What To Do When A Company Pulls Your Fair Use Video From YouTube

Last week Constantin Films got YouTube to pull almost all the Angry Hitler parody clips by using the website’s Content ID tracking system. The process is automatic, and YouTube immediately takes down a video once it’s been tagged. However, that also means you can use this system in reverse to get your clips back up, at least for as long as you’re in dispute with the copyright holder. Whether you do this or not will depend on how willing you are to risk a potential lawsuit later on.

Here’s how Content ID works. A content partner–Constantin Films in this case–uploads its content to YouTube to create a video and audio “fingerprint,” and then YouTube automatically scans user videos for matches. The copyright holder also sets up whatever rules it wants to use for taking clips offline.

After that, everything about the process is automatic. Unlike a DMCA takedown notice, which requires some human and legal involvement, the Content ID system works more or less like filters in your email account.

The good news is you can dispute any Content ID claim. If you have a clip that’s been targeted, you’ll see a notice about it on your YouTube account page. From there you can access a dispute page where you can affirm that you believe your clip falls under fair use, and the clip will immediately become public again. The copyright holder will receive notice that you’ve disputed the clip, and must then decide to leave you alone, send a DMCA takedown notice, or sue.

Brad Templeton, who created a legitimate fair use parody of Constantin Films last year using the Downfall footage, says it’s not easy to find the dispute page but that it works immediately:

YouTube does allow uploaders to file a dispute over a Content ID takedown, and I did file a dispute. Upon filing the dispute, it appears the video became immediately playable (though embedding was disabled until I turned it back on.) The uploader is not told this, however, as the YouTube status page still reports that the “dispute is still awaiting a response from Constantin Films” and that the video is “blocked worldwide.” We will see how long it takes for Constantin to respond. They don’t make the dispute form easy to find, and in fact I got no notice via e-mail that I can see to tell me of the takedown. When I visited the page logged in to YouTube, it still showed me the video even though nobody else could see it, and uploaders have to work to learn that their vids are gone.

AND NOW A WARNING. There are legal ramifications to this, which YouTube hints at and the EFF explains very clearly. If you decide to fight copyright abuse by a large company, you should make sure that you’re on the right side of the fight, that you have a sensible chance of winning a possible lawsuit, and that you’re willing to assume the financial risk. All three of those determinations probably require some serious meetings with a lawyer.

On the other hand, if you’re one of those dumb naive Internet types who make inane copyright/free speech arguments, you can check YouTube’s own “General Copyright Inquiries” page for a somewhat exasperated-sounding explanation of what types of excuses won’t work in front of a judge.

“Studio does content-ID takedown of my Hitler video about takedowns” [4Brad.com]
“Content ID and Fair Use” [YouTube Blog]
“A Guide to YouTube Removals” [Electronic Frontier Foundation]

RELATED
“Say ‘Auf Wiedersehen’ To Hitler War Room Parodies”