Written by Johnathon Goodenow. Media by Kayla Morton.
Copyright law is a strange area to get into on the internet. It’s easy for people to copy and repost articles, images and videos that they don’t own the rights to. Because the internet is so large, they can easily profit off of other peoples’ work. That is why there is a copyright flagging system on YouTube, but it is easily abused by corporations.
Fine Brothers Entertainment, a YouTube channel known for its React video series, announced a program not too long ago that was to be called React World. This program was intended for people around the world to use the Fine Brothers trademarks and format. Revenues would be split and the videos would be featured by Fine Brothers Entertainment. As part of that program, Fine Brothers Entertainment sought to trademark “React” and crack down on people who made similar videos on YouTube.
A large part of the YouTube community was against this practice and started a movement against the channel. The Fine Brothers lost more than 500,000 subscribers less than thirty days after the program was announced. Fine Brothers Entertainment then decided to cancel React World and deleted its announcement video.
YouTubers battled the copyright system on YouTube for a long time. Companies abused the system by flagging videos that damaged their image and then took the revenue for themselves. After a victory against their would-be suppressors, the Fine Bros., YouTubers felt as though they could work towards changing the entire system.
Nostalgia Critic’s video on Channel Awesome is the most intelligent argument for sparking change in the copyright process. He described the problem in-depth and used several examples as to how the system was abused. If you are interested in how the copyright flagging system works on Youtube, I suggest you watch it. It is a bit lengthy, but it covers the issue thoroughly.
Corporations are able to use the copyright flagging function on YouTube to silence bad reviews or take revenue from YouTubers who are using content within the bounds of the DMCA’s fair use clause. There is currently no punishment for making false copyright claims with this system. Unfortunately, a large portion of this movement is targeting YouTube rather than the corporations that are abusing the system. It’s true that YouTube’s copyright system is flawed and the automated system that checks videos for videos is overactive, but every action that YouTube is taking is to protect itself from legal actions based on copyright laws.
People are angry that YouTube will not punish corporations that make unwarranted copyright claims, but they forget that YouTube is not the police. It’s not there to resolve disputes between its users and the corporations. The courts of the United States decide those issues. YouTube is a business. It will step in only if the issue damages its income. Class action lawsuits are the correct way for small YouTubers to fight corporations copyright flagging without merit.
If you ever feel the need to use the hashtags “WTFU” (where’s the fair use) or “MakeYouTubeGreatAgain” (which trended so much that Donald Trump accidentally used it instead of his normal line), don’t direct it at YouTube’s CEO. She has received enough hate already. Direct them towards the companies hurting YouTubers. If a YouTuber you subscribe to says something about a video of theirs being flagged wrongfully, help them take a stand against the people who flagged it. If that happens to be YouTube’s copyright bot, say something to YouTube. If it’s a company, then speak out against it. Direct your opinions correctly and appropriately. Numbers matter on the internet.
Do not watch full movies uploaded by random people on YouTube. This is illegal and breaks copyright law. If you come across a video that you believe breaks copyright law (or YouTube policy), you can report it by clicking “more” next to the “share” button when on a browser, or by pressing on the three dots in the upper right hand corner of a video when using the YouTube app.