Millions of people use YouTube to share their creations with the world, as commentary, entertainment, education, or for any other purpose they see fit.
In most cases, these videos remain online without any issues. However, for some creators, YouTube’s copyright enforcement is causing a mess, one that severely affects their day-to-day activities.
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We’ve repeatedly covered problems with YouTube’s Content-ID system dating as far back as eight years ago. Most of these issues are the result of overbroad filters, often when YouTube finds a copyright match where it shouldn’t.
However, the problems go much deeper than random ‘bot’ mistakes. YouTube allows certain copyright holders to make “manual” Content-ID claims as well. This allows them to flag content that’s not caught by Content-ID. However, despite the fact that these claims are reviewed by a person, some are rather frivolous.
In some instances, it appears that just mentioning the title of an artist or song can result in a manual copyright claim, even though the audio itself isn’t used in the video.
After many YouTube creators bitterly complained about these types of abuse, which deprives them of revenue, YouTube is beginning to change its policies.
“One concerning trend we’ve seen is aggressive manual claiming of very short music clips used in monetized videos. These claims can feel particularly unfair, as they transfer all revenue from the creator to the claimant, regardless of the amount of music claimed,” the YouTube team explains.
Last month the video service took the first step by requiring copyright holders to provide timestamps for all manual claims, precisely identifying what they see as infringing. This week, the company goes a step further.
In an effort to create a fairer creator ecosystem, YouTube will soon forbid copyright holders from using the manual claiming process to monetize videos that feature short or unintentional music fragments.
This means, for example, that a three-second music clip in a longer video can no longer be claimed this way. The same would likely be true for a song that unintentionally plays in the background on a TV or radio.
The YouTube team notes that these additional changes are intended to improve fairness in the creator ecosystem. The company hopes that it will ultimately lead to fewer unfair and aggressive practices by some rightsholders.
In addition, the policy update also copes with a stick for rightsholders, which is relatively rare for YouTube. Those rightsholders who repeatedly violate the new policy can lose their manual Content-ID claiming rights.
“Once we start enforcement, copyright owners who repeatedly fail to adhere to these policies will have their access to Manual Claiming suspended,” YouTube writes.
While this change is a big step, it only impacts a relatively small number of claims. Automated Content-ID claims, which represent the vast majority, are not affected by the policy update.
In addition, copyright holders can still manually claim short or unintentional uses of their work. However, instead of taking the monetization option, they can choose to prevent any type of monetization of the video, or block it altogether.
It remains to be seen how happy video creators will be with this new policy once it goes into effect mid-September. In theory, the result could see more videos get blocked, as YouTube recognizes.
“We acknowledge that these changes may result in more blocked content in the near-term, but we feel this is an important step toward striking the right balance over the long-term. Our goal is to unlock new value for everyone by powering creative reuse and content mashups, while fairly compensating all rightsholders,” the YouTube team concludes.
Time will tell whether the changes have the intended effect, or if the current problems will persist.