Rear Left

YouTube Takedown, Part II

Posted in The Law is an Ass by rearleft on April 2, 2009

Universal Music Group and YouTube continue to block the exhibition of Pipeline. In case you missed it, Part I of the story here.

Following a failed dispute through YouTube’s built-in process, I did a bit of searching around and found the requirements for a DMCA counter-takedown notice and dutifully fired off a letter to YouTube’s copyright department, hoping that they would recognize that this was a legitimate case of  fair use. They promptly acknowledged receipt of my letter, as they are required to do by the DMCA, and seemed to say in their response that the decision to put the video back up was out of their hands, but that they would forward my assertion of fair use to UMG. They even had the nerve to refer me back to square one, their own page advising how to respond to a takedown.

A few days later, this notice appeared on Pipeline‘s status page…


…which is not even correct. The video has not been muted, it’s been taken down.

I understand I’ve probably earned Global Action Project a strike in YouTube’s shitlist. Two more and they take down our channel! My organization has no budget for hiring lawyers to take on these HUGE corporations, so I’m in the process of looking for someone to give us some proper legal advice and potentially write a heavier letter than my dinky form letter. I’ve written to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, but I’m sure that they’re absolutely inundated with complaints like this one following YouTube’s recent takedown rampage. I’m hoping that this case stands out because of its implications for the entire youth media field.

If these corporations cannot be held accountable, the repercussions for youth producers and their educators, mentors, or facilitators  are remarkable. The laws might say very noble things about the safeguarding of public interest, but if it takes a team of lawyers and many hours of my work to deal with a benign case like this, then the protections in law are not worth a damn.

One of my tasks before I leave this job is to help develop internal guidelines for the handling of copyright material that is consistent with fair use provisions of the law. Unless I see some remedy to the situation in the next few weeks, I will be forced to advise that neither US copyright law, nor the guidelines developed by the Center for Social Media are what we should look to as our guide (unless the producers and their educators are prepared to go into battle over each instance). I’m not about to tell teenagers that the law will protect them when I am not at all convinced that it will. Similarly, the prospect of getting an exemption from DMCA for our organization, or even for the whole field would be unsatisfactory because I see no point in training young people in a method that is not applicable once they transition out of the educational setting.

And yes, we could just pack up and leave YouTube for another platform, but right now that’s where the audience is and there’s no guarantee that another platform won’t turn around and pull the same moves. For now I’ll contiue fighting this fight, because I’d love to set a precedent to save other people from having to deal with this nonsense. I’m afraid that what is really needed here is a humiliating loss for the corporations in the courts, preferably with a large sum of money attached to make them actually notice, and to offset some of the harm that this has done.

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