Back in December of 2013, the massive video-sharing website and time-wasting black hole known as YouTube.com updated its copyright policies and allowed for more aggressive flagging of copyrighted materials. Using a “Content ID” service, YouTube copyright owners have swept the entire database and have control over blocking and monitoring the traffic of videos using their content. The new policy even gives owners the power to claim revenues from advertising that might otherwise go to the uploader.
When I found out about this YouTube copyright crackdown, my reflex reaction was to dismiss the issue as just a weakening of “fair use” rights. So what if YouTube is restricting access to content? This kind of thing happens all the time, and this new policy isn’t doing anything to directly affect me.
Except that this does affect me as a consumer of informative, artistic, and entertainment content. When I stopped and thought about it, the new YouTube policies directly effect the small video uploaders who make a living trying to provide me with this content. My thoughts turned to professional friend of Geek Peeks, Comic Book Girl 19, and how her show was effected. How is she taking this? What has changed since December? How has she managed to continue to operate?
These are some of the questions I had when I looked on her YouTube page for answers. Here is one of her latest videos that addresses some of the issues that she has dealt with in the past month.
I knew they couldn’t express the full extent of the damage from the copyright policy in 5 minutes, so I decided to have a chat with the people behind the show. Here’s what CBG 19 and producer Tyson had to say on the issue.
Geek Peeks: In your “2014 Year Ahead Updates” episode you mentioned that there were some issues that have come up with your YouTube videos. Have the changes to YouTube’s policies affected you in any real way yet? Have any videos been taken down? What is the damage so far?
Tyson: We’ve had about half a dozen “copyright strikes,” as they are calling them. They aren’t that bad but things could get worse.
CBG 19: Some people have had it a lot worse. The action taken against us has been somewhat mild, but it has been disappointing. One of our biggest videos, “Hunger Games: changes from the book to the movie,” was flagged by two different people: Lionsgate and Entertainment One. Lionsgate created the film while “E-one” is the Canadian distributer of the film.
When YouTube issues a strike, you can either refute the claim as false or protected under “fair use.” We weren’t illegally distributing 3rd party copywritten materials, so we disputed the claim. YouTube then makes you wait until they rule if their copyright laws have been violated or not.
The results of our claim dispute were as follows: Lionsgate agreed that the video was protected under fair use but E-one, a Canadian distributer, did not agree. So now E-one is making all profits off our video that YouTube isn’t already taking. The video was the biggest project we had for the month and we didn’t make any money off of it. That’s just unfair.
Tyson: But that’s just one specific example of what’s going on. The overall situation is a threat to any video we put out from here on. We could even potentially get flags from our past videos as well.
CBG 19: There are videos that got flagged you wouldn’t think would, like our House 2 review for Halloween. How many DVDs is that movie selling? One a year? Our movie review got people interested in the film, but they reward our efforts by flagging the video and taking away our profits. It’s very discouraging and makes you not want to do those kinds of projects.
We don’t have another source of income and these YouTube policy changes have taught us that our show is very vulnerable. We need to diversify and start going to other platforms in order to not rely on just YouTube. Currently we’re trying to make the move to Blip.tv.
GP: You mentioned rumors that you and your YouTube colleagues in the same situation are planning a mass exodus to another platform. Is Blip.tv the new destination for web creators like yourself or is there another place for creative minds to gather?
Tyson: YouTube is the biggest resource that everyone knows and uses, by far. It’s great but it does have its limitations. Blip.tv is a place we’ve been thinking about going to for a while because their platform allows you to watch on set-tops, Roku, or Xbox. It’s more geared towards people who watch 30 minute long produced TV content instead of short 5 minute blog/game review videos. We really haven’t been doing the YouTube-type videos. We’ve been doing stuff not intended for YouTube, on YouTube.
The trouble with Blip is that it’s closed for new accounts right now. A lot of people have suggested changing to Blip when the YouTube issues arose, but we can’t because it’s not possible.
CBG 19: We’re currently partnered with Maker Studios and they have bought out Blip. We have a line of communication to people in Maker Studios, and we have been trying for months to get on Blip. If we can’t get on Blip, I don’t know who can.
Tyson: We submitted a special request to get on Blip, but it wasn’t accepted. The only way it could be possible is if someone else quit and we took their spot. It’s pretty weird that they can’t make more room.
CBG 19: Our plans are a big experiment right now. There’s a lot of R&D and trying different things, so we can’t stress enough that our plans could change at any moment.
Tyson: I don’t know who is really doing it because the process is really robotic and bureaucratic in the way that it works. It’s questionable who you’re disputing the claims with, a real person or a machine. It doesn’t make sense that a person would review 60 years worth of YouTube content uploaded every day. Nobody has time to watch those videos and look for violations, so it’s all just robots doing this.
CBG 19: It’s like they are burning down a haystack to find a needle. I don’t know why they are destroying all of this content because of a few bad apples who are uploading full movies in bad quality. I’m kind of a YouTube hippie and think people can put whatever up there. I use YouTube a lot: I listen to interviews, documentaries, podcasts, and all sorts of other stuff. It is sad thinking that content could go away because it’s an amazing resource.
GP: It seems like the flagging system puts the burden on creators to disprove copyright infringement, when the ownness should be on the accuser. How do you feel about this system?
CBG 19: It’s backwards. You’re guilty until proven innocent. I don’t know why Google is doing this. I don’t know if they are being pressured by third party companies, but it seems like the first step towards something that could be a lot worse.
Tyson: The biggest problem with this issue is not that our videos are being shut down, but that these companies could easily tighten the screws down at any moment. We’re at the mercy of a giant corporation that can do whatever it wants and doesn’t need us.
GP: One of the new formats of your show is the “Special Edition Video.” Your plan is to sell this content for a set amount of time and then put it on YouTube for free. How would that work out if content like this is getting flagged?
Tyson: The special edition video is not on YouTube yet, but I expect it to get flagged. That’s exactly why we are selling the video now because we’ll never make any money off of it with the new policies. This may seem like a reaction to the copyright issues on YouTube, but it’s really about our plan to make special episodes that aren’t like anything we’ve done before.
CBG 19: The YouTube model is really quantity over quality, and that really hurts us. Our ideas to make long 40 minute break down analysis videos at certain time of the year, but we don’t get rewarded for our extra work. Selling our videos for a really cheap price earns us more money with far fewer people watching off YouTube than if everyone did watch on the site. This method allows the viewers to get a quality video while supporting the artist. Our fans have been asking how they could support the show; this is it.
GP: You’re not monetizing every episode, and I didn’t really understand that aspect in your video. But now I get that this business model is based on fan support, just like your previous Kickstarter project.
CBG 19: The fans have been really supportive. I’m glad to see people patronizing the arts, because I do myself. It’s up to us to make sure that good art stays around.
Check out the full interview here:
Since I had CBG 19 on the line, I wanted to ask her more about the new developments to the show that have been announced. My follow-up interview explores how the CBG 19 Show will unfold in 2014 and I try to squeeze as much exclusive info as I can. Click here if you want to learn more about the future of the show.