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Why Does YouTube Allow Copyright Abuse?

A Cynical View of the Subject

It’s a question that has come up time and time again. Creators on YouTube have been in a battle for some time now over what is considered a real copyright claim and what is just some ridiculous attack from a stranger over nothing. YouTuber’s (influencers?) are being put in a position where they could be losing everything they have worked for because the content they have created might have miffed someone in the wrong way. With the possibility of losing it all overnight why isn’t YouTube looking into this?

Now I am not going to get into the United States copyright law, mostly because its hundreds of pages of legal jargon that means next to nothing to me, but I am going to question the logic behind YouTube and its place in all of this. I think in looking into this I have heard more than a handful of people repeat something of this. What really matters is the YouTube side of this.

It’s a simple system. YouTube allows an account to have up to three strikes placed against it before any action against the account will be taken. These strikes come from YouTube’s terms and conditions. When they are violated in anyway, the account will receive a strike. In most situations, when an account hits that three strike number it is permanently removed from the site. Now three strikes sounds like a solid number of screw-ups before any action is taken against an account, but the deletion of the account can be too far. I’ll explain why soon.

Now we all have been hearing about his problem for years if you take in any YouTube content at all, but the group that is plagued by this more than any other is the critic. Channels that focus their content on critical reviews of anything from video games to music. The claim they see more than any being that a channel illegally using source content for their review. Some accounts that specifically focus their content on news even have a section of their content designed to cover illicit copyright claims.

Copyright claims can be shot out at any account and for any reason if it is “somewhat justified.” The most egregious of these claims are from people who are trying to extort accounts for means, or they are trying to squash content that puts the person or business in an unhappy light. If you want some examples of this, I’d suggest looking into Jim Sterling’s hour-long video explaining the legal battle with Digital Extremes he had been in, where it reached the point of the company trying to sue the guy for a few million dollars. Or the YouTuber ObbyRaids, who almost lost his account because a random group decided to DMCA him to extort cash out of him. This recent debacle was because someone managed to get two strikes against ObbyRaids account and sent an email stating if the account user was to send money or have a third strike placed against the account, resulting in the accounts removal. Luckily for Jim Sterling and ObbyRaids they managed to climb their way out of their situations, but these kinds of things shouldn’t be happening on one of, if not the biggest, consumer platforms in the world. A simple website that pulls a revenue larger than many countries GDP.

Now getting to the point of this article, why does YouTube allow this kind of thing to happen? It is undoubtable that YouTube is allowing this kind of thing to happen. Why I make that point is because it has been years. Illicit DMCA strikes and content abuse have been a problem with the network as far back as I have been a viewer. It even reaches as far out as Nintendo sending out copyright claims through a computer program and having peoples hard work demonetized because some shadow in the background of the video may have looked like Mario.

I think that this whole thing revolves around money. It isn’t YouTube being negligent as many people would like to think. My first guess would be that a large portion of this problem is that YouTube does not want to spend a time on hiring a large team to oversee the copyright claim process properly. There is more likely than not a group of people who work for YouTube and do work for their ramshackle police force, but the work that is demanded from them to make this work is unmanageable. To clarify, if it wasn’t for this group, I am sure the amount of questionable DMCA strikes would be doubled. Why I question this is because when YouTube is contacted over these things, their first response to tomfoolery is an odd “we had no idea.”

What I really think is going on is a bit more cynical. YouTube’s goal is to make money. I think there has been this problem of confusing the website’s creative ambitions with the website itself. There are people who create content for a living that is undoubtably art, but YouTube as a company is no different than any other capitalistic business. Which is not a bad thing, we just must remember that. YouTube also owns a monopoly in its field, so that must have influence in this mess. It can be as simple as “what are they going to do about it?”

Finally, it boils down to views. YouTube generates is revenue based on its advertising that is played through the content that they do not create. If I was running the show, I wouldn’t really care about the content if it is bringing in views, but that doesn’t include US laws. I believe that YouTube doesn’t care. If a channel is deleted, thousands will replace it. If they have a healthy appearance to the business that advertise on the website, they don’t care. Saying and showing that have a zero-tolerance policy with stolen material makes big business more comfortable with the website.

Besides this, YouTube thrives on controversy. We can go into how people being upset over a Ghostbusters trailer probably generated plenty of revenue for the business, but some of the most viewed videos from accounts that cover YouTube news is people being upset over something that we can relate too. When it comes to critics, the videos about their DMCA strikes are some of their highest viewed content. People like being pissed off about something, we love a cause and we love siding with the small guy. YouTube knows this and I wouldn’t put it past them that allowing spurious DMCA strikes and allowing their creators to take abuse makes them money.

YouTube has strategically placed itself so that it can rake in as much money as possible off of working peoples backs. It has made it so that it is the only option for many people to continue their business or dreams. But most of all it made it so that it doesn’t have to care. That is why YouTube attempted to create YouTube Heroes. It was just another step to move away from having any involvement in their creation. 

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