The Copyright Industry Wants Everything Filtered As It Is Uploaded; Here's Why That Will Be A Disaster

from the i'm-sorry,-we-can't-let-you-post-that,-dave dept

The history of copyright can be seen as one of increasing control by companies over what ordinary people can do with material created by others. For the online world, the endgame is where copyright holders get to check and approve every single file that is uploaded, with the power to block anything they regard as infringing. That digital dystopia moved much closer two years ago, with the passage of the EU Copyright Directive. At the heart of the Directive lies precisely these kind of upload filters – even though the legislation’s supporters insisted that they would not be needed. When the law was safely passed – despite voting issues – only then did they admit that upload filters would indeed be required.

The parts of the EU Copyright Directive dealing with upload filters are so badly crafted that most of the EU’s Member States are struggling to implement them in their national laws in any coherent way. This means the full impact of the legislation’s upload filters won’t be known for some time.

Until then, we can look at the real-life effects of a similar approach, as used by YouTube. Content ID is a digital fingerprinting system developed by Google at great cost – around $100 million by 2018 – which is designed to spot and block allegedly infringing material on YouTube. Content ID’s flaws are well known, particularly in terms of overblocking perfectly legal uploads. This is the fundamental problem with all upload filters: there is no way that an automated, algorithmic system can encompass the complexities of global copyright laws, which even trained lawyers struggle with. The problem of overblocking is widely known on an anecdotal basis, but we have not had reliable data about the scale of the problem. That has finally changed with the release of YouTube’s first Copyright Transparency Report. The Kluwer Copyright Blog has a good analysis and summary of the report by Paul Keller, Director of Policy at openfuture.eu:

The overall take-away is that automated content removal is a big numbers game. In total YouTube processed 729.3 million copyright actions in the first half of 2021 of which the vast majority (99%) were processed via Content ID (as opposed to other tools, such as Copyright Match Tool and the Webform). And while YouTube claims that ContentID is much more accurate and less prone to abuse than its other systems ContentID has still received 3.7 million disputes from uploaders claiming that the actions (these can be blocks/removals but also demonetisation actions) taken against them are unjustified. 60% of these disputes have ultimately been decided in favour of the uploaders, which means that in the first half of 2021 Content ID has generated at least a 2.2 million unjustified copyright actions against its users on behalf of rightholders. In other words, over-enforcement (both unjustified blocking and unjustified demonetisation) is a very real issue that affects the rights of a substantial number of uploaders on a regular basis.

As Keller rightly notes in his post, the real number of unjustified copyright actions is likely to be larger than 2.2 million. When blocked by the Content ID system, many people will just give up, rather than instituting a formal dispute of the block. Unlike copyright companies’ well-paid lawyers, ordinary people do not have the time, money or expertise to engage in this kind of legal battle.

The figure for YouTube overblocking is bad enough. The situation once the EU Copyright Directive’s upload filters come into operation across the continent will be far worse, for a number of reasons that were widely explored by experts before the law was passed, but almost completely ignored by the EU politicians. Perhaps the most worrying aspect of the imminent upload filters is that they must apply to every kind of copyright material. YouTube only deals with music and video, and even then has enough problems with overblocking, as the new report indicates. The upload filters required by the new EU law will apply to text, images, photos, maps, music scores, ballet scores, software and 3D models amongst other things. There are currently no systems comparable to Content ID for these domains, nor are there likely to be for a long time, if ever, given the huge cost involved in developing them.

Despite this glaring omission, EU Member States are required to bring in new copyright laws, which will inevitably come with upload filter rules. This seems like a huge disaster waiting to happen – all thanks to the selfish desire of copyright companies to control down to the last byte what ordinary people do online.

Follow me @glynmoody on TwitterDiaspora, or Mastodon.

Originally posted to the Walled Culture blog.

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Comments on “The Copyright Industry Wants Everything Filtered As It Is Uploaded; Here's Why That Will Be A Disaster”

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46 Comments
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Samuel Abram (profile) says:

One reason why upload filters are bad

I make music. Some of my music uses samples and I have cleared all of them. AI isn’t sophisticated enough to know which I have cleared and not, so I could foresee a scenario where I have made a track or album of music that uses 1-second samples as instruments to, say, a distributor such as CDBaby, tunecore, or distrokid or a website such as bandcamp, and then the upload filters block them regardless of whether or not I have obtained permission. Considering how much this has happened with YouTube’s contentID, to mandate it by legal fiat is just cruel.

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

Re: One reason why upload filters are bad

And the big record companies can get through the filters because they have people who can be at the negotiating table when the filters get implemented, meaning they can also get a pass when their own content samples without clearance.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: One reason why upload filters are bad

"Considering how much this has happened with YouTube’s contentID, to mandate it by legal fiat is just cruel."

As has been stated so often around the copyright cult, the cruelty is, by now, the point.

Because I note that as usual actual pirates remain unaffected. The victims of this particular push will primarily be the independent content creators.

The intended target gets hit, in other words, because like any industry bereft the actual market need of its services will always go after the mechanism threatening their future business…

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

all thanks to the selfish desire of copyright companies to control down to the last byte what ordinary people do online.

More like the intent to be the only road to publication, with selection of a small portion of created works so that the companies can maximize their profits. Also, while they may be able to keep a work under copyright for a century, for most works it will only be available on the market for a few years.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

I can see the copyright industry pushing for strict liability for any site that does not use a filter that they approve of.

They already do this, and it’s not any more effective than it was before, no matter how much the industry thinks that fervent prayer will make it any more likely to happen.

The downside is that it won’t stop the copyright industry from trying, but once governments and judiciaries realize that trying to placate the unreasonable demands of these parasites is a fool’s errand, we might see some sanity being restored.

Granted, it’s going to be a very slow process. But eventually the likes of Prenda Law saw their downfall once the government and law enforcement realized they were getting scammed. The system demanded by the copyright industry is simply not sustainable.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
charliebrown (profile) says:

ContentID Is Attacking "Bedroom" Cover Singers

It used to just be sound recordings but lately ContentID now matches when "video uses this song’s melody" meaning that any cover version will soon be demonitised. It’s legal to do cover versions yet now a cover version gets treated like a sound recording.

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

Re: Re: ContentID Is Attacking "Bedroom" Cover Singers

There is a statutory license that allows cover songs. Unfortunately, the license information is not available to contentid, while the song is filtered for by it. Contentid is therefore blocking legal covers of songs, routing the income to the original copyright company.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: ContentID Is Attacking "Bedroom" Cover Singers

While technically true (and i am not being dismissive here), how many people are actually licensing anything?

It has been clear that this has been broken from the start, which, oddly, Samuel Abram addresses in the very first post of this comment section.

Most people are not securing mechanical licenses.

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 ContentID Is Attacking "Bedroom" Cover Singe

Therein lies another problem: Not everything is copyrightable, and as I said in the first comment here, AI can’t differentiate between what’s copyrightable and what isn’t; that’s how even my friend Dr. Sebastian "Little Scale" Tomczak had his white noise flagged as a cover song despite there being no copyrightability therein.

ECA (profile) says:

It has been said.

That the perfect way to spy on a nation is to get 1/2 to watch over the other 1/2, while that other a/2 is spying on the 1st 1/2.

And if you cant do that, then get the Corps to Quit hiding their money and using Stocks as Payment to the upper wage earners.

Its amazing that we can see, and Conjecture about What is happening, but those that are supposed to be protecting the Citizens, seem NOT to or Just dont care.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: It has been said.

The modern collorary: get the people to upload everything about them, be it tracking data, billing addresses, selfies, even their private thoughts, onto a social media network like Facebook or some other state-approved accessory ro oppreasion and let them do the work while you write laws that give you full access regardless of what the people want.

Hey, it works for Singapore and China…

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

We already know that existing systems such as ContentID can’t even be trusted to actually filter or determine ownership. Ask yourself: will a "filter everything as it uploads" system prevent abuse such as people claiming copyright and settlement fees on content they didn’t actually create? If it doesn’t, it’s trash.

And the usual IP fanatic crowd will complain that that’s an unreasonable request because you simply can’t prevent all abuse. To which they should be asked: if it’s not unreasonable to pre-emptively prevent all possible infringement, to the point where appeals processes such as those that would supposedly give an out to a "notice and staydown" system are completely cumbersome… why is it not reasonable to expect the copyright camp to prevent all enforcement abuse?

Anonymous Coward says:

Its easy to keep a record of every tv show or movie released in cinemas or on tv streaming service or every offical music video on vevo youtube
Imagine trying to keep detailed records owner ip holder creator of every photo image 3d model piece of art webcomic of the endless content created on the web. Its impossible and who will.pay for all this
Every day theres 1000s of new songs released on soundcloud these are not owned or licenced by legacy music companys
Most singers creators make a few bucks on a song
Whose gonna pay for all the admin to record digital who owns composed song x that was streamed 1000 times and made 50cent fot the creator
What will happen is most content by small creators could be blocked or the money earned stolen by copyright trolls
This will be a disaster also it ignores public domain
laws things like reviews its legal to small parts of a movie for purposes of commentary
Or maybe all eu creators will simply switch to uploading
content to. American websites. Youtube tiktok. reddit just to avoid eu filters
Will reddit be blocked in the eu cos it has no filters. It just has moderators who can block or remove user content if they deem it illegal or offensive
This law is designed for big legacy media companys
its a big fu to small creators or artists

sumgai (profile) says:

Re: Slight Correction....

That should’ve read:

In total, YouTube’s algorithms processed 729.3 million copyright actions in the first half of 2021. Virtually no humans were involved, unless a shamefully wrong take-down was publicized

People tend to forget that where a computer can multiply the effectiveness of a human’s actions, it can also indiscriminately multiply a human’s mistakes. The problem with algorithms (generalized to 1st generation AI) is that they can’t be "taught" the difference between morality, ethics and lawfulness. What’s happening here, with algorithms, is that they are taught "business rules", and nothing else. In programmer’s parlance, it’s a "if/then/else" treatment of a given set of parameters. From our standpoint, we aren’t getting the "else" condition, we’re seeing only "if/then" and no room was made for anything else. I call that a "world of black and white, where’s less than zero thought given to the real world that is full of color".

But cheer up! By the time your grandkids are dead and gone, AI v.14 should be about ready for release to the public. And it might finally get it right, who knows?

Peter (profile) says:

Youtube is a great example to illustrate how ...

… the system will be abused practically from the first second it is there.

In Europe, pretty much any video that is not on the government line with regards to Corona or Russia will be deleted pretty much immediately.

While some people think that is great for keeping "fake news" off the internet, Corona is a great example to illustrate that a, knowledge evolves rapidly. Some of yesterday’s fake news is today’s government line, and vice versa.

And while some of news spread by Russian sources may be propaganda, so is some of the news originating from our side: Freedom of expression means that anybody who chooses do so should be entitled to listen to both sides before making up their own opinion, rather than being forced to have the government do that for them.

By the way, just after passing the copyright directive, the European commission brought legislation on the way to keep "terrorist propaganda" and "hate speech" off the internet. Using, you guessed it, the very upload filter technology the EU claimed was not required to comply with the copyright directive.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Youtube is a great example to illustrate how ...

"In Europe, pretty much any video that is not on the government line with regards to Corona or Russia will be deleted pretty much immediately."

Why do I suspect that the "government line" you’re complaining about is verifiable fact, at least with regard to the pandemic?

"Corona is a great example to illustrate that a, knowledge evolves rapidly"

It does, which is why it’s important to separate "experts in the field have discovered X" from "random YouTuber who discovered he gets more revenue by falsely claiming Y". The pandemic is hard enough to deal with without fiction peddlers getting involved.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Youtube is a great example to illustrate how ...

"Freedom of expression means that anybody who chooses do so should be entitled to listen to both sides before making up their own opinion, rather than being forced to have the government do that for them."

That would be a good point to make…if there were "two sides" in most of these debates. And I’ll take ad notam that the government hasn’t ever come down on any debate not involving hate speech or obvious and dangerous misinformation.

When the issue concerns a bunch of conspiracy nuts and racists insisting they have a right to be heard I actually don’t find it concerning at all that the government has, in many european countries, banned the expression of those beliefs.

I used to hold it as important that the nazis and lunatics were able to say their piece in public so the rest of us could be reminded and warned what sort of monsters and deluded folk were out there. These days however, that’s not necessary. What those benighted morons say in closed chambers will be raised to public awareness soon enough.
That being the case there is no need to mandate that the people with the equivalent urges of fetishized public defecation be guaranteed an audience.

"…pretty much any video that is not on the government line with regards to Corona or Russia will be deleted pretty much immediately."

Ah, yes, the ones saying the pandemic is a hoax/jewish bioweapon/curable with enough homeopathy and that Russia is justly governed under Great Leader Vladimir Putin?

The deletion of those videos aren’t because the tyrannical EU wants them gone. It’s because no platform wants to carry russian shills and conspiracy nuts when it drives away most of the audience.

Nice try.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Youtube is a great example to illustrate how ...

"That would be a good point to make…if there were "two sides" in most of these debates"

That is one of the most important distinctions. There’s usually not only 2 sides to any discussion, so if you pretend any debate is binary you’re already on a losing track.

Then, if different sides are being presented as if they have equal weight, you’re also losing if they actually don’t. It’s important to present 2 sides of different groups of scientists with directly relevant experience and expertise have disagreements.

If, however, one side is experts who agree with the science in their field and on the other side you have a chiropractor who recently realised he gets way more income from his "controversial" YouTube channel than he does in his daily practice, you do actual harm by pretending they have equal weight.

I’m all for opposing views being presented, but they have to have a similar level of credibility. I’m not aware of any credible opposition being "silenced" or otherwise removed from discussion. As ever, if someone has examples they’re free to present them.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Youtube is a great example to illustrate how ...

"There’s usually not only 2 sides to any discussion, so if you pretend any debate is binary you’re already on a losing track."

That too, to be sure.

But the trend right now isn’t that there are more than two sides. It’s that one side uses factual reality as a basis and the other irately demands something be done about the invisible unicorns messing up the equally unperceivable ley lines in the back yard of the imperceptible sky wizard.

Democrat politician: "Let us discuss the deplorable state of health care and the pandemic to which more than 800000 americans have fallen in a mere two years…"

Republican grifter: "Screw your lies! What are we going to do about Liberal Sauron’s man-eating orc horde about to emerge from Mordor and KILL US ALL ANY DAY NOW?!"

Republican grifter #2: "Ah heard they dun trafficked Red Riding Hood! We gun’ defund the poh-leese when dat shit happens?"

Republican grifter #3: "It’s the wrath of GOD! Repent, Sinners! And give all your money to the Chosen One that he may build us a wall against the unholy forces of the mexican rapist!"

There’s not a plurality of sides in a debate here…It’s one side bringing facts to the table and another side flipping that table while belting out dystopian fairy tales and thinly veiled reruns of Der Stürmer. If you could have described it as one side just being less credible I, for one, would be happy.

But you can’t. The reality is that there are no two sides because there’s only one side trying to debate. The other is shitting on the table and howling at the moon.

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