Saturday, January 12, 2013

I Don't Understand Youtube Copyright

Their guidelines aren't very helpful.

OK so it seems simple right? Don't use copyrighted material in your work. OK. Simple.

So a while ago I monetized my videos - not due to any misguided impression that I could make any money off them but because Youtube kept bugging me to do so because it... likes me? A robot wanted fresh ad space? Well I had a few videos up which I generally had avoided anything that wasn't %100 mine with a few exceptions which weren't so blatant as to set off sirens deep in the offices of Google's offices. COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT! COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT!

In my video Eric Roberts Thinks I'm pretty I have an image of The Master from the Doctor Who movie and a still from The Dark Knight to show the audience who he is. That's apparently fine despite me not being from Fox or Warner Brothers. Fair use?

Another video called A Day in the life of an Aspiring Author had nyan cat playing in it as well as The NaNoWriMo Song by ALL CAPS which I appropriately credited in the description. The cool thing about DFTBA records is some artists allow you to use their stuff in your videos as long as the other elements of that video are your original work and you credit them with a link back to their website. I did that, but I don't think that means I'm allowed to use the work for commercial purposes so despite Youtube saying "yeah make money off this!" I was like "Whoa! No. I have to un-monetize this. Surely that's not allowed."

So Youtube seemed to be pretty lax when it came to enforcing what I perceived Copyright Law to be. This was all uploaded prior to me monetizing my videos so they all were monetized by default (after some amount of review) when I became a partner. All subsequent videos are reviewed upon upload.

Then I uploaded a video with my Furby in it and that was a big no. Can't do that. OK so I'm assuming that's because I don't own the Furby logo and the sounds it makes right? Well my wall is covered in copyrighted images of posters. My shirts have Comic Book characters on them with tiny TM symbols on them. I've used a sonic screwdriver in one of my videos and I didn't own that noise (I think, or was that my other channel?) How particular am I meant to be here about what gets displayed? Because when it comes to making films at Murdoch they won't allow ANY FORM OF LOGO OR TRADEMARK. We cannot show brand names on our clothes, when filming cars we need to frame out things like "TOYOTA" and if we get anything accidentally in there we either have to reshoot or go into After Effects to blur it out frame by frame.

Then I uploaded something with about 2 seconds of robot noises and that was also not allowed to be monetized. What kind of complicated program would they be using to figure out if that robot noise wasn't mine? It wasn't, but from where I had got it I got the impression it was OK to use. Once youtube said no you can't make money off this video I won't really argue with them. It's really not important seeing as I don't make a living off this (or... anything really).

OK so I'd gone from being able to use parts of songs to not being allowed to use short sections of robot noises. Next up was a short video where I used static noise which I believed was under the Creative Commons License attribution 3.0 (I'm starting to actually research copyright things now) which I was under the impression made me free:

  • to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work
  • to make derivative works
  • to make commercial use of the work

Under the condition I credited the original author, which I had.

Now I might be able to go click on a button that proves that this means I can use it... or it might be because I quoted song lyrics in it "Shake it like a polaroid picture" repeatedly. It was just one line though, even if it was repeated. And I got away with part of a song with music earlier? And popular youtuber DailyGrace uses copyrighted music occasionally and doesn't credit it but she can still make money off videos like SEXY 911 PHONE CALLS. (I've seen it with and without pre-roll ads and I'm not sure if this varies from view to view or just means it is no longer monetized?) I see in the comments fights about this about copyright vs fair use and frankly I wouldn't trust a Youtube comment section as a reliable source of information even if the discussion was about how annoying Youtube comments sections are. It has taught me nothing.

The impression I get is that I clearly don't understand copyright. That or Youtube is a bit selective in what it does or doesn't allow based off how popular you are. Though it seems a bit petty to try and blame favouritism on this so I'm going to go with the very obvious and objectively true thing that: I just don't seem to get copyright. It is not as simple as I had previously believed it to be.

I don't really care that I'm not making a whole 21 cents on these videos that aren't allowed to be monetized (besides the Furby one, which would've made probably at least $8 by now probably. Wow, big bucks), but it kinda annoys me whenever I see that tiny ! symbol next to my video that goes "YOU CAN'T DO THIS!" Because there's a thing saying "Copyright strikes" and right now it's green but it kinda weighs on me this idea that all this tiny little stuff ups aren't making me look all that great... like I'm some sneaky little vlogger trying to fool Google into giving me money I don't deserve by trying to sneak little copyright things in. Mwahahaha. No. No I'm not trying to get away with making money off other people's things, I'm just not entirely clear on the differences between what I can or cannot use commercially and the fact that they don't give you a reason when they deny your monetization request doesn't help me figure it out.

Is it because they don't believe that static noise is really Creative Commons? Is Creative Commons different in US than it is in Australia? Or is there an issue with the quoting of lyrics? Is that fair use? Is it allowed under use for the purposes of critiquing or reviewing the original work? Each online institution seems to have a varying harshness to their restrictions... Should I bother to try and get my latest video monetized on principal of understanding copyright better despite it not actually making money? Hmmm.

Hmm. I wish they'd taught us more about this at Uni... I never thought I'd be so interested in properly researching Copyright law.

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