Internet Copyright – The Wild West

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The internet is still a bit like the Wild West when it comes to copyright. There’s the occasional sheriff wondering around enforcing the law, but for the most part, it’s every man for himself. With so much material on the internet, it’s almost impossible to think that everything and everyone can be regulated and checked when it comes to copyright infringement.

Original work can be just about anything, a video, a design, a book, a photograph, or even a web page. In the case of a photograph or video it’s pretty easy to prove copyright, but what about when it comes to a website or original content from a website. If you create original content and then someone just reposts it, even quoting the source but doesn’t ask the original owner or author of that website for permission, is that infringing on copyright? Well, there are a lot of determining factors and plenty of grey areas. Was it one of your websites direct competitors, or was it what is commonly known as a “scraper” – someone who takes original content and reposts it on their web page.

A lot of websites walk a fine line by using what is called “Fair Use”. Under United States copyright law, “Fair Use” allows creators to incorporate copyrighted materials into their own work without obtaining the permission of the copyright owner when certain conditions are met. Fair use is sort of a lenient interpretation of copyright laws that are designed to not stifle creativity or innovation. Creators should have the freedom to criticize, critique, and comment on the works of others. They should also be able to remix and reuse artistic material in inventive and new ways. This is what “Fair Use” is all about. The problem is, there aren’t any hard and fast rules governing “Fair Use”, it is a very grey area.

No one really wants to get involved in a legal battle, especially with “Fair Use” being such a grey area. If everyone who owned a website, photo, or video spent time filing complaints against work that was republished without their permission, no one would get any work done. I personally don’t have any problem if someone emails me and asks for permission to use an article or a video, especially if it’s educational or informative. The only time I do have a problem is when people are making money directly off your work. We have had numerous instances where individual monetarized YouTube channels were posting up and using our videos without our permission. Yes, you can complain and file a complaint with YouTube but this is time-consuming and tedious.

Whether to file a complaint or just let it go is a hard question for content creators to answer. You really have to ask yourself, is the extra exposure hurting or hindering me? In a lot of cases, I think people are happy to have their work published on other people’s websites even if they didn’t give direct permission because of the extra exposure it gives them. At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself is it fair that someone else is making money off my hard work, or is it a fair trade off that I’m getting increased exposure which will help me out. It really is a catch-22.

Has it just become morally acceptable?

I think a lot of the problems stem from the fact that it has almost become a socially acceptable thing on the internet to just reuse or repost other peoples work. You wouldn’t walk into a store and just take something without paying for it, but on the internet, it seems to be socially acceptable to take someone else’s work and use it without paying. If your video, photograph or work is used without your permission and someone is using it directly to make money, shouldn’t you be getting a piece of that pie?

Again, there are so many factors as to why a lot of people don’t complain or demand payment. The main reason is exposure. If you are a YouTuber who is making your income directly off views then you probably don’t care who reposts or reuses your work. The more views, the more money. Look, I get it, not everyone cares about having their work reused or republished without being asked or compensated, but seriously, is it morally right that there seems to be one rule in the real world and another for the internet.

It’s not just individuals ripping off others work

The Selfish Ledger, a concept video produced within Google in late 2016, used a ton of stock footage in which some of it wasn’t properly licensed by Google. Philip Bloom had snippets of vision from 7 of his short films used in The Selfish Ledger without any license or authorization from him. This is just one of many cases where very large companies have used content without any license or authorization from the owner of that material.

 

Vimeo

Recently there has been a lot of anger online with people having their Vimeo accounts completely deleted due to copyright infringements. This is usually to do with the use of music. Music is a hard one, with so many stock music sites and so much music out there it is very easy to have a video flagged as breaching copyright. If you have used music for a personal project is it really harming anyone? It also seems to be a big problem for music video directors. Multiple music directors have had their Vimeo accounts suspended simply because they are posting up videos that get flagged by recording labels.

Vimeo’s 3-strikes and you’re out DMCA policy is fairly ruthless and it has lead to a lot of users having their accounts completely deleted, and by deleted, I mean everything vanishes as if your account never even existed. All of your videos, all of your statistical data, all of your views, all of your viewers, and even the ability to download your videos- gone, gone, gone.

This is not a new Vimeo policy, it has been in place for quite a few years now, but it’s enforcement seems to come in rolling waves rather than be consistent. A lot of this may have to do with various recording labels suddenly deciding to file copyright complaints.

The situation has become dire for a lot of music video directors that some have started up petitions. Jason Filmore Sondock of Rubberband is one of those directors. The online petition states the following:

To whom it may concern,

We as short form filmmakers in the music video industry have recently come to a crossroads. We direct music videos in the continually dwindling music industry and as of this week have seen a large legal sweep of our work across the video streaming platform Vimeo. Vimeo has served as the main hub to showcase our work for nearly 10 years and our hosting of work, which (at least, in the case of music videos) we make for little to no fee whatsoever.
The simple fact is that pitching music videos today is the wild west, which has no regulation of any kind, unlike most advertising work that is done in some type of bid structure. We don’t know how many directors we are pitching against. We don’t know who they are. We don’t hear back from commissioners for many weeks. Budgets are tiny. Most can not make a living. The list of grievances go on and on.
I understand that some of these things are unfixable, maybe primarily the budgets. We may not be able to demand more money from an industry that simply doesn’t have more money to spare, especially as much more videos get made, the slices of the pie get much smaller. Additionally, while we have been discussing unionization internally, this letter is not about that.

Our ability to simply present our work as our own is coming under fire. This is perhaps the most basic reason why any of us do music videos to begin with, beyond the fact that we love them.

We put our blood, sweat, tears, and in many cases our own money into these videos because we love music and we love the idea that we can have creative freedom (in some cases) to create things and have a platform for people to see them on a large scale. Sometimes (often) this is the first step a budding director has to get noticed because we can directly attribute the work we do, on a public scale, to ourselves. This seems like something that should be a right of a creator. We create to reach people. This is a director’s job, to emotionally connect with an audience, and to be attributed to that work. We can not have this ideal be put into jeopardy, as this is the core tenant of why all of us ever wanted to be directors in the first place.

We are writing this letter to ask Vimeo, our reps, production companies, record labels, commissioners, artists, and media companies to allow us to have a reserved right to be able to publish our work under our names and to be free from prosecution and removal, in a public space. We have as much right as the artists to the work we make for them. We are artists too.

Please don’t further alienate directors in the music video industry. We want to keep creating.”

Sincerely,

International Music Video Filmmakers

So far almost 3,000 people have signed the petition.

What is DMCA?

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA) is a U.S. law that limits the liability of online service providers for the copyright infringement caused by their users. To qualify, online service providers must do —and not do — certain things. The most well-known aspects of the DMCA are its requirements that a service provider removes materials after it receives a notice of infringement and has (and implement) a policy to deter repeat infringement.

Too harsh?

Look, I’m all for making sure that copyright infringement is upheld, but come on Vimeo,  deleting someones entire body of work when they are paying for your service seems a little over the top. Surely just deleting or banning the actual individual video(s) that are deemed to have breached copyright regulations is enough.

Vimeo has around 70 million users, which pales in comparison to the more than 1 billion that YouTube has. Here at Newsshooter we primarily use Vimeo because it’s an ad-free platform and it is primarily used by working professionals. YouTube has far greater reach, but it’s also full of ads and very hard to moderate comments.

I tried reaching out to Vimeo via both email and Twitter to find out some answers about why accounts have been deleted and if they had a response to the open letter from music video directors. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive any replies.

Vimeo’s DMCA Policy

This is Vimeo’s official DMCA policy:

VIMEO respects the intellectual property of others, and we ask our users to do the same. Each user is responsible for ensuring that the materials they upload to the Vimeo Site do not infringe any third party copyright.

VIMEO will promptly remove materials from the Vimeo Site in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) if properly notified that the materials infringe a third party’s copyright. In addition, VIMEO may, in appropriate circumstances, terminate the accounts of repeat copyright infringers.

How does Vimeo handle trademark complaints?

According to Vimeo, “Once we receive a trademark complaint, we will investigate the alleged trademark infringement. In most cases, we will provide the alleged infringer with an opportunity to respond to the complaint. If we believe in good faith that a user is infringing a valid trademark, we will take corrective action, which may include deleting the infringing content (such as a video, profile name, or custom URL).

What can you do to defend yourself?

So if you have had material removed from Vimeo and believe it didn’t infringe on a copyright claim, what can you do? Well according to Vimeo, you can do the following:

Filing a DMCA Counter-Notification to Restore Removed Content—for Vimeo Users

If you believe that your material has been removed by mistake or misidentification, please provide VIMEO with a written counter-notification containing the following information:

  1. Your name, address, and telephone number.
  2. A description of the material that was removed and the location on the Vimeo Site (e.g., the URL) where it previously appeared.
  3. A statement UNDER PENALTY OF PERJURY that you have a good faith belief that the material was removed or disabled as a result of mistake or misidentification.A statement that you consent to the jurisdiction of the Federal District Court for the judicial district in which your address is located, or if your address is outside of the United States, any judicial district in which VIMEO may be found (which includes the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York), and that you will accept service of process from the person who filed the original DMCA notice or an agent of that person.

    4. Your electronic or physical signature.

You may submit this information via:

Online: Our DMCA Counter-Notification form
Email: [email protected]
Offline: VIMEO’s Copyright Agent

Please note that we will send any complete counter-notifications we receive to the person who submitted the original DMCA notice. That person may elect to file a lawsuit against you for copyright infringement. If we do not receive notice that a lawsuit has been filed within ten (10) business days after we provide notice of your counter-notification, we will restore the removed materials. Until that time, your materials will remain removed. We will provide a copy of the original DMCA takedown notice upon request.

Vimeo goes on to list their repeat infringer policy and a warning message.

Repeat Infringer Policy

VIMEO will terminate user accounts that have been the subject of three (3) separate DMCA notices. In the event a user’s materials are removed due to a DMCA notice and then subsequently restored due to the filing of a DMCA counter-notification, VIMEO will treat the underlying DMCA notice as withdrawn.

VIMEO reserves the right to terminate user accounts that are the subject of fewer than three (3) DMCA notices in appropriate circumstances, such as where the user has a history of violating or willfully disregarding Vimeo’s Terms of Service.

Warning

In filing a DMCA notice or counter-notification, please make sure that you have complied with all of the above requirements. If we request additional information necessary to make your DMCA notice or counter-notification complete, please provide that information promptly. If you fail to comply with all of these requirements, your DMCA notice or counter-notification may not be processed further.

In addition, please make sure that all of the information you provide is accurate. UNDER SECTION 512(f) OF THE COPYRIGHT ACT, 17 U.S.C. § 512(f), ANY PERSON WHO KNOWINGLY MATERIALLY MISREPRESENTS THAT MATERIAL OR ACTIVITY IS INFRINGING OR WAS REMOVED OR DISABLED BY MISTAKE OR MISIDENTIFICATION MAY BE SUBJECT TO LIABILITY.

Vimeo may disclose any communications concerning DMCA notices or other intellectual property complaints with third parties, including the users who have posted the allegedly infringing material, and may provide DMCA notices to Chilling Effects

If you have questions about the legal requirements of a DMCA notice, please contact an attorney or see Section 512(c)(3) of the U.S. Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 512(c)(3), for more information. If you have questions about the legal requirements of a DMCA counter-notification, please contact an attorney or see Section 512(g)(3) of the U.S. Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 512(g)(3), for more information.

What is Vimeo’s end game?

Vimeo has publically stated that they are trying to move away from being a being a streaming platform to being more of a tech company. This is probably not good news for people in our industry who use Vimeo primarily because it is a streaming platform without ads. Even though Vimeo claims that they will continue to support the existing video platform, as soon as a company pivots its business direction that usually means manpower and resources are directed to other areas. Vimeo already has a pretty bad reputation when it comes to customer service, and their facebook page is always littered with complaints from users.

YouTube

YouTube, unlike Vimeo, is completely free. As YouTube has so many more users than Vimeo, it’s in their best interests in a lot of cases to leave videos up that directly infringe on music copyright. In late 2017  YouTube signed a deal with Universal Music Group and Sony Sony Music Entertainment to establish royalty rates between YouTube and rights holders for professional music videos and user-uploaded clips. YouTube has for a long time been criticized by the recording industry for its lackadaisical approach to enforcing copyright and failing to compensate artists appropriately. The thing is, YouTube is probably making millions and millions for artists indirectly just from the extra exposure they receive from their music being used on the site. Recording companies are in a bit of a catch-22, they want the extra revenue that they aren’t currently getting, but they don’t want to pull their music off YouTube because of how popular the site is.

Just like Vimeo, YouTube also has copyright infringement policies, and just like Vimeo they also have a three strikes and you’re out rule.

Below is YouTube’s policy on copyright:

You should only upload content (including music, videos, and artwork) that you created or that you’re authorized to use; otherwise, this could result in a copyright violation. Learn more.

If you use someone else’s content on your YouTube channel, the copyright owner can submit a takedown request. If this is a valid request, your video will be removed from YouTube and you’ll get a copyright strike. You can wait for a copyright strike to expire, seek a retraction, or submit a counter-notification. If you get three copyright strikes, your channel is subject to termination.

Alternatively, if you upload a video that contains copyright-protected material, you could end up with a Content ID claim issued by the party who owns the music, movies, TV shows, video games, or other copyright-protected material. A Content ID claim may result in a takedown or lost revenue depending on the actions specified by the copyright owner (but you can dispute a claim you believe is wrong).

We believe it’s important to keep YouTube a platform that inspires vibrant creativity and protects creative rights. If another channel uploads your content without your permission, you may file a copyright complaint via our web form.

Note: Some countries have rules for “fair use” (or “fair dealing”) of copyright-protected material under certain circumstances. If you’re not sure about your situation, you should get legal advice.

 

Despite having a similar policy to Vimeo, YouTube seems to be a lot more liberal and easy going when it comes to copyright. They even have a video using non-threatning puppets to explain everything.

Music that won’t get flagged by YouTube

Musicbed uses a system called YouTube Clearance with SyncID. So what is Sync ID? SyncID is a Content ID clearance system created by Musicbed and offered as an exclusive benefit to members. SyncID provides a smooth, streamlined process to clear videos of ads and allows you to monetize your YouTube videos. In the past, claims from YouTube have been a source of frustration for filmmakers, but now, when you receive a claim from YouTube, SyncID should in theory sort that problem out for you.

Here is more of YouTubes answers that can be found on their website when addressing copyright issues:

What is a Content ID claim?

If you upload a video that contains copyright-protected material, you could end up with a Content ID claim. These claims are issued by companies that own music, movies, TV shows, video games, or other copyright-protected material.

Content owners can set Content ID to block material from YouTube when a claim is made. They can also allow the video to remain live on YouTube with ads. In those cases, the advertising revenue goes to the copyright owners of the claimed content.

If you have received a copyright strike, get help with copyright strike basics instead of using this article.

Where do I see my Content ID claims?
To see if you have any Content ID claims on your videos, go to the copyright notices section of your Video Manager. We may also email you when you get a Content ID claim, if your video or account is affected.

Am I in trouble?
Probably not. In most cases, getting a Content ID claim isn’t a bad thing for your YouTube channel. It just means, “Hey, we found some content in your video that’s owned by someone else.”

It’s up to the copyright owners to decide whether or not others can reuse their original material. In many cases, copyright owners allow their content to be used in YouTube videos in exchange for having ads run on those videos. These ads may play before the video or during it (if the video is longer than 10 minutes).

However, there are some actions copyright owners can take if they don’t want their material reused:

Blocking a video: Sometimes, copyright owners may block your video, which means people won’t be able to watch it. They can decide to block your video worldwide or just in certain countries.

Muting a video: If your video contains copyright-protected music, the owner may choose to mute it. This means that people can still watch your video, but they won’t be able to hear the soundtrack.

Blocking certain platforms: Sometimes, copyright owners may restrict the devices, apps, or websites where their content can appear. These restrictions won’t change the availability of your video on YouTube.com.

In some cases, you can’t monetize a video that has a Content ID claim. Instead, the copyright owners can choose to monetize your video. But in other cases, like if the music is claimed in your video, you may be able to share the advertising revenue with the music’s copyright owners.

What can I do about this claim?
If you get a Content ID claim, there are a few different things you can do, depending on the situation:

Do nothing: If you agree with the claim, you can just move on. You can always change your mind later if you disagree with the claim.
Remove the music: If you get a claim for a piece of music in your video, you can try to remove the song without having to edit and upload a new video. Learn more.

Swap the music: If music in your video is claimed, but you still want to have music in the background, you can swap out your audio track with one of our free-to-use songs. Learn more.

Share revenue: If you’re a member of our YouTube Partner Program, and you’ve included music in your video, you may be able to share revenue with the music’s rights owner(s). Learn more.

Dispute the claim: If you have the required rights to use the copyright-protected content in your video, or if you think the system has somehow misidentified your video, you can dispute the claim.

How to dispute a Content ID claim
Sign in to YouTube.
Go to Creator Studio > Video Manager > Copyright Notices.
Click the link to the right of the video’s Edit menu. This will take you to a page with information about what’s been claimed in your video and who claimed it. You’ll see an option to dispute the claim. If you dispute a claim without a valid reason, the content owner may choose to take down your video. If this happens, your account will get a copyright strike.

Will anything change or should things stay the same?

Opinions are always going to vary when it comes to anything to do with the internet. Copyright is a very grey area in a lot of regards, especially when it comes to the internet. With somewhere between 1.3 and 1.8 billion websites existing on the internet enforcing copyright equally and fairly for everyone is literally impossible. Whether you think its ok to use someone else’s work with or without permission is more of a moral decision than a legal one in a lot of cases.

What are your thoughts on the internet and copyright? We would love to hear from you in the comments section.

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