November 24, 2015
YouTube, no stranger to copyright infringement battles, says it will pick up the legal costs of four video creators that are the focus of takedown demands. The company says it chose creators that used third party content legally permitted under the “fair use” provisions for commentary, criticism, news and parody. The company has stated it wants to protect free speech, but it is also signaling its support to video creators to help build loyalty in an increasingly competitive online video environment.
As reported by The New York Times, the strategy seems to be working. One channel that YouTube is defending against legal action, Constantine Guiliotis’ UFO Theater, debunks UFO sightings by posting third party videos with his own analysis and commentary. The channel only has 1,000 subscribers but has already received three takedown notices from copyright holders of some of Guiliotis’ posted videos.
“It was very gratifying to know a company cares about fair use and to single out someone like me,” said Guiliotis.
In a second case, YouTube is supporting a local chapter of NARAL Pro-Choice abortion rights group, which got a takedown notice from the Ohio Channel, faulting the group’s use of a government committee meeting being used to critique the behavior of some lawmakers.
“We aren’t a large organization,” explained NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio executive director Kellie Copeland. “Having YouTube’s support allowed us to not be afraid and to stand our ground on this situation.”
“We want, when we can, to have our users’ backs,” said YouTube legal director for copyright Fred von Lohmann. “We believe even the small number of videos we are able to protect will make a positive impact on the entire YouTube ecosystem.” He notes that big entertainment companies are not always “the most aggressive” in issuing takedown notices.
But, notes Electronic Frontier Foundation legal director Corynne McSherry, the problem is growing and it’s “become incredibly easy to take down legitimate content.” “We welcome YouTube’s announcement,” she said.
YouTube, which says it may expand its program, just announced Neal Mohan, formerly a top Google ad executive, as its head of product and design.