YouTube Has Yet More ContentID Issues

Not really, but, you know…

YouTube has major problems at present. Advertisers are leaving over claims of comment grooming, they’re deleting entire accounts over automated matching that’s idiotically overbroad, but the big story is its ContentID system. ContentID is the copyright enforcement method for the site, allowing automated claims. However, it has major drawbacks, mainly because it’s an automated system and it enforces a rigid set of restrictions on a topic that by design is fluid and has nuance and the details of circumstances built in by design.

In this particular instance, I went out to film the recent Lunar Eclipse. I felt the best thing to try was to do a time-lapse with my video camera, attempting to show the eclipse in full. It was a cold night (which impacts battery life, I got maybe 6 hours out of batteries rated for 11 hours), and there were issues with keeping the moon tracked (at a usable level of zoom, orbital motion would take it out of frame every few minutes), but for my first attempt, I was actually pretty impressed with what I did.

So, even shooting at 20:1, it came to about half a hour of footage, which is too long to show, so condense it again, take out of the jerky bits, and you have about 3 minutes, which needs some music.

Off I go to Jamendo, which has a lot of Creative Commons licensed music, a quick search through found me music that sounded right, was roughly the right length, and had a usable license. That track was Air by Alexander Blu, released under a CC-BY-NC license.

The Jamendo page for the track, with the CC license highlighted

So, given that this is about ContentID, and I’ve mentioned a video, and a track, you can probably guess the next part. Yep, a Copyright Claim.

As you see, my channel isn’t monitized, so it’s abiding by the Non-Commercial aspect of the license license there, and the song is given attribution in both the description and at 10 seconds in on the video. So it’s in compliance with a license, and claimed to be infringing, and adverts put on (which would, incidentally, put me in violation of the license)

So, what’s happening here? Well, there’s two schools of thought, the malicious, and the ignorant.

The Ignorant

Some people just don’t understand that you can’t list something under Creative Commons, and then claim copyright ownership over it on things like YouTube. While the Creative Commons licensing is pretty clear, it doesn’t explicitly say anything about exclusive rights. However, ContentID does require exclusive rights, as their FAQ makes clear

If accepted to use the Content ID tools, applicants will be required to complete an agreement explicitly stating that only content with exclusive rights can be used as references.

So, it may just be ignorance, not knowing that by licensing the music under a Creative Commons license they don’t have the exclusive rights.

The Malicious

Other people do like to try and game systems to make money. It’s not unknown for people to distribute things through one method, and then try and capitalize on its wide distribution. It was, after all, the business method behind Prenda.

So, put your music out on various sites under a creative commons license, and then use ContentID to claim the ad revenue; it would be a surreptitious way to make money.

So, which is it?

Unclear, as Alexander Blu has not yet responded to attempts to contact. YouTube also seems to have no policy listed for removing entries from ContentID that are not eligible, let alone recouping the money paid out to these false claims.

One of the things that makes this confusing that the rightsholder does indeed have the copyright, but the nuances of Creative Commons licensing on top of it complicates things. In fact, when I asked in the Creative Commons IRC channel for thoughts on the topic, some questioned if I should even contest it, as it’s a minor inconvenience to me.

The problem is, while I know what I’m doing, and what can be done, others don’t. Just this week, Techdirt reported about someone else targeted for a copyright claim, especially one where they were under the impression that the work was used properly under a Creative Commons license. in response, they had a significant freak-out.


So, what can be done to fix things with YouTube? The prime problem seems to be the use of ContentID with no consequences for the claimer. Claim copyright on a work, and you get to make money, unless they file a counterclaim, but as it’s not a DMCA claim, claimants can just re-affirm their belief of infringement. The DMCA requires an actual copyright claim to be filed rather than just a repetition of the original allegation. If they do, then you get a copyright strike, which restricts the ability to use certain tools of the site. It’s a good way to also shake people down.

There are no penalties for misusing any of the tools to file false, inaccurate or overbroad claims. No downside for using these tools to negatively impact people to make money, unless the actions become so egregious that they attract media attention. And it gets worse, as the EU is seriously considering codifying this sort of abusive, one-sided crapfest into law via Article 13.

It really boggles belief.

There needs to be consequences for actions. there has to be a penalty to be paid for false claims, for claiming infringement where there was none, for essentially infringing on someone else’s work by claiming infringement themselves like the very worse cliched bully.

It’s really hard to prove non-infringement, it’s far easier to prove infringement, so lets make that an actual requirement first, and take away the ability to make infringement claims if they fail to provide proof that their claims are made in good faith.

Until there’s at least some sort of level playing field, it’s never going to be a healthy, competitive, innovative ecosystem for the creative. And if copyright isn’t trying to create that, just why do we have it? To make a few assholes rich[er]?