When it works perfectly and all parties involved fully understand its fundamentals and processes, YouTube’s Emmy Award-winning Content ID system helps copyright owners monitor and make money from their intellectual property without having to be too litigious and get involved with the cumbersome practice of issuing DMCA takedown notices. The feature also provides independent YouTube content creators with the same luxury and a means by which to use copyrighted material in their works without having to go through arduous process of securing individualizing licenses from a number of different entities.
Content ID, however, doesn’t always work perfectly and the parties involved don’t always understand exactly how it functions.
In late December 2013, for instance, YouTube made a change in how Content ID treated MCN-affiliated channels, which lead to a dramatic uptick in the number of verified and reportedly false claims of copyright violations. At least a few video game developers inadvertently issued copyright claims to independent creators, one Top 50 YouTube channel was terminated for 21 hours because of erroneous copyright strikes, and a very vocal minority of creators voiced their discontent with the entire Content ID system.
In a letter that went out today to YouTube creators, the video sharing site admits the way it implemented changes to Content ID was not ideal. “This introduction didn’t go as we hoped,” the email reads. “And we left some of our community feeling frustrated and confused.”
In the three months since the Content ID episode, however, YouTube has been hard at work trying to remedy the situation. The email from YouTube goes onto cite five ways in which the site is making Content ID more transparent, usable, and hopefully understood by all interested parties. From the letter:
First, we’re working with rights holders to ensure that they’re claiming only what they intend to through Content ID. Many rights holders are supportive of YouTube creators. We’ve been working with them to help them clarify who owns what, for example in game soundtracks, so we can disable any outdated Content ID references. We are also requiring certain rights holders to perform in-depth audits of their references before they can make any new claims. While these measures will help reduce erroneous claims, please keep in mind that content usage policies vary and that game publishers, for example, do not always control the rights to all of the music in their games.
Second, we’ve briefed our MCN partners on how to fast-track confusing claims to us for further evaluation. If you notice a discrepancy between what rights holders are saying and claims being made, please let your MCN know.
Third, we’ve improved YouTube’s song erase and audio swapping tools, which can help if the claimed music isn’t critical to your video. We also encourage you to take advantage of the YouTube Audio Library — royalty-free tracks you can use for free, forever, for any content you make (not just YouTube videos).
Fourth, we’ve developed a trouble-shooter to help you understand and address claims. If you dispute a claim, during the dispute process monetization will cease for all parties. However, as soon as a video is eligible to be monetized again, we’ll do that automatically and email you letting you know
Finally, we are always on the lookout for abuse. Misuse of Content ID is extremely rare, but when it does happen we take it very seriously and investigate every claim.
While you’re busy making YouTube awesome, we’re working hard not only on these internal changes but across the industry to encourage innovation and keep allowing your creativity to flourish.
The above should come as at least somewhat of a relief to independent creators looking for answers about Content ID and how to approach and remedy some of its issues. And in the least, I’m sure it’s good for aggrieved individuals to know YouTube is listening and implement improvements to the system. Content ID is, of course, a fallible system, but it’s also a work in progress that will forever be iterated like all of Google’s products.