DMCA Double Jeopardy

October 31st, 2009 by oday

Posted on behalf of our friend AJ Mazur:

During December of last year, the YouTomb people helped me with a DMCA issue. I uploaded a remix video involving a Lazy Town song mixed with a Lil Jon song and it was taken down by a DMCA claim by LazyTown Entertainment. A counter notice claiming fair use was filed with YouTube and no legal action was taken against me so the video was eventually restored.

This week LazyTown Entertainment decided to file a second DMCA claim on the same video. YouTube takes it down again and this now being my third strike, terminates my account. It is in YouTube’s best interest to comply with every takedown request in order to obtain safe harbor in accordance with the DMCA, but this specific takedown raises policy issues and may expose a potential loophole in the DMCA. The discussion at hand is if this second DMCA claim is actually legal or not. We can’t find any specific cases where a situation like this has happened before but regardless of the legality, there is a need to revise policies within YouTube or the DMCA.

If there is some sort of “double jeopardy” type provision that prevents a second filing then we have an issue with how YouTube handles takedowns. Many takedowns are processed automatically and clearly this duplicate request was not noticed by YouTube’s system. This gives the wrong impression to users who may have prevailed in the face of DMCA claims, almost as if YouTube is apathetic to what you have done in the past. This also leans towards a revision of the “three strikes rule” and how all takedowns are counted against you, even if one has already been proven in your favor. The question also remains if there is a need to penalize the copyright holder and possibly YouTube in this instance.

If multiple filings are in fact legal then this is an aspect of the DMCA that needs revision. Theoretically, this practice of duplicate filings can be used to permanently take down content without ever having a dispute filed in court. All a copyright holder needs to do is immediately file another takedown as soon as the offending content is restored, and in the meantime there is no threat to the copyright holder to lose in court because it will never get that far since they are responsible for the filing. Even if it were to go to court a copyright holder can just use multiple legal teams to file takedowns at different points in time, each acting without knowledge of the other teams existing. Organizations known for silencing critics or even your standard internet troll could file an infinite number of bogus takedowns and may dodge ever going to court.

There is one known identical copy of the video on YouTube that was uploaded prior to this week and is still live (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJ0AhVyKCLY). We presume this copy has not been taken down because the account it was uploaded with is registered as a Canadian account. Takedown requests in Canada are handled differently in comparison to the rest of the world. If a takedown has been filed with this copy then the actual process may be delayed slightly. To summarize these are the questions at hand:

Is it legal for a content owner to file a subsequent DMCA claim against content that has been restored from a previous DMCA claim, filed by the same claimant, that was successfully contested? If it is not legal, who is at fault and how should they be penalized?

Statistics on Warner Music Group Takedowns

March 8th, 2009 by oday

It is no secret that Warner Music Group is issuing record numbers of takedowns to Youtube but until now I haven’t seen much in the way of statistics.  I decided to conduct some quick analysis using simple measurement tools and the Youtomb database.  I ran my numbers off the production database but it shouldn’t be any different than our public database.  For details on how to access our public database see this post.

To start, I was interested in Warner Music Video takedowns only so I searched the database for all videos where the status was down for copyright reasons and listed WMG.

If you want to run these numbers yourself feel free to submit this query to our public database:

SELECT time_created, timestamp

FROM artifacts

WHERE status = ‘down:copyright:WMG.’

OR status = ‘down:copyright:Warner Music Group.’

I began with a simple test to understand the level of takedowns perpetrated by WMG in the first quarter of 2009 versus last year.  To adumbrate the enormity of the increases here are the yearly totals (remember we are only in the 3rd month of 2009)

2008: 1440 takedowns

2009: 3707 takedowns

In just the first three months of 2009 Youtomb has recorded nearly three times as many takedowns than all of 2008.  The numbers are even more ridiculous when they are broken down by month:

month takedowns

2008-01

5

2008-02

4

2008-03

10

2008-04

19

2008-05

33

2008-06

7

2008-07

6

2008-08

4

2008-09

4

2008-11

13

2008-12

1335

2009-01

3241

2009-02

382

2009-03

84

Notice the bulk of the 2008 numbers are actually in December and arguably part of the same crackdown effort.  I hypothesized that WMG is likely far more aggressive now with regard to video takedowns.  To prove this I measured the “lifespan” of a video by subtracting the date of the takedown from the date the video was created.  I used both mean and median measurements against a “crackdown” date of 2009-01-30.  My assumption was that after this date the official heavy lifting of purging all the known videos would be done and they would start monitoring for anything new.

mean(days)

median(days)

pre crackdown

241

238

post crackdown

11

7

I rounded up into whole days just to make this easier to read but the trend is pretty clear.  Digging a little deeper I broke down the lifespan of videos by month starting with November 2008 (just slightly before the crackdown) and measured the mean and median life spans again:

date

mean(days)

median(days)

2008-11

54

46

2008-12

31

30

2009-01

20

19

2009-02

8

5

[author's note] I realize the use of tables to present data is a crime against design but its really late and I should get back to my studies.  Promise to clean up the presentation at some later date…

Won’t get fooled again, hard rock fans react to Warner/Universal takedowns

February 27th, 2009 by driscoll


“Thanks UMG!” by metallicat511.

There are rock fans and then there are the Living Room Rock Gods. The LRRG is a community of multi-instrumentalists who use their home studios, webcams, and YouTube accounts to collaboratively create recordings of their favorite songs.


“Evanescence – The Only One (split screen project)” by wisa89, vnct, scbene, MusicByJC, edusims, EricSes

In some cases, the recordings produced by the LRRG are executed so accurately as to be registered as a positive match by YouTube/Google’s automated Content ID system. As with many of the communities using YouTube to share their work, the LRRG has been hit very hard by the recent deluge of brainless copyright claims by major media corporations. Zodiakironfist, founder of the LRRG, has already received six takedown notices for his home recordings.

Sad but true, few musicians have spoken out in defense of their fans.

Metallica, still unforgiven for their role in the Napster shutdown, encouraged their fans to upload covers back in September but said nothing when their label began taking them down. Notably, the damage extends to their own Official Music Videos playlist which has all but faded to black.

TRIBUTE is not THEFT

Unlike other fan communities that packed up and moved, the Living Room Rock Gods got angry and organized. They are now posting to a new blog titled, Tribute Is Not Theft and recording testimonial videos explaining their position.

Pook speaks for many of his fellow Rock Gods when he writes,

Please consider what these record companies are claiming copyright infringement on:
US playing OUR INSTRUMENTS…
using OUR CAMERAS…
in OUR HOMES…
sharing OUR SKILLS and OUR TECHNIQUE
with OUR FRIENDS…
We are not against Copyright Law
…we’re against the abuse of it

In its latest post, the EFF echoes many of the same sentiments expressed by the LRRG when it calls for a return to human-vetted copyright evaluation:

The best thing for Warner to do is to go back to how it treated videos before. The Content ID system should be set to flag possible infringing works and then Warner should have a human review those works before they are taken down.

To a piece of software, RushZappa2112′s one-man cover of ‘YYZ’ might appear startlingly similar to the original 1981 recording but to any human observer it is clearly the work of a dedicated fan.

Tribute is not theft. Where are the musicians to defend their fans?

Redundancy is not enough; Embed swaps are a losing strategy

February 9th, 2009 by driscoll

As Warner’s thoughtless copyright claims shorten the life expectancy of YouTube embeds, expect to see more bloggers turning to other services.

This solution keeps the post intact and, in many cases, provides a higher quality video to readers. But, as with all transitions, these improvements come with costs.

In my last post, I showed a screenshot of a blog post I wrote about female MCs in April 2008. Of the nine music videos embedded in the post, five are now disabled. How would swapping those embeds affect this post?

The first disabled vid is MC Lyte’s “Paper Thin”. Following Wayne’s lead, I found the video easily on the comprehensive music video archive MTV launched in October:

MC Lyte |MTV Music

In the months since the instance I embedded was disabled, no one has re-upped a new “Paper Thin” to YouTube but the search results for “mc lyte paper thin” suggest a few promising related artifacts. Among them, a live video of MC Lyte performing “Paper Thin” last year in Houston.

This seems reasonable, right? MTV provides the high-quality, authorized video, and YouTube (true to name) supplies the handicam bootleg. Let’s take a closer look at the numbers…

Comparison, MC Lyte on MTVMusic.com and YouTube.com

Where are the eyeballs? Where is the community? The MTVMusic video’s 142 views may seem roughly comparable to YouTube’s 229 views considering the number of users coming through each site on a daily basis… that is, until you consider that the YouTube clip has only been online for five days!

Searching MTVMusic returns a total of 19 MC Lyte music videos, no doubt a rich cache for fans, MCs, and scholars, but the search ends at official productions. On MTVMusic, you will not see anything like the home video that DJ McCoy posted of a live “Ching A Ling” / “Paper Thin” blend:

Another video removed from my post was a re-up of “Ladies First” by Queen Latifah and Monie Love. I ripped this video from its official channel and re-upped it under my own account because the official upload had disabled embedding. Unlike the MC Lyte video, re-ups by other fans have kept this video alive on YouTube (albeit at lower quality than its MTVMusic entry.)

Queen Latifah |MTV Music

The viewership and participation gaps between YouTube and MTVMusic are much more stark in this case. “Ladies First” has received zero comments and only 83 views on MTVMusic compared with 7 comments and 6,000 combined views on YouTube.

These numbers belie the presence that this video had before the great Warner purge. YouTube generously provides a big hunk of data for users who have suffered a DMCA takedown. Below is a screenshot from the “Content ID Matches” tab in the “My Account” section of my user pages:

Screenshot of behind the scenes on a disabled video

Notice the stats: 28,244 views; 38 comments.

Back in December, I documented my frustration at the loss of these comments and included some of the rich reflective conversation that was emerging around this music video; one that has not aired on cable TV more than a handful of times in the last decade.

Unfortunately, reinstating this valuable discursive space is not as simple as that “Resolve Copyright” button might suggest. Clicking it produces the following notice:

Screenshot of Resolve Copyright page

I can’t really dispute that my video “may have audio … owned or licensed by” Warner Music Group, but I also don’t want my video blocked worldwide. I suppose it’s time to try AudioSwap. What do I have to lose?

Screenshot of the YouTube AudioSwap interface (1/2)

The “I’m Feeling Lucky” button automagically selects “Jane Doe” by Alicia Keys…

Screenshot of the YouTube AudioSwap interface (2/2)

I click Publish, wait a few minutes, and my video is back on-line… sort of.

Hm. If only Microsoft had purchased YouTube instead of Google, we might have an automated Songsmith plugin instead.

Google search results for Queen Latifah and Monie Love

With archives like MTVMusic and fans eager to re-up takedown victims, we can expect continued access to videos like “Paper Thin” and “Ladies First” but do we sacrifice more than convenience by relying on such a rotten game of hunt the wumpus each time we need to find a video? Furthermore, are we naive to expect Google search will remain reliable in the future? What will happen if new pressures compel Google to further filter search results for any and all “content that may” … ?

(Cross-posted to the YouTomb blog.)

YouTube, Fansubs, and a Conflict of Copyright

February 9th, 2009 by alexleavitt

Fansubs: fan-produced subtitles added to original footage of foreign television programs or films.

Most commonly a practice by fans of Japanese animation, fansubs have, since the 1980s in America, allowed fans of anime to view the Japanese-language media and share it amongst friends. While technically illegal [1] in terms of copyright law, fansubbing in the Internet age has proliferated to a point that 1) fans rely on fansubbing groups to keep up with the latest series, and 2) the animation industry has felt the need to form a conversation around protecting their intellectual property [2]. By the end of 2008, the demand for English-language fansubs reached such a critical point that major Japanese animation companies teamed up with the (previously illegal) Crunchyroll.com to distribute fansubs streaming online in a timely manner (read: one hour after television broadcast in Japan) for a fee or after a longer period (one week) for free [3].

In the summer of 2008, I traveled down to Baltimore, MD for Otakon, the largest East-coast anime convention, and attended the Fansubber & Industry Discussion panel (viewable online [4]). After the panel ended, I snagged Interactii, one of the members of the popular fansubbing group Dattebayo Fansubs, LLC [5], for a quarter-hour to ask a few questions, reprinted below:

Q: Can you comment on the fact that Dattebayo, while fansubbing is technically illegal, [is] asking YouTube to follow through with legal actions…

Interactii: Yeah, the reason that we do that is because we believe that having some level of control over the material is very important. So if it is asked of us to stop, we can try to stop as best as possible. And YouTube is so uncontrolled in its methods of distribution and it’s so accessible — it’s accessibly accessible — by my viewpoint. And so our goal is just to reduce that. And it’s also kind of to protect the interest of the show, because it’s not good for that to be on YouTube. Anime companies don’t want it, fansubbers and fansubbing groups don’t want it… we’re all working towards that same kind of goal.

Q: Where do you think the intellectual property lies? Is it just in the fansubs themselves? Or is it in the link between the fansub and the video…

Interactii: From our standpoint?

Q: From the company’s standpoint, because technically the entire use of the episode is not under free use.

Interactii: It’s murky for sure, but we went through the process with YouTube, and we got the approval to do it. We do it on the basis of the translations and the styling of the translations as a thing that’s copyrightable, which is technically under the DMCA, which is something that we can take down. That’s kind of our approach to it, and it hasn’t been challenged by anyone so far. So we’re continuing to operate under it.

Q: What material do you submit to them so that they can track the takedowns?

Interactii: Actually, it’s not tracked by them. We have someone on our staff who has the authorization to take down the videos.

Q: If the Japanese company were to go to YouTube and try to find some parallel between your takedowns and their takedowns, do you think there would be some kind of conflict there?

Interactii: Probably, yes. But I don’t see how our take-downs would possibly be non-beneficial to them. We only remove our content. We don’t remove all Naruto. We remove Naruto with our subs on them; we remove Bleach with our subs on them. It’s only those things that we’re removing, so we’re not removing anything that they might be contributing. So there’s really no negative effect in my mind.

Q: Have you guys taken any legal action against people who try to distribute these videos?

Interactii: We really have no grounds to. We’ve asked places who do that to stop, and we’ve sent people other requests — Please stop doing this. And that’s basically the same course we did with YouTube, and by being persistent about it they gave us the access to do that.

Dattebayo Fansubs, who subtitle the trendy anime Naruto Shippuuden and Bleach, currently rests at the sixth position for most copyright-related take-downs of the videos tracked by the Youtomb project (excluding those removed by “a third party”). TV Tokyo Corporation, the Japanese distributors of Naruto and Bleach, occupies the third position [6].

The conflict between the fansubber and the owner of the animation certainly evokes new questions regarding copyright, particularly because the subtitles remain a translucent layer of intellectual property draped over the original media. Is it legal, therefore, for Dattebayo to claim partial property or legality to a complete (“whole,” “unified”; not “entire”) cultural production? Free use, unfortunately, does not apply in this case. Or, in a more general sense, is it legal to make a claim of copyright where a more legitimate layer of copyright exists? Either way, it is illegal to upload the original animation, with or without fansubs, according to the YouTube Terms of Service, Section 6D and 6E [7]:

D. In connection with User Submissions, you further agree that you will not submit material that is copyrighted, protected by trade secret or otherwise subject to third party proprietary rights, including privacy and publicity rights, unless you are the owner of such rights or have permission from their rightful owner to post the material and to grant YouTube all of the license rights granted herein.

E. You further agree that you will not, in connection with User Submissions, submit material that is contrary to the YouTube Community Guidelines, found at http://www.youtube.com/t/community_guidelines, which may be updated from time to time, or contrary to applicable local, national, and international laws and regulations.

In the contemporary agenda of YouTube copyright, my personal interest lies in a parallel between fansubbed material and Youtube’s trend of music-related takedowns. It may not (but should) be common knowledge that Youtube utilizes its Content Identification system [8] to target videos that contain copyrighted music. My curiosity (and concern) is whether animation studios will submit the original audio of anime episodes (audio that comprises music, actors’ voices, sound effects, etc.) to track more quickly any uploaded content. I wonder too whether groups like Dattebayo could do the same and do it legally. Although they do not own rights to the original footage and audio, could fansubbing groups also use the original audio to track when fansubs are uploaded?

[1] http://www.law.ed.ac.uk/ahrc/SCRIPT-ed/vol2-4/hatcher.asp#legal
[2] http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2008-03-29/tokyo-anime-center-posts-stop-fan-subtitle-notice
[3] http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2008-11-17/tv-tokyo-to-also-stream-naruto-through-crunchyroll
[4] http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/convention/2008/fansubs-and-industry-panel
[5] http://dattebayo.com/
[6] http://youtomb.mit.edu/statistics
[7] http://www.youtube.com/t/terms
[8] http://www.youtube.com/t/contentid

[This article has been cross-posted to the Department of Alchemy.]

Decentralized video sharing should look to blogs for inspiration

February 7th, 2009 by driscoll

Beat Diaspora responds to Blogger takedowns

YouTube is not the only community suffering from Google’s willingness to comply with unsound claims of copyright infringement. Two months ago, major mp3 bloggers discovered posts missing from their histories — occasionally without notice. In a parallel to the user comments removed from the pages of disabled videos on YouTube, Larissa Mann reports that,

“[M]any [mp3] blog sites go far beyond simple link lists, including commentary, images and bloggers’ own creative work alongside music. The blogger’s original work, also covered by copyright law, often disappears along with the problematic link.”

Bloggers like Gregzinho of Beat Diaspora responded to this disrespect much like the migratory YouTube fanvidder, cmspillane. They left a message for their readers and moved to another service provider.

As a follower of both, I found Greg’s move much easier to follow due to the affordances of blogging’s fundamentally decentralized architecture.

Simplified diagram of a blog's output

Nearly all blogging platforms consist of a web server with some software to read from and write to a structured database of posts, comments, and metadata. The public face of this system is configured to output posts in at least two common formats: HTML and RSS.

Both of these outputs conform to widely recognized standards that may be adopted by any software developer who wishes to write a new program to interpret them. HTML, the better known of the two, is the markup language read by browsers like Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, and Opera.

RSS shares ancestry with HTML but provides a stripped-down ‘feed’ of only the latest updates. Regular readers use software and services like Google Reader and Bloglines to ‘subscribe’ to a blog’s RSS feed. These programs then aggregate and organize posts into a single, integrated stream. Subscribers can then see posts from many blogs in one place.

When Greg moved Beat Diaspora, I needed only update his entry in my RSS reader and my subscription continued uninterrupted.

RSS, HTML reading software

The text and images in blog posts are lightly wrapped in HTML or RSS markup tags. (Try hitting clicking View Source or View Page Source in your web browser to see what this code looks like. It is surprisingly human-readable!) Because of the affordances of this unintrusive markup style, if I wish to respond to a post, I can copy, paste, and comment upon the text inside the browser.

Further, as you can see in the screenshot below, comments written on other blogs are linked in the same space as comments made directly on Beat Diaspora. By using linkback systems, blogging software running on different machines across the Internet can notify one another of new references.

Three trackbacks and one comment

The wrapping around web video is more dense than HTML or RSS and requires a small piece of helper software to make it play in a browser window.1 Unfortunately, this container does not permit the level of interaction we have come to expect from still images and text.2

Ever try to highlight part of a YouTube video and paste it into another page? You can’t!

Youtube comments and responses

Unlike the linkback systems common to the popular blogging services, most of today’s video sharing sites encourage centralization by implementing inward-facing commenting systems. To respond to a video on YouTube, you must be logged in with a valid account on the system. Why don’t these services implement linkback systems like Blogger, WordPress, and Movable Type?

Although bloggers frequently use the remote embedding features of video sharing sites to leverage the rich media of those sites with blogging’s decentralized architecture, the instability of data on services like YouTube renders this a short-term solution at best. The screenshot below is from a blog post I made in April 2008. Today, five of the nine embedded videos have been disabled or removed.

Blog post with disabled videos

With the affordances and constraints of both centralized video sharing services and distributed blogging platforms in mind, I wish to begin a wish list for the decentralized future of web video.

In sequence from Tall Order to Low Hanging Fruit:

  1. Copy / Paste, technically possible but quite uncommon.
  2. Linkbacks, this could be an extension of the video response feature on YouTube but would require some coordination among competing services.
  3. View Source; Save As…, already implemented as an option on blip.tv and Vimeo. Possible with other sites via third party software like Miro and DownloadHelper.
  4. Syndication using RSS, Atom, etc., already in place on most sites.

What am I missing? What solutions already exist? What is on your wishlist? What are you working on?

[1] How will HTML5 change this situation?
[2] This post likely rehashes ancient conversations among the Miro team.

Building on centralization in a post-YouTube era

February 6th, 2009 by driscoll

One common theme I’ve found running through numerous recent posts about YouTube is a call for diversity, redundancy, and decentralization in the online video eco-system.

25 ways to watch video online

Regarding the “fair use massacre” on YouTube, Dean Jansen of Miro writes,

“One thing is clear to us: this will remain a problem as long as one video website is as dominant as YouTube. Further decentralization and openness in video are critical pieces to this complex puzzle.”

My first impression is to agree – Hear! Hear! Centralization is bad! – but is this entirely true? What affordances do a centralized service provide that a cluster of non-Youtube video services cannot?

The user contributions to YouTube represent what may be the most diverse collection of video ever assembled. What role has centralization played in its creation?

Alexa scores for YouTube and MySpace in 2008

Before YouTube’s ascendency in early 2006, many of today’s viewers were not watching video on the web. Sure, some were torrenting the O.C. each week and checking Rocketboom on a daily basis but the aggregate activity of the pre-YouTube period does not even remotely compare with today’s numbers.

Whereas the slippery, decentralized nature of blogging initially befuddled some observers and created an unwelcoming insider/outsider dynamic, YouTube’s singular dominance offered new participants an obvious place to begin exploring online video. Centralization lowered the barrier to entry and accompanied an astonishingly rapid adoption of online video-sharing and video-viewing practices. Presented with the permissive text entry fields on social-networking sites like MySpace, users learned how to carry their video data from YouTube into other online spaces. Unfortunately, copy-pasting HTML to embed a remote flash player is not the same as copy-pasting actual video data. As these videos disappear from YouTube, they similarly vanish from any site on which they are embedded.

Christina Xu echoes this observation in her call for increased mirroring,

“Part of the problem (it is actually a feature, but a problem in this case) is that when people want content on their site, they link instead of copy. We need more people to copy if we want this stuff to survive!”

The centralization that initially welcomed new users to YouTube, now leaves the site, its community, and their rich collection of video vulnerable to every frivolous lawsuit, spurious copyright claim, and technical challenge that comes down the pipe.

Fortunately, this problem is not new.

Napster logo

YouTube’s game-changing popularity closely mirrors the life-cycle of Napster first incarnation (1999-2001). Before Napster, a handful of geeks traded mp3 files on FTP sites and IRC channels. After Napster, people all over the world discovered and enjoyed new music on their computers, Chuck D was debating Lars Ulrich on Charlie Rose, and the music industry cashed its last major paycheck.

The combination of popularity and centralization proved to be Napster’s chief weakness and its halcyon days were short-lived. Although its public profile might suggest that the iTunes Music Store is the historical successor to Napster, its limited collection of recordings and imperfect file format pale next to the strange, surprising, and diverse recordings found on Napster 1.0.

Napster’s egalitarian dynamics were lost in the wake of its demise. Sophisticated users now find their way into private, Galtian niches and enjoy the suggestions of mp3 bloggers while the rest of the Napster generation either accepts the limitations of authorized catalogs or risks the viruses, spam, and spyware of illicit music-sharing.

Are we doomed to repeat this unfortunate arrangement in the post-YouTube era?

Will a select few users cordon themselves off into private encampments while the rest must choose between the top-down curation of authorized streams and the pop-up laden wilderness of video link-farms?

Furthermore, if this truly is the end of YouTube, what else do we lose in the transition? What becomes of the millions of viewers who recorded, edited, uploaded, ripped, remixed, mirrored, and/or reupped the six billion videos served by Google last December? How many will continue to share videos with another service? How many will have recorded their last?

In comparing YouTube’s entrophy with that of MySpace, Lilah asks,

“Eventually, though, isn’t [YouTube] going to destroy itself?”

It certainly seems an apt comparison. YouTube is fouling emergent community behavior and playing feature catch-up with its competitors; symptoms familiar to the ends of both the Friendster and MySpace eras.

Social-networking migrants have plent of reasons to delight in the contemporary Facebook experience but how many are not occasionally struck with nostalgia for the anarchic audio-visual possibilities of the customized MySpace profile page?

Comparison of MySpace and Facebook artist homepages

A year from now, will we lament the passing of YouTube’s odd network effects? Will we long for the days when a cellphone video of high school kids dancing in school would follow a multi-million dollar music video?

Or will we have developed a truly decentralized system that encourages communication across niches and provides even greater opportunities for discovery?

(Cross-posted to Todo Mundo.)

Mirror your videos; protect your rights

February 5th, 2009 by driscoll

As YouTube’s instability continues to frustrate community members, video makers are forced to adapt. Fanvidders have been highly proactive in both anticipating and managing the constraints presented by YouTube’s copyright policy.

Initially, vidders developed codes for discussing their videos. panswendyy recounts one coding strategy,

[My friend] uses the first letter of the character’s names, like B for Buffy, so if it were a Fuffy, she’d just put B/F.

Unfortunately, such codes are ineffective responses to the automated Video Identification system deployed by Google in 2007. With no voice with which to argue fair use, many users sacrifice the incomparably large community on YouTube for friendlier service elsewhere.

Before setting sail for imeem (or Vimeo, blip, dailymotion, etc), prolific YouTube users like cmspillane post videos explaining the reasons for their departure. (Ironically, because of its background music, we should expect the signoff itself to disappear.)

In response to an earlier blog post about preserving comments on disabled videos, Dean writes that YouTube might prefer that users are “unable to de-facto redirect to other versions of infringing material.” This should come as no surprise.

Mirroring videos is the most powerful immediate action that video makers can take to protect their rights as authors.

The gradual disappearance of videos from YouTube over the last 18 months progressed largely undetected because of an emergent practice distributed among thousands of community members. A few common searches reveals that the most popular videos are frequently ripped and re-upped under a variety of accounts. Like bees unwittingly pollinating a field of wild flowers, these re-ups are often executed by spammers looking for more hits on their other videos. The preservation of threatened videos is merely a by-product of their unscrupulous pursuit of views!

Moving to another service allows creators to continue practicing their craft but does little to challenge the irresponsible, wasteful industry practice of issuing copyright claims willy-nilly.

Can proactive re-upping and mirroring be an effective response to the accelerating disappearance of fanvids, remixes, home videos, and rare finds from the YouTube collection?

What would an automated mirroring / re-upping tool look like? Could YouTomb data be mobilized toward such an effort?

Remember, a DMCA takedown is not a judgement. YouTube disables access to videos based on mere claims of infringement. If you have had a video identified, the EFF wants to hear from you. Please do not let the short-sighted actions of a frightened industry intimidate you from participating in the creation of your culture!

(Cross-posted to the Students for Free Culture blog.)

Improving the YouTube pages for disabled videos

February 4th, 2009 by driscoll

One seldom discussed effect of Warner Music Group’s locust-like raid on the YouTube community is the loss of video metadata. When access to a video is disabled for reasons of alleged copyright infringement, users see a page like this:

Typical message for a disabled YouTube video

The video is not the only thing lost, however. Along with access to the video, YouTube disables access to all accompanying information: the title, tags, description, comments, related videos, response videos, ratings, and number of views. While S.512(c)(1) of the DMCA certainly compels the wise service provider to disable the allegedly infringing video, they could do so without ripping a node out of the network like a bandage from a hairy knee!

Imagine instead that the pages for disabled videos were rendered like this mockup:

Mockup of an improved disabled video page for YouTube

Although viewers will be disappointed that the video is missing, opportunity persists for continued dialogue. The original poster can use the description box to explain the situation. Perhaps he or she voluntarily removed the video. Perhaps the the video has been moved to another site. Perhaps the claim is being disputed and viewers should return in the future.

Likewise, viewers have multiple channels through which they might respond to the video’s removal.

If the value to viewers, posters, and scholars are not sufficiently compelling, consider that a single DMCA takedown, spurious or not, potentially tramples the authorship rights of hundreds of users whose comments are summarily disabled.

From the YouTube Terms of Service, Section 5:

The content on the YouTube Website, except all User Submissions (as defined below), including without limitation, the text, software, scripts, graphics, photos, sounds, music, videos, interactive features and the like (“Content”) and the trademarks, service marks and logos contained therein (“Marks”), are owned by or licensed to YouTube, subject to copyright and other intellectual property rights under the law.”(Thanks to Alex Leavitt from YouTomb for this research.)

User comments are User Submissions and they are typically non-infringing, original expressions fixed to a medium. In other words, unlike the numerous remixes and home videos flagged by Warner Music Group, YouTube comments are clearly the property of their posters and that ownership ought to be respected.

Rather than frustrate community members with dead-end links and unreliable embeds, YouTube should implement an interface for disabled videos that plays to its strengths by encouraging conversation.

A complete mockup for such a page is included below. Click through for a high-resolution version:

Complete mockup of an improved YouTube disabled video page.

(Cross-posted to the Center for Future Civic Media.)

YouTube fragility weakens media critique

February 2nd, 2009 by driscoll

The length of time between embedding a YouTube video into a blog post and its inevitable disappearance appears to be shrinking.

YouTube takedown prompts Hulu embed

This morning, Miriam from Feministing, posted a critique of the Bridgestone Super Bowl advertisement at 11:24am. By the time I observed it at noon, the video had already been removed for a Terms of Use violation.

Not wanting to lose the post, Miriam responded by replacing the YouTube video with a Hulu embed. Although Hulu offers the surreal experience of seeing one advertisement interrupted by another, it is apparently not available to all Internet users as evidenced by this comment from Crypticfortune at 1:04pm:

For the sake of those of us not in the US, please avoid hulu when possible (it says we can’t watch it unless we’re in the US).

The youtube version (which we can see) is here: http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=IV–ISqrMLs

YouTube’s dominance is due in large part to piggybacking on others’ popularity through remote embedding. Rampant takedowns and “embedding disabled” errors frustrate bloggers and drive them to other services. The quality of critical discourse suffers as bloggers grow hesitant to rely on YouTube embedding for new writing and disabled videos vanish from old posts.

Is there a technical solution? At the time of Miriam’s move to Hulu, other YouTube users had already re-upped the advertisement. Could an intermediate tool (WordPress plugin?) automagically hunt for and suggest mirrored videos in the case of a missing embed?