NYU Law School's Video Teaching Copyright Completely Flummoxed YouTube's Copyright Filters

from the not-this-again dept

You may recall a few years back that Harvard Law Professor William Fisher had one of his lectures about copyright taken off YouTube by a bogus copyright claim from Sony Music. It appears that something new has happened to the Engleberg Center at NYU's School of Law, in which a panel discussion on "proving similarity" in copyright law (a big, big topic ever since the awful Blurred Lines decision came down), was taken down itself. It wasn't just taken down by a single bogus claim, but a whole bunch of bogus claims ("whole bunch of bogus claims" is my band's name, by the way).

The folks at NYU Law know the law (duh), and pointed out that the use here was unquestionably fair use (short clips, used in an educational setting, etc.) and filed various counternotices. And yet, Universal Music said "fuck that" and refused to release the claim:

Now, it's especially interesting that Universal Music Group was the one who refused to back down, given that it was subject to one of the few cases in which it was determined that a copyright claiming entity must consider fair use before making a claim. But, of course, the court also made it clear that if an entity (such as UMG) chose not to do that, there really was no real punishment.

As the NYU folks note, it was unclear if allowing the copyright claim to remain would result in multiple strikes against its account, given that there were multiple claims made on this one video. The only way the issue got resolved... is that NYU was able to raise enough a stink within YouTube:

This would have been a dead end for most users. Unable to understand how the already opaque dispute resolution process might impact the status of their account, they would have to decide if it was worth gambling their entire YouTube account on the chances that their some combination of YouTube and the rightsholder would recognize their fair use claim.

Since we are the center at NYU Law focused on technology and innovation, it was not a dead end for us. We reached out to YouTube through private channels to try to get clarity around the copyright strike rules. While we never got that clarity, some weeks later we were informed that the claims against our video had been removed.

While some may just dismiss this story as yet another wacky case of copyright gone wrong (or, "yet another anomaly"), it highlights a bunch of key points, including the difficulty in fighting back even if you know things are fair use. But, most importantly, it again highlights the serious problem with the EU's Copyright Directive, which requires these kinds of problematic filters to be on basically every internet platform imaginable, massively ramping up how often we're likely to see these kinds of bogus attacks on speech.

Anyway, since NYU was able to get the video put back up, we can now all watch it -- and I'd encourage you to do so. However, it's a reminder that most people hit by bogus copyright strikes probably don't have the connections to get their videos put back up.

Filed Under: automated filters, copyright, education, fair use, strikes, takedowns
Companies: nyu, umg, universal music group, youtube

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  1. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 6 Mar 2020 @ 4:26pm

    Use of a platform is a privilege, not a right

    This is yet another in the long line of cases proving that social-media sites are completely incapable of governing themselves.

    No, it's really not. If anything it's yet another in a long line of cases showing how screwed up things are with an entirely one-sided copyright law, how there are zero penalties in place for bogus claims and therefore lots of them are made, and how moderation at large scale will result in the occasional screw-up even before the other problems are factored in.

    What do you do when you get stuck on an unredeemable market failure? You end up having to call in the regulators.

    You're solving the wrong problem, assuming your suggestion would even do that.

    Just throwing regulation at it without addressing the underlying issue(zero penalty for bogus claims, plus a massively one-sided legal system that incentivizes pulling content on accusation) would simply add to the problem.

    But, out of curiosity, what regulations do you think would have solved this issue or prevented it from cropping up?

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