A Step Toward Protecting Fair Use on YouTube

h13tuhz14ceqcmsazeb5By Juliya Ziskina

Since its beginning, YouTube has been involved in battles over copyright infringement, and over the years, YouTube has increased its policing of pirated material. The most common cases of copyright infringement involve using songs in a film or video without permission of the copyright holder, or placing segments of movies or music videos on websites where it is easy for the public to download them. Therefore, the giants of the entertainment industry have begun cracking down on websites such as YouTube.

YouTube, in response to these accusations, started to remove videos that may use segments of music or film without the copyright owner’s permission. Fan videos that incorporate a celebrity picture slideshow using a song as the primary audio track and videos of musicians playing covers of famous songs are common examples of videos that have been deleted from YouTube as a result of alleged copyright infringement. However, a widely known example of proper fair use is, for instance, a segment by the TV host Stephen Colbert that rebroadcasts cable news clips for the comedian to react to.

Too often, the company says, the demands of copyright holders to take down videos go too far. As a result, YouTube took the unusual step of financially backing creators so they can fight back.

On November 18, 2015, YouTube announced a new program to help users fight back against outrageous copyright threats. The company has created a “Fair Use Protection” program that will cover the legal costs of users who, in the company’s view, have been unfairly targeted for takedown.

According to the program, when the company notices that a video targeted for takedown is clearly a lawful fair use, it may choose to offer the user the option of enrolling the video into the program. If the user decides to join, the video will stay up in the United States and, if the rightsholder sues, YouTube will provide assistance of up to $1 million dollars in legal fees.

The company cannot offer legal protection to every video with a strong fair-use defense, but YouTube’s copyright director Von Lohmann writes that “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.”

YouTube is starting small, initially supporting four video creators, but it said it might expand its program. A game reviewer, a UFO debunker, an Ohio pro-choice group, and a commentator and comedian made the first four videos in the program.

If YouTube is successful in defending the videos, it could end up as a growing and significant library of what constitutes fair use in the digital age. This is a positive step for YouTube, and we may hopefully see the program inspiring other service providers on the web to follow its lead.

Image Source: youtube.com.

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