YouTube creators have long locked horns with YouTube over their whole DMCA copyright takedown system. If you get a copyright strike, it can take ages for it to be removed, costing you ad revenue if you are, say, doing current reviews because everyone will have moved on by the time it gets straightened out. And that assumes you can contact YouTube -- I'm hearing complaints from actual partners that getting a hold of anyone when they have a concern about a takedown is extremely difficult.
The results turn YouTube into a Fair Use minefield. And keep in mind, this isn't someone who bleats about Fair Use whenever trouble strikes. I have done research and offered guidance on the subject of Fair Use, fan projects, and so on as far as someone who isn't actually a lawyer can do. I know the turf. I know where the confusion comes from. I know there are times you just can't win. And it boggled my mind that a humble Polish manga-ka could grasp this but a corporation with enough lawyers to populate a suburb could not.
I've seen the DMCA get used to silence criticism that could cost sales. I've seen it used to stifle competing channels. And I've seen it done just to troll people. The Nostalgia Critic found his review of The Room removed because the filmmaker filed a strike against it. Total Biscuit got this, too. Just last week, some guy named Derek Savage went on a rampage of trying to shut down YouTube channels that gave negative reviews to his Cool Cat Saves The Kids videos. Something needed to be done.
And now, something has.
Apparently, the drop that spilled the glass was Super Bunnyhop. He did a video examining the destruction of the relationship between legendary game designer Hideo Kojima and his former home of Konami. Konami has been busy trying to George Orwell Kojima out of existence, and they filed a DMCA against the investigative report. It seems they filed the DMCA, YouTube took down the video, and before SBH even knew it had happened, YouTube rescinded the strike and put the video up, saying it was investigative journalism and deserving of protection. And that protection is the YouTube Fair Use Protection Program.
So, YouTube has selected four content creators (among them is The Jimquisition). Their videos are now under protection -- YouTube will not honor a DMCA takedown notice against their videos unless the complainer has something actually legal to show (any videos that get the notice will be region-locked, only viewable in the US, but the videos will remain up). And if anyone does decide to take the creators to court, YouTube is pledging $1 mil to help defend them in court. They are emphasizing that this is just the start, that they are reviewing other people to add to the umbrella of protection. Their goal is to create a standard for what constitutes Fair Use on the site (no kidding -- they will feature the videos as examples of Fair Use and point complainers to them). This will create a precident that can be used by other creators and reign in the deluge of copyright claims through a ripple effect. Thankfully, they are choosing people who have strong claims and understanding of Fair Use instead of going with questionably connected creators.
If I had to place a bet, I would say that YouTube is doing this because they want content creators to know their creations are safe there. Yahoo is starting video to compete with YouTube and is apparently sniffing around buying Daily Motion. Refugees from blip.tv have been vocal in how different things are. YouTube has a blue ocean right now, and if they want to keep it that way, they need to let people know about the times they actually handled DMCA takedowns correctly, or their reputation is ruined. So instead of just saying, "But look at all these times we were on the creators' side!", they are looking to codify things, making complainers think twice and giving the people being abused some much needed breathing room.
Now, this isn't over. There are still the problems like the abuse of ContentID or wrongfully restricting works based on public domain. But it's a first step. And a huge one. I mean, they are putting up $1 mil per incident so that creators can't be outspent in court as easily. And hopefully means that, as this starts spreading, these issues will also be addressed. Will it? I don't know, but I'm anxious to find out.
But for once, freedom rings the bell.
And it's a LOUD one.