YouTube Copyright Transparency Report Shows The Absurd Volume Of Copyright Claims It Gets

from the turn-the-hose-off dept

Any cursory look at Techdirt for stories involving YouTube and copyright issues will give you a very accurate impression of the state of all things copyright for the platform: it’s a complete shitshow. You will see all kinds of craziness in those posts: white noise getting hit with a copyright claim, labels claiming copyright on songs in the public domain, and all kinds of issues with automated systems like ContentID causing chaos. That really is a sample platter rather than the whole meal, but it’s also worth noting that YouTube knows this is a problem.

To that point, the platform recently put out its first “Copyright Transparency Report” that teases out all kinds of numbers for copyright claims on YouTube videos. As with any statistical report, how you view it is going to come down to how you want to slice and dice the numbers. For instance, it’s worth noting that over 99% of the copyright claims YouTube receives comes from ContentID, an automated system. More to the point of this particular post, you will likely also witness copyright enforcement advocates focus on numbers like this from YouTube’s own report.

As the report notes, we see low levels of disputes relative to total claims, particularly within tools that use automatic detection. In the first half of 2021, fewer than 1% of all Content ID claims were disputed.

Sounds great, right? Even with some couched language, this looks for all the world like even YouTube is acknowledging that a tiny fraction of the copyright claims are disputed and is therefore a system that is working well. You might even decide to assume that this translates to 99% of copyright claims made at YouTube are accurate and valid.

Except that that is absurd. Vast numbers of people either lack the time, interest, or bravery to dispute a copyright claim like this. Many others may not even realize it’s something for which there is a process to take action on such disputes.

And besides all of that, when you dig into the actual raw numbers rather than percentages, it becomes very clear that YouTube does indeed have a copyright enforcement problem.

Over 2.2 million YouTube videos were hit with copyright claims that were later overturned between January and June of this year, according to a new report published by the company today. The Copyright Transparency Report is the first of its kind published by YouTube, which says it will update biannually going forward.

2.2 million claims were overturned in favor of the uploader in a six month period. Let that wash over you for a second and then realize that, while this represents a tiny percentage of the overall claims, it’s still a huge number. And when you factor into all of this both that there is zero chance that the actual numbers of invalid copyright claims aren’t much higher and the fact that YouTube creators have long complained that this is a massive problem from a process standpoint, well, it again becomes obvious that YouTube has a copyright enforcement problem.

Though mistaken copyright claims are a drop in the bucket on a larger scale, YouTube creators have long complained about how the platform handles claims, saying overly aggressive or unjustified enforcement can lead to lost income. Copyright claims can result in videos being blocked, audio being muted, or ad revenue going back to the rights owner. This new report gives shape to a problem that YouTube itself has acknowledged needs updating.

In 2019, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said in a blog post that the company heard the concerns from creators and that YouTube was “exploring improvements in striking the right balance between copyright owners and creators.”

We most certainly haven’t reached that balancing point yet. I anticipate that YouTube is releasing this transparency report as part of a broader and longer term plan to alleviate the problems this is all causing. If not, then all YouTube appears to be doing is telling on itself with this report, which is not the kind of corporate action I would expect.

Meanwhile, thanks to overly restrictive copyright enforcement, YouTube’s valuable creator base is left waiting for help.

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Companies: google, youtube

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Comments on “YouTube Copyright Transparency Report Shows The Absurd Volume Of Copyright Claims It Gets”

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24 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Its important to note clearly that a number of creators have stopped disputing content ID claims. I have seen reports that because there is no penalty for just claiming revenue via content ID, those on content ID have no incentive to do anything other than deny the dispute. That entirely ends the process. And when the content ID account lets it go, it is mostly (in my limited sample size) because they refused to respond to the dispute raised by the copyright ID match.

There aren’t many disputes because dispuing the claim is worthless. Go back a decade and this report would look very different.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Its important to note clearly that a number of creators have stopped disputing content ID claims. I have seen reports that because there is no penalty for just claiming revenue via content ID, those on content ID have no incentive to do anything other than deny the dispute. That entirely ends the process.

Indeed. In theory the video creator can still appeal, but then the rightsholder immediately becomes free to issue a DMCA takedown. The takedown comes with a copyright strike. Three copyright strikes within 90 days means permanent deletion of the channel. The creator is no longer allowed to make more channels. If YouTube is a creator’s income source, the creator can "choose" to let rightsholders suck up most of it or risk losing that income source permanently. (A "choice" between two terrible outcomes isn’t a choice at all.) In other words, disputing the first time is often useless and appealing the dispute is analogous to deliberately stepping on a venomous snake. Copyright is "shoot first, ask questions never". It’s no wonder that creators are reluctant to dispute Content ID claims.

Anonymous Coward says:

In 2019, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said in a blog post that the company heard the concerns from creators and that YouTube was “exploring improvements in striking the right balance between copyright owners and creators.”

But, but, but aren’t creators also copyright holders?

A better phrasing would be between publishers and creators, as both groups are copyright holders, or has YouTube bought into the publisher hype that only they are copyright holders?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

A better phrasing would be between publishers and creators

We might as well call it what it is: the powerful and the powerless. Both groups are publishing, both hold copyrights, but only one has the extrajudicial power of ContentID claims. If someone uploads a Youtube video that infringes the copyright of a "normal" Youtube user, that user has to file a "real" DMCA claim and probably sue if they get a counternotice (they don’t have a "no, I think I’d be happier with the money" button).

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"But, but, but aren’t creators also copyright holders?"

Well, yeah, but unless you have the spare resources to dispute false claims on the content you’ve created and uploaded the proper classification would be "powerless victim".

A large copyright holder like Nintendo has the spare cash to wipe out a disproportionate amount of less affluent creators just by deploying a copyright troll company with automated takedown claim bots.

Those who can’t afford this will be left spending hours daily to dispute one insane and unwarranted claim after another. Because under the DMCA burden of proof is effectively reversed. Youtube can’t risk any takedown claim being unwarranted – and of course the copyright holders abusing the system know this.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

"fewer than 1% of all Content ID claims were disputed"

Well its not like everyday people have ‘Dancing Baby Money’ to pay for the fight to actually exercise their alleged rights.

"Though mistaken copyright claims are a drop in the bucket on a larger scale,"

A FUCKING WILD BIRD SONG.

"ad revenue going back to the rights owner"

Or to someone willing to put the time into registering as a rights owner & collect cash for months and cashing out before we get around to figuring out we were hoodwinked.

‘“exploring improvements in striking the right balance between copyright owners and creators.”’

Crazy idea, how about fair use be an acceptable response?
Maybe a study to show exactly how much money rights owners are losing when less than 3 seconds of their content is used by others?
Maybe not awarding ALL the ad revenue to someone who claims 10 seconds of a 20 min video?

Until the government stops believing the lies (and cashing the checks and accepting the ‘perks’ to hob nob with the famous) there can not be any serious discussion.
The copyright industry has gone insane and even with the evidence from the dancing baby case the government can’t/won’t admit perhaps its all gone horribly wrong.

If 3 seconds of content can destroy all of the possible value of some content… perhaps we should be asking why offer such massive protections & penalties for something do fragile. Of course if it can’t destroy it, then perhaps saying 3 seconds is completely fair use & see what happens to the numbers.
In 30 years you might get them to expand it to less than 10 seconds of owned content can’t get a complaint.

I lack the will to look at the report (the meds are not keeping up with what I need to function like I normally do) but did they happen to break down the alleged length of the claimed infringements?
We’ve seen stupid claims for seconds before, but how many of these matches are less than 10 seconds?

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"The copyright industry has gone insane and even with the evidence from the dancing baby case the government can’t/won’t admit perhaps its all gone horribly wrong."

What are you talking about? The copyright industry has always operated this way and the system of copyright works exactly as designed. If anything the only bugs to be found is that it’s still possible to dispute the claim made by a major publisher.

Because copyright, ever since it’s original inception, was ever only built to accommodate the major publishing houses.

The idea that it somehow benefits artists and creators is a propaganda blurb tacked on far, far later to make draconian copyright enforcement gain more public backing. And as has been demonstrated for decades, a laughably inaccurate one.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The idea that it somehow benefits artists and creators…

And is awarded to them automatically was the political spin used to get the original copyright law passed. This was done if the full knowledge that all those authors could do was sell their copyright to a publisher. Traditional publishers hate the Internet, because it allows creative people to make a living without them being able to gain most of the profits. Abusing the DMCA allows those publisher to gain some of the profits they think they are entitled to.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"This was done if the full knowledge that all those authors could do was sell their copyright to a publisher."

…which is almost exactly the wording used to push the original statute of copyright back in the 1700’s, in a time when the publisher guilds were a bit more upfront about their business model.
The more things change the more they stay the same.

There really is no excuse for copyright to remain in todays era. I maintain it would have been better by far if what artists gained was to have their works inextricably linked to their name and brand instead, giving them the equivalent of trademark protection. That would shield them from commercial exploitation a lot more effectively while not rendering anyone making a copy a criminal.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I maintain it would have been better by far if what artists gained was to have their works inextricably linked to their name and brand instead,

Which also makes it much easier for them to raise money from people to enable the creation of new works. It is the creative ability that is a sellable commodity.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

"It is the creative ability that is a sellable commodity."

…which of course is something corporations handling copyrights knows damn well which is why they work so hard and lobby so much to make the business reality one where the creative ability is locked in indentured serfdom or a slave contract (looking at you, Sony).

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Well humans are stupid so there is that.

Pity when they are donating to help formerly famous people meet basic needs, no one ever ask how come there isn’t a stream of income from their creations since they are still under copyright for another 100 years.

But then Taylor just records NEW versions of the same songs to get a whole new batch of copyrights & make sure the lyrical history of her having shitty taste in men is protected long after she has turned to dust.

Anonymous Coward says:

If someone claims 1 per cent of a video, send them maybe 1 per cent of ad revenue, also claims of audio under 20 seconds should be blocked ,20 seconds of audio is fair use.why does company x get 100 per cent of revenue for 20 seconds of music in a 2 hour video.
companys who constantly dmca public domain music should get warnings ,eg this video is public domain classical music.please be more careful in sending dmca notices

Anonymous Coward says:

Change the copyright system or replace it with a better system.

In 2019, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said in a blog post that the company heard the concerns from creators and that YouTube was “exploring improvements in striking the right balance between copyright owners and creators.” [Emphasis added.]

There you have it. The interests of copyright holders and the interests of creators are in tension. Copyright over existing works and new creative expression are in tension. Copyright (actively through enforcement and passively through chilling effects) hinders new creativity. There shouldn’t be a "balance" between copyright holders and creators. The default state of the scale should be heavily leaning in favor of creators, especially creators of new works. If a copyright system must exist, it should be opt-in and innocent-until-proven-otherwise.
A copyright holder can control who profits off of something made over a literal lifetime ago. In what area other than intellectual "property" can a person expect to profit off of something they did ten years ago? Too many people dismiss or are blind to the obvious absurdity. Reducing the maximum copyright term length to a fixed ten years would at least make copyright more rational. But it’s still irrational to artificially force creativity to be something to profit off rather than something whose value stands on its own.

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