How To Deal With Copyright On YouTube: CONTENT ID Explained #WTFU

Contrary to any misinformation you may have
heard, YouTube didn’t change any copyright
policies last week… but they did make a
slight adjustment to their Content-ID system.
I want to explain how the system works, why
it *doesn’t* suck, how to deal with it, why
it doesn’t just affect gamers, and most importantly:
what single quick fix could correct the entire
system instantly.
Hi, I’m Jonathan Paula. I apologize in advance,
but this video will be a long, and exhaustive
discussion on Content ID. Those in a rush
can find a full script for this video in the
description, and I’m including the topic-timeline
above, which will hot-link you directly to
the different topics I’ll be covering in case
you’d like to skip ahead. If you only have
a minute, I suggest you watch the “Conclusion”
section, where I discuss the BIGGEST thing
I want you to take away from this video. And
it goes with without saying: if you find this
video informative or helpful in any way – please
click the LIKE button, FAVORITE this video,
and SHARE it around. It is crucial more people
under these issues, so let’s begin.
This is a complicated issue with many nuances,
but I am in an extremely unique position,
as a content-creator who utilizes fair-use
material often, as an owner of a multi-channel
network, and as someone who has personally
won over 500 separate copyright claims. I’ve
been an independent YouTube Partner since
the program first issued invites in January
2008 – In those seven years, I have been very
fortunate and appreciative to earn my full-time
income from this site. But the recent changes
to YouTube’s Content-ID system are jeopardizing
my livelihood, as well as countless others
on the site.
The Content-ID system, which was born out
of necessity to handle and resolve lawsuits
from companies like Viacom, utilizes sophisticated
scanning technology to automatically match
potentially infringing videos against a visual
or audio reference file that exists in its
database. Hollywood movie studios, record
companies, game developers and even some top-tier
YouTube partners like myself have access to
YouTube’s “Content Manager System”, or CMS.
These CMS accounts are the people who have
the ability to input assets, or “reference
files” *into* the Content-ID database (which
is actually just YouTube itself). When I upload
a new episode of “Is It A Good Idea To Microwave
This?”, or when Universal Music releases Taylor
Swift’s new single… we have the option to
apply what’s known as a “match policy” for
“automatic claims”. Each asset owner can actually
adjust the percentage of audio or video that
needs to be featured to trigger a Content-ID
match. They can also route these matches to
a human agent for review, to reduce any false-positives.
For game developers, the tools are already
in place to detect an audio-only policy on
their assets, which would easily exclude the
vast number of lets players on YouTube, who
provide their own commentary – just like it
would be very easy for movie studios to do
the same allowing film reviewers to continue
their work unimpeded. Game developers CapCom,
Blizzard, and Ubisoft were quick to apologize
to many YouTubers who were “falsely-tagged”
by their match policies last week, but honestly:
it was their own fault. If they had paid attention
to what policies they had enabled on their
content, nothing would have been matched at
all. Setup your policies appropriately! Scan
only for audio, and route matches for manual
review before any further action is taken.
Ignorance is not an excuse: pay attention,
instead of causing a lot of undue stress.
When used correctly, Content ID is a powerful
tool that can be very beneficial. By and large,
it’s actually a great system that protects
millions of songs, movies, games, TV shows,
and other work – keeping the revenue and ownership
in the hands of its rightful owners. I love
that I have a team of robots protecting my
huge library of 2,500 videos from anyone who
attempts to steal my work and profit from
it – in fact, Jogwheel’s videos are routinely
stolen and re-uploaded about 15 times a week.
When potentially infringing material is uploaded,
and Content-ID makes a match, CMS-owners have
three options how to deal with the video:
“Track”, “Block”, or “Monetize”. Some companies
may have no issue with you utilizing their
game footage, or background music – and only
want to track your content, to see how successful
it is. A musician, like my friend Rob Scallon
may encourage his audience to download his
music, and sample it in their videos – The
“Track” option would provide him with useful
analytics on how many individuals took him
up on that offer, without penalizing them
for it. Whereas FOX Broadcasting may see an
entire episode of Family Guy as a particularly
egregious upload, and they’ll block the video
– making it unwatchable to everyone on YouTube.
But by far, the most common policy is to “monetize”
the content. The infringing material remains
on YouTube, publicly viewable to the world,
but instead of the uploader earning revenue
on the video, the earnings are given to the
CMS-account that applied the ownership policy
in the first place. Now, you’ll notice I didn’t
say the “proper right’s holder”. And this
is inherently Content’s ID most public flaw,
but not its worst: any CMS account can upload
content, and apply a match policy as their
own. And this process is unfortunately far
easier than you’d think. As a result, some
companies – either by malicious intent, or
more likely by an innocent accident, have
applied polices to assets they don’t actually
have legal ownership of. Many less informed
YouTubers have complained when they get an
erroneous match from some random company — claiming
they’re being scammed out of income. In
all likelihood, there was an overlap between
policies, or some intern at Blizzard Entertainment
clicked the wrong checkbox. But, if these
false-claims *were* intentional? Well, YouTube
really needs to crack down on them. With a
site as big as this, with over 10 years of
content uploaded every day… a few stray,
incorrect matches are not really a big deal.
To extend the example from earlier, Taylor
Swift is not personally clicking the “flag”
button to remove cover-versions of her songs
off the site. Instead YouTube’s Content-ID
robots, under Universal Music Group’s instruction
are automatically detecting these uploads.
Those inside a multi-channel network (MCN
for short), and CMS-partners themselves, were
previously excluded from a majority of Content-ID
scans. It was generally assumed, that if you
were partnered with Machinima, or part of
Sony Pictures Entertainment, you weren’t going
to upload any infringing content – part of
an unconfirmed “Trust algorithm” YouTube placed
on its larger partners. Again, let me repeat
that: partners inside an MCN were protected
NOT because their network secured permission
from gaming companies, but because they were
excluded from Content-ID scans. So many people,
include dozens of top-level gamers on this
site are under the misinformed impression
that networks provided them a service. They
didn’t. They typed their channel into a box,
and by proxy of their “trust level”, their
partners were seemingly protected. Somewhere
down the line however, YouTube introduced
three separate tiers of partnership within
a network: “Managed”, “Affiliated”, and “Whitelisted”
– if you’re signed to an MCN, and not on YouTube’s
top-500 most subscribed list, you’re likely
an “Affiliate” partner, and until recently,
that meant you were given the same amount
of “trust” as whomever you were networked
with. As a result, you would have been protected
by automatic Content-ID claims… you could
still of course be hit with the occasional
manual match – so while you may have been
able to get away with posting copyrighted
material for a time, it didn’t mean you were
safe, and it definitely didn’t mean you were
without legal fault.
This all changed last week. YouTube released
a statement on December 11th explaining, “We
recently enabled Content ID scanning on channels
identified as affiliates of MCNs. This has
resulted in new copyright claims for some
users, based on policies set by the relevant
content owners. As ever, channel owners can
easily dispute Content ID claims if they believe
those claims are invalid.” Meaning, if you’re
in a network, you’re no longer protected.
If you’re an independent YouTuber without
a CMS-level account… literally nothing has
changed for you, except now everyone else
is complaining about the same issues you’ve
been dealing with since day one.
When the system matches a video to one or
more policies issued by CMS-accounts, the
uploader will receive an e-mail, explaining
what type of policy has been applied. In this
particular case, Warner Bros. applied a “Monetize”
policy on this episode of Movie Night. So,
while you can still watch that video, I am
no longer earning revenue from it. Obviously,
this is better than having the video outright
blocked. Occasionally though, the system makes
mistakes – like the aforementioned erroneous
matches from random companies, or by detecting
content that isn’t actually infringing. Maybe
you secured permission first, or your usage
qualifies as fair use, or the person issuing
the claim doesn’t own the rights to the content
either. These are valid, legitimate, and most
importantly LEGAL defenses if your content
is incorrectly matched. Luckily, YouTube has
tools in place to dispute matches you believe
to be false. By clicking the link provided
in that e-mail, or by visiting the “Copyright
Notices” section of your channel’s video manager,
you will see a link below the matched video
that reads “matched third party content”.
Clicking this link provides you with an explanation
of the match, a time-code link to the exact
portion of the video containing the allegedly
infringing material, and the name of the claimant
who issued the match. You now have two options
available, “Acknowledge”, or “Dispute”. If
you believe the claim to be genuine, as in…
you knowingly uploaded copyrighted material
without permission, you’d select “Acknowledge”,
which doesn’t adversely affect your account
any worse than the match itself… it simply
solidifies the ruling, preventing you from
disputing it again later. But, if you disagree
with the match, either on fair use grounds,
or if you have permission to use the content,
you can file a dispute.
Now, I’m not a lawyer, so I won’t provide
legal advice regarding fair use — but generally,
news reporting, criticism, reviews, commentary,
parodies, or some transformative use… are
instances *I* would classify as fair use.
As for all you gamers and let’s players out
there, of which I count myself as one… the
argument for fair use is trickier, especially
since there is zero legal precedent to argue
either way. In America, our fair use copyright
law was written in 1976 – so while it covers
film criticism, song parodies, and news reporting…
telling jokes while you play Call Of Duty
may not qualify.
Inherently, the unique value of lets play
videos are the personalities, not necessarily
the gameplay footage: but until an actual
judge rules one way or another: tread carefully
in this space, and attempt to secure permission
from the game developers whenever possible.
Almost ALL of the frustration and outrage
last week came from gamers. But why are they
so upset? Lets play exist within a grey area
of the law, and the fact that your videos
weren’t being tagged before was absolutely
no indication it’d stay that way forever.
So while I take issue with people being upset
and surprised by these changes, it doesn’t
seem like good news for the gaming community.
Almost all uploads going forward will be immediately
Content-ID scanned, and as we discussed, your
options for disputing are not as legally viable
as other types of fair-use content. But really,
what it comes down to is that if you’re not
confident you can win a dispute, you shouldn’t
be uploading to begin with… unless you’re
comfortable with not earning revenue. Practically
speaking though, last week’s change will scare
many people off, and the community will suffer
as a result. But for those who do have a legal
right to their content, and are willing to
defend their work, hopefully they can stick
around and continue producing awesome stuff.
Assuming you do have permission, or fair use
to your content, and you want to dispute,
all you have to do is agree to the terms of
your decision, and briefly explain your reasoning.
For Movie Night – I simply quote the Copyright
Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright
Act 1976, which very specifically allows criticism
and commentary for film and television. Once
you’ve filled a dispute – the CMS-accounts
attached to that policy will be notified,
and they each have 30 days to respond. For
blocked videos, just initiating the dispute
process will restore your video, but only
on a temporary basis while the CMS-account
makes a decision. After you file a dispute,
the link next to your video from the video
manager page *should* reflect that the claim
has been “disputed”, but in what can only
be a technical glitch, a number of these links
– by my estimate, at least half, won’t update…
so ignore this text, as it is notoriously
This is what the process looks like on the
other side, as the policy-enforcer has the
option to “Release”, “Confirm”, or “Takedown”.
There is no third-party arbitrator involved,
no copyright lawyers, no YouTube, just you
and the company you allegedly stole from.
If they agree with your reason for disputing,
they are bound by the honor code – and nothing
else – to release the claim. Now, this next
part is purely educated speculation on my
part, but it would seem a number of companies
have automated this review process – far too
often disputes are rejected, or even released
far quicker than a human agent could possibly
review them, especially given the volume they
must deal with – and often with a remarkable
level of inconsistency from one ruling to
the next. Technically, this is completely
illegal – but unfortunately, YouTube hasn’t
found a solution to this. Thankfully, it doesn’t
seem to be resulting in to many issues as
of yet. If a company does release the claim,
your video is restored to its former status,
blocked videos become public, and monetized
videos can be re-claimed on your end. If you
file a legitimate dispute, or if the claim
itself was false… you’ll likely be successful
in having your content released nine times
out of ten, even if it takes the full 30 days.
But what about that 10% that get “reinstated”,
well, let’s talk about the next process, APPEALS.
If your dispute is rejected, either because
the claimant disagreed with your reasoning,
or because you simply didn’t have a right
to the content to begin with, you’ll get another
e-mail with info about what happened. Like
before, you have the option to acknowledge
this ruling, and live with whatever policy
has been applied. If you are adamant that
the claim should be released, you can risk
a potential copyright strike on your account
(one of only three you’d be allowed before
your entire channel is suspended), and appeal.
The form is a bit more serious, and besides
providing the claimant with your contact information,
you’ll also have to include an in-depth explanation
of your usage. Based on my experience, all
appeals are in fact reviewed by an actual
human agent, which is perhaps why you actually
have a better chance at success than with
the lower-level disputes. While this process
can be scary, if you are confident in your
rights usage, don’t be afraid to defend your
content, and appeal any reinstated disputes.
If you win the appeal, the claim will finally
be released, and your video will be restored
to your ownership. But if the appeal is rejected,
and you’re hit with a copyright strike? Well,
you still have some options if you wish to
continue the process.
When your account receives a copyright, or
community-guidelines strike, your channel
is no longer “in good standing” – the infringing
video is completely removed from YouTube,
and some of your channel features like external
annotations, unlisted uploads, live streams,
and even the ability to appeal future disputes
are removed. Fortunately, these strikes automatically
dissolve after six months. But if you can’t
wait that long, you can file a counter-notification
– which involves more scary-looking text boxes,
and sharing your full contact info again.
Admittedly, I have much less experience in
this area, but the result is the same if the
eventual ruling is in your favor: your video
is restored to its original status, and all
copyright strikes are removed from your account.
Bottom line is: if you truly have a legal
right to use copyrighted material in your
upload, and you’re willing to fight back and
defend yourself – it may take 75-days, but
you can come out on top. The dispute process
is nothing to be afraid of.
Well, there you have it – that’s the full,
long, and often confusing process of how YouTube’s
Content-ID system detects videos, and how
and why you should fight back. It definitely
has its issues however, and the absolute biggest
is that it penalizes users who LEGALLY incorporate
copyrighted material into their content. Whether
you’re a Let’s player featuring an indie game
title with explicit permission from the developer,
or reviewing the Anchorman movie while showing
brief clips from the trailer: the Content-ID
system is indiscriminate in issuing claims
based on whatever policies various CMS-accounts
plug into the system. Of course, how could
a series of complex scanning algorithms know
how to differentiate between what’s cleared,
and what isn’t? It absolutely can’t, nor should
we expect it to. All the gamers complaining
this past week that their popular lets play
series was match-claimed need to recognize
this, and avoid disseminating misinformation
in emotional rants. It’s these reasons why
the dispute option exists at all, and since
there is absolutely ZERO risk to filing one
out, there ideally, shouldn’t be any problem
outside of a small inconvenience.
And while all content -that you legally have
a right to be using- can be recovered through
the system, as I explained above… the system
assumes the uploader is “guilty until proven
innocent.” During the dispute, appeal, and
counter-notification arbitration process (which
can last up to 75 days), any revenue earned
from the allegedly infringing video is being
awarded to the claimant, NOT the uploader.
In what would be quickly fixed by a YouTube
engineer, this is direct punishment to anyone
who works with any material potentially inside
the Content-ID database. When all the disputes
and appeals are finished, my videos will all
be returned to me, any strikes removed, and
channel features restored: but while I was
waiting 30 days for MGM to decide if my review
of “Skyfall” qualified as fair use? I didn’t
earn any money on that video I spent all week
working on. And for someone like me, who earns
mostly all of his income via Google AdSense,
losing revenue on one video that I have a
LEGAL RIGHT to monetize, even for one day
is totally inexcusable. But imagine it’s not
just one video… but 250, like the number
of claims I received this week. And it’s not
just for one day, it’s for an entire month.
And it’s not just one channel… it’s every
gamer, film-reviewer, news-reporter, and musician
on YouTube – potential untold millions of
dollars lining the pockets of those who don’t
legally deserve it. And in a completely separate
problem, which is probably just a technical
bug, YouTube actually prohibits users from
re-monetizing a video after a *successful*
dispute. Which means no one is earning revenue
from the video, including YouTube. This bug
isn’t as prevalent of an issue as lost revenue
during the dispute process, as it seems to
affect only a small percentage of released
claims… but it’s a frustratingly fixable
problem too.
YouTube’s suggestion is simply to avoid copyrighted
material… but that’s not a very realistic
suggestion, is it? My film reviews would be
reduced to boring videos without any music,
clips, or graphics… news and pop culture
vloggers wouldn’t be allowed to include any
images, and what of the massive gaming community?
YouTube’s #2 most subscribed user would have
nothing. Inherently, the Content-ID system
works well… but when you strip revenue away
from people who play by the rules, follow
the law, and go through your dispute system?
You’re driving away creative people that make
YouTube and its wonderful community possible.
hold revenue in escrow until the issue is
resolved, then award it to the victorious
party! It’s really that simple.
Well, okay – obviously the issue wasn’t completely
simple, I mean, it take did take me 15-minutes
to explain it all, but hopefully you understand
the nuances and intricacies of Content-ID
much better, and can appreciate the frustration
myself, and many other YouTubers have been
going through. Please share this video with
anyone and everyone you believe may benefit
from it, I am optimistic the issues I discussed
can be addressed if enough people truly understand
how it all works. And don’t forget to comment,
like, and subscribe, I will be reading and
responding to any all questions you have in
the comment-section below as always. Thank
you very much for watching and listening,
especially if you sat through the entire thing.
My name is Jonathan Paula, stepping down from
my soap box for now, and I hope to see you
right back here in the very near future.

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