Sunday, October 29, 2006

YouTube Deletes Video: Enforces Networks' Copyright Demands

In unrelated reports today, both Raw Story and AmericaBlog advise of recent action by YouTube to remove alleged copyright-infringing video files from the YouTube service.

AmericaBlog's John Aravosis noted today:

Unfortunately I can't give you the video because CBS is making YouTube take down video we post there, claiming copyright infringement, so we're no longer posting CBS's video. I can however quote CBS's Bob Schieffer from this morning's Face the Nation....
Raw Story linked to this article from Idealog, reporting that YouTube has acceded to Comedy Central's demand that the omnipresent Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert videos be removed from the popular video-sharing portal:

I received a couple of emails from YouTube this afternoon (see below) notifying me that a third party (probably attorneys for Comedy Central) had made a DMCA request to take down Colbert Report and Daily Show clips. If you visit YouTube, all Daily Show, Colbert Report and South Park clips now show "This video has been removed due to terms of use violation."

For a long time, Comedy Central has passively allowed the sharing of online clips of its shows - because let's face it, it's helped them generate the kind of water cooler talk that has made them a ton of money. In this Wired Interview, Jon Stewart and Daily Show Executive Producer even encouraged viewers to watch the show on the Internet...

The full text of YouTube's notice is reproduced in the Idealog story. A partial excerpt is below:


Dear Member:This is to notify you that we have removed or disabled access to the following material as a result of a third-party notification by Comedy Central claiming that this material is infringing:

...Please Note: Repeat incidents of copyright infringement will result in the deletion of your account and all videos uploaded to that account. In order to avoid future strikes against your account, please delete any videos to which you do not own the rights, and refrain from uploading additional videos that infringe on the copyrights of others. For more information about YouTube's copyright policy, please read the Copyright Tips guide. If you elect to send us a counter notice, to be effective it must be a written communication provided to our designated agent that includes substantially the following (please consult your legal counsel or see 17 U.S.C. Section 512(g)(3) to confirm these requirements)...

I claim no special expertise in the area of Copyright Law, but to this eye, YouTube's action, which closely follows its acquisition by Google, appears unquestionably lawful, and perhaps, comes surprisingly late in the day.

While I've thoroughly enjoyed the ease of access to these materials, I've often wondered why these videos were so readily available, without contest by the networks, on numerous blogs and video sites online.

In fact, Crooks and Liars has become one of the Internet's most influential blogs (and is generally my first stop in blog travels), precisely because the most timely of these materials are regularly to be found there. This is often a very good predictor of the news issues that are likely to catch fire in the mainstream press in the days ahead.

While this new video-sharing clampdown is reminiscent of the music industry's successful reign-in of Napster, there is in my view a substantive difference. The video materials that will now disappear clearly occupy a significant place in the public discourse about serious issues - we are not talking about dance tunes here, we are talking about video regarding major world developments as they happen.

Whether it was the Pacific tsunami, Hurricane Katrina or the more mundane breaking news and scandals du jour, video was almost instantly available online via blogs in recent years. We have been better informed as a result. This has led to greater governmental accountability, and in the case of the tsunami, a groundswell of public involvement and outpouring of finacial aid.

While I understand, of course, that Jon Stewart "news" videos do not equate with immediate reports of natural disasters and major news developments, it is now clear that all copyright-protected video is likely to have online distribution highly circumscribed, and that this effect will be seen almost immediately.

While recognizing the legitimate ownership claims of the networks, it is nonetheless undeniable that the marketplace of ideas will suffer from these enforcement actions.

Critical information will simply be harder to find, if not altogether impossible. But perhaps, more importantly, online video-sharing has allowed viewers a brief opportunity to decide which issues, interviews or commentaries should rise to the surface for a closer look.

This essentially have given rise to a populist sharing of that most important of editorial functions - framing the issues that are important - and has led to major democratization of the very process that decides which news matters (and which does not).

These actions, when considered in conjunction with a recent Japanese appellate court decision, holding that mere reproduction of news headlines is a copyright infringement, set the stage for a looming battle globally over the role private citizens will be permitted play in the online dissemination of information about public affairs.

Under Canadian copyright law, an exception to infringement claims is provided for "Fair Dealing."

This summary from the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) describes the "thin line" between fair use and infringement, in the context of news reporting:

People such as critics, reviewers and researchers often quote works by other authors in articles books, and so on. Are they infringing copyright? Not necessarily. The Copyright Act provides that any "fair dealing" with a work for purposes of private study or research, or for criticism, review or news reporting is not infringement. However, in the case of criticism, review, or news reporting, the user is required to give the source and the author's, performer's, sound recording maker's or broadcaster's name, if known.

The line between fair dealing and infringement is a thin one. There are no guidelines that define the number of words or passages that can be used without permission from the author. Only the courts can rule whether fair dealing or infringement is involved...

We'll definitely be watching this issue as it emerges. There is a legitimate boundary to be drawn, but when it comes to sharing and distribution of public affairs video online, no sharing would be far too little.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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