YouTube says it receives millions of incorrect video copyright takedown requests

According to YouTube's inaugural Copyright Transparency report, over 60% of disputes arising from creators pushing back against removals resolved in favour of the uploader.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

YouTube has published its inaugural Copyright Transparency Report to shed light on its copyright enforcement efforts on its platform.

Based on data from the first half of 2021, YouTube examined the three main tools that make up its copyright management suite: Webform, which is available to everyone and accessed by rightsholders who hold limited copyrights and rarely submit takedown requests; Copyright Match Tool that supports those who may find reposted content and need to submit frequent takedown requests; and its Content ID system that supports rightsholders, like movie studios and music labels, who experience heavy reposting or copyrighted material.

YouTube said during the six-month period a majority of removal requests and claims originated through automatic detection by its Copyright Match and Content ID tools. As a result, over 1.6 million removal requests were made using the Copyright Match Tool, while over 722 million claims were made through Content ID, representing over 99% of all copyright actions on YouTube.

The Google-owned video platform also measured how often creators pushed back against removals and Content ID claims they believe were made in error, and found there were low levels, where fewer than 1% of all Content ID claims were disputed during the first half of 2021. Although in cases where disputes did arise around Content ID claims, data from the report showed that over 60% of resolutions were resolved in favour of the uploader.

The report also indicated over 8% of video requested for removal through the public webform in the first half of the year were subject to abusive copyright removal requests, meaning these requests were assessed by YouTube's review team as a likely false assertion of copyright ownership.

"This abuse rate is more than 30 times higher than in other tools with limited access, like the Copyright Match Tool and Enterprise Webform, where it is 0.2% or lower," the report said.

In the report, YouTube also broke down the percentage of copyright removal requests submitted in each tool, where the uploader had responded with a counter notification asserting that they do have the right to keep the video up. For webform it was 5.2%, followed by Enterprise Webform at 1.9%, and 1.3% for Copyright Match.

YouTube's Copyright Transparency Report will be published biannually moving forward, YouTube said, claiming that the findings will provide insight into how the platform's tools operate at scale.

"We are committed to making sure that YouTube remains a vibrant community with strong systems in place to enable rightsholders to manage their content on YouTube, and we look forward to the next update of the Copyright Transparency Report," the company wrote in a blog post.

The release of the transparency report comes three years since internet copyright rules changed in parts of the world. In early 2019, 384 European politicians voted in favour of the 'Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market'. The European Parliament at the time said the directive aims to ensure that copyright law also applies to the internet. It added that YouTube, Facebook, and Google News would be some of the internet household names to be "most directly affected" by the legislation.

Europe argued the directive aimed to help musicians, performers and script authors, as well as news publishers, to negotiate better deals for the use of their works when these feature on internet platforms. It does this by making internet platforms directly liable for content uploaded to their sites. 

It followed in the footsteps of the Australian government, which had amended its piracy site-blocking laws to enable rightsholders to better fight copyright infringement with not only carriage service providers, but also online search engine providers.

As a result of the change, Australian copyright holders took advantage of the amendments by targeting sites that allegedly allowed users to rip the audio content out of YouTube videos. 

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