YouTube Steps Up to Defend Fair Use

YouTube Steps Up to Defend Fair Use

By defending users from DMCA takedowns, Google hopes to protect free speech... and its video platform.

For YouTube content creators, "DMCA" is a four-letter word—not just a four letter abbreviation.

While content owners should have every right to defend themselves from piracy, recent events have shown us the infamous DMCA strike—referring to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act—has been used to silence unpopular opinions, and somtimes, is applied to videos for seemingly arbitrary reasons. One of the more infamous cases of questionable YouTube DMCA strikes happened this May, when a video looking into the recent Hideo Kojima drama was hit with a copyright claim by Konami.

Regardless of the circumstances that lead to a DMCA strike, YouTubers have little recourse when dealing with massive companies, who aren't required to work with users of the platform, or provide specifics about what could get their videos reinstated. Thankfully, Google is beginning to recognize how these broadly applied strikes could affect the future of its video platform, and have agreed to defend a handful of videos with DMCA strikes that break no fair use laws in the eyes of the company. According to a post by Google copyright legal director Fred von Lohmann on the site's public policy blog:

We are offering legal support to a handful of videos that we believe represent clear fair uses which have been subject to DMCA takedowns. With approval of the video creators, we’ll keep the videos live on YouTube in the U.S., feature them in the YouTube Copyright Center as strong examples of fair use, and cover the cost of any copyright lawsuits brought against them.

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...

While we can’t offer legal protection to every video creator—or even every video that has a strong fair use defense—we’ll continue to resist legally unsupported DMCA takedowns as part of our normal processes. We believe even the small number of videos we are able to protect will make a positive impact on the entire YouTube ecosystem, ensuring YouTube remains a place where creativity and expression can be rewarded.

It's a smart move by Google, both in terms of their business and free speech. Pragmatically speaking, it's clear they're trying to keep their platform viable in the face of rights holders who don't quite understand the DMCA, or want to exploit it to prevent YouTube users from doing potential harm to their brands. In a larger sense, though, it's good for all of us as well; YouTube is a ten-year-old platform whose potential is just starting to be tapped, and, as with the early days of the Internet, taking steps to promote the free exchange of ideas is incredibly important. I guess we'll see how committed Google is to these principles should any of the DMCA-strike-happy companies they've dealt with actually decide to settle things in court.

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