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
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 10 Mar 2020 @ 2:49am


    "If your response to someone telling you someone lied about them is to ask the alleged liar if he told a lie, both a liar and a truth-teller will say they didn't, so this adds no useful information to the process."

    Welcome to copyright law. I believe this issue was addressed - multiple times - when the DMCA was formulated, but the staunch proponents of copyright maximalism writing that legislation kept insisting that actually introducing anything which could serve as a realistic "burden of proof" would introduce an impossible oner on the poor, poor copyright holders seeking redress under that law.

    As a result then, we get the situation above, where dick dastardly always wins as long as he can get a moustache-twirl in sideways.

    And today, of course, no one's happy with the DMCA. The adherents of common sense because it bypasses any form of jurisprudens, and the copyright maximalists because the DMCA still offers safe harbor.

    In the best of all possible worlds where humans aren't actually human, a sensibly scaled-down copyright law might actually work. In the real world, however, we can see that any copyright law at all will be inflated into sheer, staggering insanity as vested interests keep pouring lobbying money into the campaign funds of weak-willed political opportunists eager to sacrifice anything or anyone if it can get them that congressional or senate seat.

    Eventually we'll come to the same conclusion as we did about copyright's spiritual predecessor, the religious blasphemy law of the middle ages - and tear this rancid latest iteration of information control from the tablets completely.

    until then we just have to cirumvent, protest and ignore it as well as we can.

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