Friday, 6 November 2009

The Perils of YouTube, The DMCA, and The DPP List

As an avid viewer/reviewer of horror films and one who publishes video reviews online, mostly, but not exclusively on YouTube, one finds one’s self at loggerhead with a number of issues.

Firstly the main problem an amateur reviewer can face is the DMCA and the lengths that certain sites go to to avoid the risk of being sued. I understand this, if I were YouTube I honestly don't know how the problem can realistically be addressed. Why? Well the problem is the legislation that is the DMCA. It requires any host site to take down any material that a DMCA is filed against. Sounds fair? Well it’s not as clear-cut as that.....

The initial problem here is that the DMCA can be abused by the automation that allows claimants to register their copyright notice against a particular video. YouTube for instance has a very easy way to flag copyrighted material, it takes a few seconds to do and requires nothing more than a claim from a user (in the guise of their account) in order to cause the 'offending' video to be withdrawn. The only response a recipient of a DMCA has is to file a counter notice only to do so requires the submission of personal details such as contact information. All this is very well but the original claimant does NOT have to do the same in the initial claim.

So the victim here has a choice....either allow the claimed against video to remain withdrawn (effectively censored by the potentially false DMCA) or counter notice it and give out his/her personal details to a stranger who does not have to do the same. This obviously has certain personal security issues when the claimant quite often has a personal grudge against the target of the DMCA notice. So what we have is a one sided bludgeon for trolls to use against the vlogger. Not helpful.

Then we have the automation of copyright detection. This I have personally been a victim of. This works as such. Fox goes to YouTube and supplies (what I suspect is) a soundtrack to the movie/album etc. YouTube takes this and puts it in its data base and checks all uploaded video’s against it to see if copyrighted material is contained in the video....

Again this sounds fine on paper, however the system cannot detect if the material is being used in context of the ‘Fair Use’ clause which allows for copyrighted material to be used in certain circumstances....i.e. a review. So anyone putting together a professional style video based movie review, containing footage and clips from the movie, can quickly find themselves up against instant decisions by YouTube to not publish the video because they have detected copyright material within it. Not exactly conducive to free speech or the Fair Use clause.

Now if the rumblings are right and the US government are going to cede more ground to the digital copyright Nazi’s in the big distribution companies (Fox, Sony, Paramount etc) by putting the thumbscrews on host sites etc then were seem to looking at a bleak future for the internet and user produced content as every host site will simply not allow anything that has the vaguest sniff of copyrighted material no matter what the context or purpose of that material is.

After all, how can a successful behemoth like YouTube actually police its content without arbitrary copyright bots automatically doing that substantial task?

Quite aside from the minefield that is the copyright saga there is then the subject matter...In my case, horror, the DPP list more specifically.

In particular, but certainly not uniquely, YouTube and other host sites (Metacafe, Dailymotion etc) have some form of ‘decency’ panel whether that is the users and a flagging system or a upload review panel who accept or reject seemingly on a very arbitrary and personal level. While this is fine and well, certainly a panel is preferable to an automatic system or especially to the whim of a troll who doesn’t like what you had to say about his favourite movie, you now not only have to navigate the grey area of fair use and copyright you have to deal with the tastes of strangers who can make your video ‘go away’ without so much as a right to reply. When one is dealing with a subject that has many areas that are antagonistic towards people’s sensibilities, then how can we approach them without being simply countered with a single mouse click on a flagging button? When the largest site of user generated content does not even allow you to classify your work for a certain audience then the content that is allowed can only end up suffering as little Suzy stumbles upon the foul mouthed Amazing Atheist or the equally foul mouthed Cynical Celluloid (aka lampyman101) telling you about how fucking awful this piece of crap nazisplotation film is.

What I’m trying to get at here is that the odds of your work surviving is becoming ever shorter due to the multiple booby traps of commercial bullying, troll tantrums, uninformed moralistic flaggers and the lack of understanding from the host site about the subject you are talking about and the audience you are talking to. Given that the internet is possibly the single most important invention in the history of mankind in terms of mass communication, it’s important to defend ‘fair use’ and freedom of speech and resist those who seek to limit it.

Film companies are NOT going out of business due to piracy, the music industry has survived Napster AND the advent of torrenting, software companies have always had to deal with piracy but are still being set up and thrive despite this and a 10 minute video movie review has never superseded the film itself.

It may seem a disparate selection of subjects to lump into one blog, and I agree to a great extent but all these things are linked by a common theme of our ability to make commentaries on contemporary culture apart from anything else. Times have moved on and parody, commentary and reportage are now in the hands of the common person and require more modern presentation, but the stifling forces of an industry that refuses to alter its business model means we have to resist the retardation of creativity whilst simultaneously looking to accommodate the rights of the creative forces. There has to be a common ground, and industry alone cannot be allowed to define that unilaterally.

No comments:

Post a Comment