Searching for Fair Use: Why I Don’t Make YouTube Videos Anymore

Like most of you, I love watching videos on YouTube. If you’re like me, you probably visit the page at least once a day to catch a video or two. Me? I personally love watching YouTube channels that talk about geeky stuff. Big surprise there, I know! Anyway, one of the YouTube channels I visit is Channel Awesome because of Doug Walker’s Nostalgia Critic show. The show¬†usually has Doug Walker, playing the Nostalgia Critic (who remembers it so you don’t have to), and rips on old nostalgic properties like old movies. It’s funny, trust me.

Recently, however, Doug Walker, using his Nostalgia Critic persona made a video on Channel Awesome and the issue he’s been having recently regarding YouTube, copyright strikes and Fair Use. He’s asking Where’s The Fair Use. And I think this is an extremely important video for everyone who uses YouTube. Here’s the video.

You may think this doesn’t really happen very often or this issue may just be a recent thing. I can tell you, however, this kind of practice by Hollywood and other unscrupulous companies of hitting copyright strikes on YouTube videos has been going on for ages. I know this form experience because I tried doing the entire YouTube thing a long time ago! Yes, I tried to do reviews on YouTube for a while but I just gave up because, well, it was too much of a bother fending off dozens of copyright strikes!

Okay, Doug Walker already did a fantastic job explaining what Fair Use is but let me give you a really general description of what it is as a recap. Fair Use is a legal doctrine stating that people can use copyrighted material as long as you’re doing something transformative with it. If you’re reviewing something and you need to show a clip or a picture of it to emphasize a point, you can actually show the clip. If you want to parody something, you can do that as you’re essentially making a commentary on the original material. Which is why Weird Al can get away with making a parody of Michael Jackson’s Beat It, apparently.

Anyway, this is precisely why I though I could create content for YouTube. Being a movie geek, among other geekery, I felt I, along with my friend could film ourselves reviewing movies. I would film ourselves on my rinky-dink cellphone, edit in a few clips from the trailers that I could get from YouTube themselves and then post it on my very own channel. Okay, they weren’t very good as¬†I was filming them on my rinky-dink cellphone. But we had fun doing them. And I actually loved editing them! It was a challenge to splice footage from the trailers to emphasize the points we were making.

We did this for a while but a lot of the love was gone because of all of the copyright claims I had to fend off. I was already familiar with the idea of Fair Use and I felt I was knowledgeable enough to fend off the claims. But as I started adding more and more videos, more and more videos were getting hit with copyright claims! Some of these claims don’t even connect with the media we were reviewing. I remember one particularly weird notification stating our review for The Avengers had a copyright claim from a company… in Russia! I got all of the clips for the review from the official Marvel Studios! How the heck did Russia get into the picture! And, yes, this does happen more frequently than you think as seen in the video below!

From my experience, most claims can be counterclaimed successfully. But there are some really vindictive companies that won’t let the claim go. This happened for the reviews we did for Twilight and The Hunger Games. I filed a counterclaim, explaining that, since this is a review for the film, Fair Use should apply. They didn’t thing so and they reinstated the claim. Instead of trying to counter the counter-counter claim, I just took down the videos; I just didn’t care anymore. This was when we decided to just make review videos without using clips but, by this time, the magic was gone. YouTube bombarding me with copyright claims just made it too much of a hassle to continue.

So, why do I think this is important for everyone who watches and loves YouTube? Why is there a need to ask Where’s The Fair Use and why people should be spreading the hashtag #WTFU? Well, it’s because you love and watch YouTube! The people on the website are really talented people who do this to entertain you for free! You’ve been enjoying their creative content for years and years. Now, imagine if they just stopped making videos because of the numerous and, honestly, illegal copyright claims they receive. It’s possible since I stopped making videos because of the numerous and illegal copyright claims I’ve received!

It's the law!

It’s the law!

I stand with the YouTubers who are trying to fight this and who want YouTube’s policies to change. It may seem like they’re biting the hands that feed them. But they are in the right here. The guys over at Channel Awesome and a whole lot of channels who produce original content are doing all of their videos under the Fair Use law. It’s Hollywood and the alleged copyright holders that are abusing the system. They’re doing to silence criticism from bad reviews, stealing ad revenue because they can get away with it and doing all sorts of shady things because they can file as many claims as they want without any repercussions. This it the kind of thing that can drive people like me from creating content, even though they really want to say something important.

If we want YouTube to be the place where we get to watch really creative people do really creative things, we need everyone to start asking the question now.

What’s your take on the entire Where’s The Fair Use #WTFU movement? Let me know in the comments section below!

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One thought on “Searching for Fair Use: Why I Don’t Make YouTube Videos Anymore

  1. freedom of speech ultimately means that you can say what you like about works, regardless of copyright. this is the natural foundation of fair use– (american) copyright was a compromise to encourage people to create works.

    the original scope (it mostly affected large publishing companies, not individuals) and duration (14-28 years) of american copyright wasnt too awful for the public to bear. now its author life+75, or 95 years, and theres no end in sight to the extensions of these terms. (lessig calls this unconstitutional “perpetual copyright on the installment plan.” the u.s. constitution article 1 section 8 grants congress the right to create intellectual monopolies “for limited times”.)

    fair use (and some things being uncopyrightable) is the only thing stopping copyright from being a method of total censorship. if not for fair use, you could simply keep cranking out computer-generated music until it was practically illegal to make new tunes. if not for fair use, news companies could stop us from talking about the news. (if this seems like a paranoid interpretation, look up “hot news doctrine”.)

    if you were all 9 members of the supreme court, it might be possible to rule that copyright doesnt/cant even apply to communication online. (to make it work online is extremely invasive, for one.) its only through modern interpretation of ideas that “made sense on paper” that we can apply copyright to the internet. unfortunately, there are plenty of situations where copyright no longer makes sense.

    fair use and free licensing are the closest weve gotten to keeping copyright reasonable, instead of an archaic pre-american form of censorship. anyone in the 21st century should treat the merits of copyright (particularly its expansion) with extreme skepticism. i call it “intellectual prohibition,” but i believe we could make copyright tolerable and perhaps beneficial again. fair use really helps.

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