January 30, 2013

YouTube's Nifty New "Song Remover" Should Ease Some Copyright Problems

Regular readers know that YouTube-related questions and concerns -- particularly copyright related -- are routine appearances within my inbox, and that the issues surrounding online videos are decidedly complex.

Many observers are dissatisfied with the overall status quo when it comes to striking a balance between those parties who claim rights to content, vs. users who upload videos. Outside the realm of totally false claims, a significant grey area exists, especially relating to public domain materials, "nested" videos, fair use, and "incidental" inclusions of various sorts, among other associated matters.

None of these issues are amenable to "quick" fixes. However, incremental improvements are very important.

So I'm pleased to note that based on very useful discussions I've had with YouTube recently, it's quite clear that Google's YouTube is continuing work to evolve their copyright-related systems as much as possible within the boundaries of existing related laws.

One example of this is a new YouTube feature (now in beta) that you probably don't know about. Introduced without any fanfare last month (and so still in a very early stage) it's the nifty new YouTube "Song Remover" (or song "eraser" if you prefer), the public help/information page for which has now gone live.

While the YouTube Song Remover (YSR) doesn't address the underlying legal issues -- which are beyond the scope of any single entity, including YouTube, to change unilaterally -- YSR does provide a very useful new option to deal with an unfortunately relatively common problem -- original YouTube video content that used background music claimed by a third party.

Up until now, the use of such music could trigger an automatic Content ID hit, which could then result in third-party ads running with the video, or the audio track of the video being muted, or the video being blocked in some or all regions of the world (depending on a number of criteria and the claimed rights holder's choices). And when a Content ID hit has been triggered, the entire video has been affected.

An obvious problem here is that blocking of an entire video, or even deleting just the audio track, also can wipe out non-infringing video and audio. A classic example of this is a wedding video that triggers Content ID and has its entire audio track removed, or is blocked in some or all locales, or starts appearing with third-party ads -- due to the use of particular music claimed as copyrighted content, being played at the event as recorded.

YSR provides an option for many videos (remember, the feature is in early beta) that allows the uploader in some cases to strip the Content ID hit (and related blocking or other negative impacts) from their video, by removing the music in question but leaving all other audio (and the video) intact.

What this means in practice -- after applying YSR on a video -- is that where there was only the claimed music there will now be silence, and where there was that music as background with foreground voices, cheers, or other audio, the music will be removed but the foreground audio will remain intact. A video that had been flagged by Content ID that is then run by the uploader through this process may then have its Content ID hit expunged.

This is a rather cool and decidedly nontrivial process to accomplish. And while it can't fix the broad scope of copyright claims and counterclaims, it does offer an extremely useful alternative to the ways in which Content ID has impacted many videos up to now.

Above all, this approach demonstrates that Google/YouTube is seriously working to try provide more flexibility for uploaders, especially in these kinds of situations. While such technically-oriented approaches can't and aren't meant to address the underlying legal complexities surrounding copyright and fair use, they are extremely important incremental steps, and should prove very useful to many YouTube users, even as efforts continue to work toward more encompassing policy solutions related these areas.

Kudos to the YouTube teams for this work!


Posted by Lauren at January 30, 2013 04:52 PM | Permalink
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