This week YouTube has been the center of some pretty heavy internet controversy and no, this isn’t the usual run-of-the-mill, comments-gone-wild style controversy. The issue at hand directly effects all current, former, and future YouTube creators and it’s something that needs to be addressed.
Basically, what it all boils down to is that there has been a fair amount of questionable use of YouTube’s copyright infringement tools that many have equated to abuse of the system. There’s no question that some of the content on YouTube is dubious at best when it comes to ownership of intellectual property, especially when people are downloading and then re-uploading full movies, TV shows, and albums to YouTube. That is a problem, no question.
The grey area comes in terms of those YouTube channels that tend to do reviews, special Easter egg videos, or otherwise unique and original commentary where they’re using clips of footage from film just as any journalist would in many other formats.
When it comes to copyright there’s something called ‘fair use’ which can allow for the use of media in small amounts for a variety of reasons, the largest of which is generally for educational purposes. For example, this would be why teachers can generally printout a small excerpt from a book or magazine and pass them out in class. They’re not making any money on the prints and are using them in small pre-determined quantities for the purpose of instruction. If they were to charge students for the copies or if they were to start passing them out en masse in a way that could cause a detriment to the sales of the book or magazine, they then could in fact be in copyright violation.
When it comes to YouTube, many people use short clips to help illustrate the points of their reviews or otherwise special commentary. Because many YouTube channels are monetized, this places them under a finer lens for scrutiny when it comes to the idea of legal ‘fair use’. Fair use is a tricky and not super well defined idea, but in general, if your content uses other media then a number of factors are taken into consideration including; the purpose of the use of the media, the nature of the work being sampled, how much of the original media was used, and the impact on the original work, typically in terms of sales.
It’s hard to imagine that a positive review might be consider to have a potential negative effects on the sales of a movie, but a bad or scathing review might, especially if the YouTuber is good at their job. So this begs to question; Where’s The Fair Use (#WTFU).
Does YouTube only allow positive reviews and not negative ones? Do they technically not allow the use of any outside media at all? Right now a lot of this is unclear and it needs to be addressed immediately because it’s directly effecting creators who’s livelihoods have come to depend on their YouTube revenue.
While I’m not one to speak on behalf of how these issues are directly effecting paid content creators, because I do not in fact have a monetized YouTube channel (YET!), I’ll let one of my absolute favorite YouTubers do it for me. Mr. Sunday Movies is a fantastic channel filled with incredibly sharp, snarky, and more importantly, on-point commentary. They recently put up this incredible video which lays it all out in a great way that’s both funny and educational. Please give it a watch and then, if you’re so inclined, give it a share, because this really does effect the future of what’s become an amazing and innovative industry and we don’t want to lose something that has become this important (relatively speaking anyway).