The Prelator

Weblog of Patrick McKay

It Pays to Know Your Rights Under Copyright Law

Posted by darklordofdebate on April 8, 2009

Today I realized I hadn’t been paying too much attention to marketing my YouTube channel of late. I had recently noticed that one of my anime music videos using the song “Hand of Sorrow” by the Dutch symphonic metal band Within Temptation had been getting a lot more views and comments lately. By far my most popular AMV on YouTube, it now has just over 80,000 views, which is pretty awesome. But it wasn’t until I looked at the view statistics using YouTube’s handy analytics tool, Insight, that I realized why it has experienced this sudden increase in traffic.

Here is a screenshot of a graph of the number of views my video has gotten over the last few months:

View Statistics for one of my anime music videos on YouTube using a song licensed by Warner Music Group

View Statistics for one of my anime music videos on YouTube using a song licensed by Warner Music Group

Within Temptation is licensed in the US under RoadRunner Records–a subsidiary of Warner Music Group. You’ll notice a huge jump in views of my video beginning around January 5th, where my video went from averaging around 100 views a day to around 400. This just happens to coincide with when Warner had a licensing fallout with YouTube and demanded that YouTube block all videos using songs it owned the rights to.

At the time, this caused a huge stink among YouTube users (though not as big as I wish), who beginning in late December and early January suddenly found their previously allowed content featuring WMG songs being blocked by YouTube’s copyright filters. This caused a huge problem with the same artist as my video above–Within Temptation, who in November had just held an innovative YouTube contest in which they provided users with behind the scenes concert footage and asked them to make a music video of the same song I used in my AMV. The winner, who had won a free trip to a concert in Amsterdam, now found his video yanked off YouTube, dispite it being done with the express approval of the band and being featured on the band’s website.

The result of all this was that everyone who uses YouTube is now mad at Warner, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation has been urging people whose videos are unjustly pulled from YouTube to fight it by disputing the automatic takedowns with fair use counterlclaims, and has even offered to defend those who do in court if necessary. The reason for my video’s sudden increase in popularity? I did precisely that.

Somtime between the last week of December and the first week of January, I received a notice from YouTube saying my video had been disabled because it had been identified as infringing on Warner’s copyright by YouTube’s automatic Content Identification System. Because this was one of my most popular videos, I wasn’t about to let them delete my video just because a computer had matched the song I used with one on Warner’s blocklist. And because I have spent the last four years acquiring a thorough knowledge of copyright law, I was pretty sure I could successfully defend my video as a fair use of Warner’s content.

So I immediatly disputed the copyright claim, citing the following reasons for why my video constituted fair use under US copyright law. It was (1) non-commerical and not for profit, (2) transformative in nature (combining music and video), (3) was of sufficiently low quality that it could not reasonably compete with the original work, and (4) could have no possible negative effect on the market for the original song, but would in fact promote the song and motivate people to buy it. My video was automatically restored after filing the dispute, and a couple months later a message appeared next to the video saying the dispute had been sucessful and the copyright claim had been removed.

However, as the statistics indicate, most other people apparantly didn’t do what I did. Before the Warner ban, there used to be numerous videos using that same song on YouTube, including several other Final Fantasy AMVs. Because I defended my rights under copyright law and other users didn’t, my video is now one of only a few videos using that song, and now appears at the top of the YouTube search list. The YouTube analytics also indicate that at the same time, the number of people who discovered my video through related videos fell dramatically, while the number who discovered it through YouTube searches rose dramatically. So I guess I have Warner to thank for removing all my competition so my video could increase in popularity. I guess draconian copyright enforcement has its place after all!

7 Responses to “It Pays to Know Your Rights Under Copyright Law”

  1. Nice web, thank you for information 😉

  2. […] Rea­d­ m­o­re:  It P­a­ys­ to­ Kn­o­w Yo­ur Righ­ts­ Un­d­er … […]

  3. Hi, nice post. I have been thinking about this topic,so thanks for posting. I’ll definitely be subscribing to your blog.

  4. […] under the doctrine of “fair use” in US copyright law. After my own experiences with copyright run-ins related to my AMVs (and subsequent victories), I thought I’d post a brief analysis of why I […]

  5. samcipper said

    Say someone I know files a dispute, what happens after that? They don’t try to contact you or anything like that do they?

  6. If you file a dispute, YouTube notifies the copyright holder to see if they want to take further action. Every time I’ve disputed a copyright claim on YouTube, that’s where it has ended. The copyright holder has done nothing and after a few months the dispute status on YouTube says “dispute successful” meaning the copyright holder has not chosen to take further action.

    The other possibility is that the copyright holder could choose to reaffirm their copyright claim with an actual DMCA takedown notice. If they do that, you would have the option to dispute that with a formal counter-notice, after which your video would again have to be restored by law. At that point, the copyright holder could finally resort to a lawsuit. However, no copyright holder has EVER been known to sue individual YouTube users over a video, so this is unlikely to happen, but not impossible.

  7. samcipper said

    Okay thank you.

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