YouTube Is Helping Some Video Creators To Fight Unfair Copyright Claims

Copyright is pretty murky territory. We all know you can’t steal someone’s stuff, but there are times when you’re allowed to use it. Unfortunately, some copyright holders don’t seem to get that “fair use” exists, and respond with takedown claims and legal threats. For some YouTube users facing threats over legal work, though, that fight may just have gotten a little easier.

That’s because Google is getting involved, The New York Times reports. The tech giant will now cover the costs of legal support for a (very small) number of users whose videos do not infringe copyright but who are being made to remove them anyway.

Legally (and morally) speaking, you can’t just take someone else’s work and redistribute it on your own without permission. That’s a flagrant violation of copyright, and it prevents the people who create work from making a living on their own work. Very uncool.

But you can use segments of someone else’s work as part of your own, transformative work. That’s fair use, and there are a bunch of explicit exemptions to copyright law that permit it. Remixers can use parts of other people’s songs and music videos. John Oliver and Stephen Colbert can juxtapose clips of other people’s news or commercial footage to make a point. Game, movie, and TV critics can use clips to demonstrate points about the art they’re critiquing, and so on.

Sometimes, though, copyright holders — or their robots — get a little… aggressive, let’s say, when someone posts a video that incorporates content they own the rights to. They might not like what’s being said, and try to stifle it through the DMCA.

Fighting back can be a time-consuming and expensive process. Many of the large businesses that file DMCA claims can afford teams of excellent lawyers… but most individuals can’t. So to even the scales a bit, YouTube is now willing to put its money where its mouth is for some content creators whose content gets challenged.

YouTube can’t help everyone whose material gets challenged, but they are “offering legal support to a handful of videos that we believe represent clear fair uses which have been subject to DMCA takedowns,” Google writes in a blog post. “With approval of the video creators, we’ll keep the videos live on YouTube in the U.S., feature them in the YouTube Copyright Center as strong examples of fair use, and cover the cost of any copyright lawsuits brought against them.”

The idea is that over time, not only will doing this help the content creators who specifically get the legal help, but also that YouTube will have created a sort of best practices library that will show what fair use looks like, and help both people who use copyrighted works and also people who own copyrights to stay within the confines of the law.

Even though YouTube can’t promise legal aid to everyone whose video gets challenged, they promise to continue to resist legally unsupported DMCA takedowns as part of our normal processes.”

So how many is a handful?

Well, it really is just a handful: four people or organizations are going to benefit from YouTube’s legal aid at this time. Hopefully, though, knowing individuals might have the backing of Google’s piggy bank will deter spurious copyright claims.

YouTube to Pay Fees for Some Video Makers to Fight Takedowns [New York Times]

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