YouTube in copyright controversy
The sky’s the limit
Millions of people around the world have their own YouTube channel. While most will languish in obscurity, some have built up impressive audiences by posting videos of things they love doing, Everyone’s heard of the remarkable success enjoyed by video gamer PewDiePie, one of the platform’s most popular personalities, boasting 11 million views and 49 million subscribers.
The reason an audience of this size is so valuable is because of the opportunities it brings to monetise your channel. It’s not unheard of for YouTube self-made stars to command tens of thousands of dollars a year in advertising revenues. PewDiePie, real name Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, reportedly earns in excess of $5 million per annum – all from recording himself playing video games.
However, in a worrying new development, innocent YouTubers are falling foul to blackmail attempts by cyber criminals who appear to be exploiting YouTube’s ‘three strikes and you’re out’ copyright policy to target the platform’s users.
Afghan-American brothers Shukran and Roshan, known to many as the ‘SR Brothers’, told the iNews online paper that their efforts to build a loyal YouTube following were in ruins following a series of copyright complaints issued against their videos in what they believe to be a calculated attempt at extortion.
The duo had posted a wide variety of home-made videos including pop parodies and comedy spoofs which garnered positive feedback, along with 17 million views and an audience of 65,000 subscribers. Not quite PewDiePie territory, but still an impressive record.
The brothers initially thought that the message from YouTube was a mistake but when they received an email from an unknown source demanding $1,000 in return for withdrawing the complaint, they realized that it was a blatant attempt at extortion. When they refused to pay, their channel was taken down.
Copyright infringement protection
The problem is YouTube’s automated copyright protection system which escalates complaints of copyright infringement, resulting in the suspension of a channel after three ‘strikes’. The claims can be contested but it takes time – and all the while the channel is offline.
It’s a system that’s open to abuse, as the automated nature of the process assumes guilt. But with hundreds of thousands of videos uploaded to the site each hour, it’s hard to see how YouTube can balance their responsibilities fairly. Possibly it calls for a community-based approach to vetting claims. Either way, with other platforms snapping at their heels, it’s an issue that YouTube will need to address, if it’s to retain its top spot.
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