question a record label’s takedown of their video, that freaks me out. What if the use of that song is legitimately fair use?” he asked.
“What if it was falsely claimed because they chose the wrong title for their video? Should there be no repercussion for independent creators? Should we only protect the rights of content owners who happen to be represented by major media companies?”
It’s true there has been discontent from a number of YouTube creators about how ContentID works on that front: the video service recently announced that it will soon be holding ad revenues for videos that are subject to a ContentID dispute to ensure creators don’t lose out in the event of false claims.
In November 2015, meanwhile, it announced that it would start offering legal support to “a handful of videos that we believe represent clear fair uses which have been subject to DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedowns”.
This is the steel behind YouTube’s friendlier arguments that a big chunk of the $3bn revenues it has paid to music rightsholders came through ContentID.
Green’s intervention is carefully timed, and he can’t be written off as a music ingénue, since he has released his own songs and even run a label (DFTBA Records) focused on YouTube musicians.
Even so, his op-ed piece is a reminder that the way ContentID works evokes strong (not always positive) feelings within the YouTube community, as well as within music circles.