YouTube removing Warner Music videos again, not just muting

Chicago (IL) – Thousands of user-created videos, rather just their audio tracks, are once again being pulled from YouTube. Due to the ongoing copyright dispute between Warner Music Group and YouTube, tens of thousands of amateur videos have been removed from the site. Users believe their videos fall under the category of “Fair Use”, but failed negotiations between YouTube and Warner Music have resulted in all content being affected.

Fred von Lohmann, a lawyer for the EFF said, “Thousands of videos disappeared. Either [YouTube] turned off the audio, or they pulled the video.” The majority of the videos which have been removed contain clips of Warner Music songs in the background of slideshows, family videos, or are even videos of artists who simply cover Warner Music’s tracks.

In December of last year, the agreement between YouTube and Warner Music allowed users to create videos which included the label’s content. When it was time for the two companies to discuss the renewal deal, however, it didn’t work out — meaning YouTube users no longer have access to Warner’s music library. As a result, users were now in a new boat. Music which was previously allowed is no longer being allowed, and videos are being pulled because of it.

Warner Music’s spokesman, will Tanous, said, “We and our artists share the user community’s frustration when content is unavailable. YouTube generates revenues from content posted by fans, which typically requires licenses from rights holders. Under the current process, we make YouTube aware of WMG content. Their content ID tool then takes down all unlicensed tracks, regardless of how they are used.”

YouTube is provided with a list of copyright materials. They then comb through their content looking for videos with copyrighted material. When this is done Fair Use is not taken into consideration. In an attempt to comply with the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), YouTube removes videos when it receives notices from content owners complaining of copyright infringement. YouTube users can file counter notices arguing for reinstatement of their videos. Counter claims will be considered within 10 to 14 days. YouTube does not decide Fair Use.

YouTube and other sites are not responsible for evaluating claims once a takedown notice has been issued. However, they are forced to immediately pull content. In the event that YouTube or another website were to ignore the takedown notice, they would be vulnerable to a lawsuit and liable for a potential copyright infringement.

The DMCA contains a notice and takedown provision that is widely considered as a reason why the Internet was able to flourish. The provision gives immunity to different intermediaries — such as ISPs in the event that their users infringe on copyright laws. Companies like YouTube can earn a “safe harbor”, meaning that if they quickly remove material that has been part of a takedown notice, then they are legally safe in the event it is proven a copyright infringement did occur. Users are given an opportunity to prove they didn’t infringe and their content can be republished after 10 days.

YouTube feels it is their legal obligation to remove each instance of material which is reported in violation of copyright laws. Individuals then have an opportunity to file an objection to the take-down notice. The majority of individuals however don’t have the resources or ability to do this. And TG Daily has been notified that some who have had videos removed have even contacted YouTube to prove they have purchased the right to use the copyrighted material, only to then have their video removed at a future date when, once again, YouTube runs its sweeps — proving the system is far from perfect, or even accurate.

In January when the Weybret incident transpired the Electronic Frontier Foundation came forward regarding the Copyright ID service provided by YouTube, claiming that:

“These systems are still primitive and unable to distinguish a transformative remix from copyright infringement. So unless they leave lots of breathing room for remixed content, these filters end up sideswiping lots of fair uses. And that’s exactly what has happened these past few weeks. And while today it’s Warner Music, as more copyright owners start using the Content ID tool, it’ll only get worse. Soon it may be off limits to remix anything with snippets of our shared mass media culture – music, TV, movies, jingles, commercials. That would be a sad irony – copyright being used to stifle an exciting new wellspring of creativity, rather than encourage it.”

Back then the EFF had the opinion that the YouTube Content ID tool doesn’t separate copyright infringements from fair use. Even though YouTube gives users the option to dispute removal, individuals are scared to stand up for their rights without legal help. EFF believes this is going to hurt the future of amateur video on YouTube.

Today, their theory would seem to be proving true. Individuals are nervous they might be sued by a music company. Thus, the majority of fair-use works are removed, and user creativity is squelched.

The EFF provides aid to individuals who have had their videos removed from YouTube in serving a counter notice (contact here). The EFF offers legal protection to as many individuals as possible with the hopes to save YouTube and amateur content creators.