What I do have patience for, however, is watching videos on YouTube. To be fair, much of what I watch is dumb tripe or trailers for movies/shows. But occasionally I get a glimpse into YouTube’s more sophisticated side and discover some genuinely passionate individuals with real talent. Analysts like Channel Criswell, Digibro, A Humble Professor, Every Frame a Painting and RCAnime, as well as reviewers like Jeremy Jahns, Chris Stuckmann, Your Movie Sucks and the Channel Awesome crew, have all provided plenty of thoughtful, carefully-constructed content for me to enjoy whenever I please, and each new video they make gives me real joy in my otherwise mundane week. I love their work, and I strongly encourage watching their videos when they come out.
I bring this up as both a statement of personal attachment and a segue into what I’m about to say: YouTube’s management is garbage.
I’ve been meaning to write this for two weeks now. The idea first sprung to mind when Doug Walker, aka The Nostalgia Critic, posted a video expressing his frustration with YouTube. Say what you will about Doug as an individual, but there’s no denying his immense popularity. As such, he’s been a victim of many of YouTube’s copyright strikes and claims. I’d go on to explain what he’s dealt with, but he says it so wonderfully in the following video:
I think this is pretty self-explanatory.
If I sound somewhat cynical right now, it’s not intentional. I’m actually relieved that we can finally share common-ground on an issue that shouldn’t even be an issue at all. Because fair use abuse has implications for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you make videos or watch videos, it’s there. And to be penalized for unfair reasons isn’t a good sign. You may not think of it that way, but it is.
To put it into perspective, let’s say I want to make a parody video in-sync with this track from Castle in the Sky. The video wouldn’t rip-off the movie, it’d simply use the track. From a general stand-point, I’m doing nothing wrong (unless you count using the track as plagiarism, but that’s another, much stickier subject for another day.) For purposes of being fair, I’d even change certain aspects of the tune to make it sound more original. According to Studio Ghibli, who owns the track, I’m still in “violation” of copyright abuse, and I could have my video taken down at any moment without warning. I’d then have to either wait until the claim is dropped, give up and stop making videos altogether, or fill out a form and write to YouTube in hopes that the situation is resolved.
For the first instance, I’d be fortunate if it actually happened. For the second, I’d be seen as a quitter. But for the third, would it even be worth the stress? Would it be worth fighting the case and losing sleep and sanity over something this dumb? And what about if the claim does get removed? Will I have wasted my time over nothing?
So I'm sure some of you are thinking that this isn’t such a big deal, and that it couldn’t possibly happen to you. Well, guess what? Studios who make these sorts of claims don’t discriminate. They see a potential “violator” of their trademarks, and BAM! Instant claim. And that they don’t get penalized for it either is adding insult to injury. There are plenty of stories of average Joes having this happen to them every day, we simply don’t hear about them because they’re scared.
Look, I don’t like engaging in misguided political issues any more than you do. I recognize that the DMCA guidelines are complicated. And I’ve been called out enough times by my family for misrepresenting hotspot issues that others take as nuanced. But this is serious stuff. The problems on YouTube are only getting worse as more and more companies see opportunity for easy money, and fair use abuse won’t go away unless we do something about it. So please, please, let everyone you know who uses YouTube about the Trend #WTFU (or Where’s the Fair Use?) I know it sounds like I’m swearing at you, but I’m not. I’m swearing at YouTube for being obnoxious, and so should you.