Where’s the Fair Use?

Taylor Spaar, Writer

For over a decade now, YouTube has been a sanctuary for the current generation to share their thoughts, opinions and creations with people worldwide. YouTube has become a career for many account owners through the option of advertisements in their videos, monetizing their videos and gaining income with each view.

Unfortunately, that little red frowny face that appears on screens -instead of the video’s thumbnail- has been appearing more and more for YouTubers. While it is frustrating for viewers to see their favorite videos have been removed, it is entirely beyond frustrating for the creators of the content. They’ve been using YouTube for years to express themselves and share their talents through song mashups, movie and TV show reviews, song covers or all of the above.

fair use
Youtube Press Release

The reason this symbol is appearing more often is due to an increase in the abuse of the Fair Use Act by studios and artists. What is the Fair Use Act, you might ask? Well, a better question is where is the Fair Use Act? Fair Use is a legal doctrine created for the purpose of permitting use of copyrighted material without requiring permission directly from the creators themselves. This enables YouTubers to use clips of movies or snippets of songs to create the videos that their viewers love to watch. It also protects the artist’s intellectual rights, making sure that their creative work and money is not being stolen.

This sounds like a great system! Right? Almost. Hollywood studios and record labels are starting to expose loopholes in the doctrine, if not disregarding the act all together, and they are using YouTube to do their dirty work. They are doing this through YouTube’s Content ID system. Content ID is the process of taking every video that is uploaded to YouTube and examining it to see if it fully or partially matches content given to YouTube from right holders. If a match is found, they follow the orders given to them from the artist as to what to do with the video that has allegedly ‘stolen’ their work. This could mean: blocking the video, muting certain audio, monetizing the video or deleting the account altogether. Record labels and studios have been filing claim after claim to popular YouTube accounts for invalid reasons such as having a song in the background of a video, an actor in a video or for simply talking about a movie. Accounts are being shut down for this, and the owners are having their money stolen by these creators. If the creator’s claims or strikes are resolved and the account is found innocent, there are no ramifications given for limiting, terminating, or stealing money from the account for however long it took to resolve.

Popular YouTuber, Matthias, who had been up close and personal with this problem gives a perfect explanation to Fair Use and how it is being violated by many big name companies. To learn more about this topic and how to help, search Where’s the Fair Use online or use the hashtag #WTFU on social media.