from the 'bout-time dept
Hopefully, you will recall our discussion about one YouTuber, Totally Not Mark, suddenly getting flooded with 150 copyright claims on his YouTube channel all at once from Toei Animation. Mark’s channel is essentially a series of videos that discuss, critique, and review anime. Toei Animation produces anime, including the popular Dragon Ball series. While notable YouTuber PewDiePie weighed in with some heavy criticism over how YouTube protects its community in general from copyright claims, the real problem here was one of location. Matt is in Ireland, while Toei Animation is based out of Japan. Japan has terrible copyright laws when it comes to anything resembling fair use, whereas Ireland is governed by fair dealing laws. In other words, Matt’s use was just fine in Ireland, where he lives, but would not be permitted in Japan. Since YouTube is a global site, takedowns have traditionally been global.
Well, Matt has updated the world to note that he was victorious in getting his videos restored and cleared, with a YouTube rep working directly with him on this.
But shortly after, as Fitzpatrick revealed in a new video providing an update on the legal saga, someone “high up at YouTube’’ who wished to remain anonymous, reached out to him via Discord. Fitzpatrick said the contact not only apologized for his situation not being addressed sooner, but divulged a prior conflict between YouTube and Toei regarding his videos fair use status.
“I’m not going to lie, hearing a human voice that felt both sincerely eager to help and understanding of this impossible situation felt like a weight lifted off my shoulders,” Fitzpatrick said.
Hey, Twitch folks, if you’re reading this, this is how it is done. But it isn’t the whole story. Before the videos were claimed and blocked, Toei had requested that YouTube manually take Matt’s videos offline. YouTube pushed back on Toei, asking for more information on its requested takedowns, specifically asking if the company had considered fair use/fair dealing laws in its request. Alongside that, YouTube also asked Toei to provide more information as to what and why Matt’s videos were infringing. Instead of complying, Toei utilized YouTube’s automated tools to simply claim and block those 150 videos.
The following week, a game of phone tag ensued between Toei, the Japanese YouTube team, the American YouTube team, Fitzpatrick’s YouTube contact, and himself to reach “some sort of understanding” regarding his copyright situation. Toei ended up providing a new list of 86 videos of the original 150 or so that the company deemed should not remain on YouTube, a move Fitzpatrick described as “baffling” and “inconsistent.” Toei, he concludes, has no idea of the meaning of fair use or the rules the company wants creators to abide by.
“Contained in this list was frankly the most arbitrary assortment of videos that I had ever seen,” he said. “It honestly appeared as if someone chose videos at random as if chucking darts at a dart board.”
While Matt regained control of his videos thanks to his work alongside the YouTube rep, he was still in danger of Toei filing a lawsuit in Japan that he would almost certainly lose, given that country’s laws. Fortunately, YouTube has a method for blocking videos based on copyright claims in certain countries for these types of disputes. The Kotaku post linked above suggests that this method is brand new for YouTube, but it isn’t. It’s been around for a while but, somewhat amazingly, it appears to have never been used specifically when it comes to copyright laws in specific countries.
YouTube’s new copyright rule allows owners like Toei to have videos removed from, say, Japan’s YouTube site, but said videos will remain up in other territories as long as they fall under the country’s fair use policies. To have videos removed from places with more allowances for fair use, companies would have to argue their cases following the copyright laws of those territories.
And so Matt’s review videos remain up everywhere except in Japan. That isn’t a perfect solution by any stretch, but it seems to be as happy a middle ground as we’re likely to find given the circumstances. Those circumstances chiefly being that Toei Animation for some reason wants to go to war with a somewhat popular YouTuber who, whatever else you might want to say about his content, is certainly driving interest publicly in Toei’s products, for good or bad. This is a YouTuber the company could have collaborated with in one form or another, but instead it is busy burning down bridges.
“Similarly to how video games have embraced the online sphere, I sincerely believe that a collaborative or symbiotic relationship between online creators and copyright owners is not only more than possible but would likely work extremely well for both sides if they are open to it,” Fitzpatrick said.
That Toei Animation is not open to it is the chief problem here.