Google announces legal support for YouTube fair use copyright battles

Google has promised to offer legal support to some YouTube content creators fighting takedown notices.

Google has announced plans to offer legal support in some cases to content creators uploading videos to YouTube who are struck with copyright claims.

Videos, books and other media which use portions of music, television clips and images which transform content into new and beneficial ways -- for example, satire -- are protected in the United States by fair use legislation. In YouTube's case, however, clips otherwise protected by fair use are still often the target of DMCA takedown notices.

Content creators struck by these notices, unfairly granted or not, may not have the legal means to fight the removal of their videos. The problem may end up hurting them financially not only through court cases, but also via the removal of revenue generated by adverts embedded within content. In other words, unless content creators have the capital and drive to fight these takedowns, there is often little they can do.

Google-owned YouTube understands this is an issue and has announced plans to help content creators in some cases. Fred von Lohmann, the tech giant's Copyright Legal Director said in a blog post on Thursday that videos subscribing to the fair use principle -- an exception in overall copyright law -- may be able to claim additional protection.

In the cases of popular videos which are under the fair use umbrella, YouTube will now defend them in court up to the tune of $1 million if necessary.

Examples of fair use videos protected by YouTube include a video which shows clips from a criticized commercial as analysis, an ad created for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign which includes President Obama singing, and a video published by Secular Talk criticizing Mike Huckabee for endorsing an unproven diabetes treatment.

"We're doing this because we recognize that creators can be intimidated by the DMCA's counter notification process, and the potential for litigation that comes with it (for more background on the DMCA and copyright law see check out this Copyright Basics video)," von Lohmann says.

"In addition to protecting the individual creator, this program could, over time, create a "demo reel" that will help the YouTube community and copyright owners alike better understand what fair use looks like online and develop best practices as a community,"

With more than 400 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, the company cannot of course offer this protection to every content creator. However, it is a step in the right direction.

The news was met with approval by a number of uploaders, and while the move is not necessarily enough, it is a gesture which has been appreciated. One publisher commented:

"As someone who has faced numerous false takedowns and a few spurious strikes against my videos (which are works of criticism), this makes me feel hopeful, but it doesn't entirely solve the problem.

YouTube should change the way that they handle copyright claims on larger channels by giving them the benefit of the doubt automatically. Instead of making content creators like myself wait 10 business days to have these spurious claims overthrown, make the supposed rights holders wait to have the content taken down (unless they file an actual lawsuit, obviously). To take that a step further, maybe stop automatic Content ID flagging altogether for these larger channels altogether, so that any copyright complaints against them have to be made by an actual human being."

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