Google is going to go to court to defend video publishers wrongly accused of copyright violation. The company explained that it will offer legal support to videos which it believes represent “clear fair uses”. Moreover, YouTube is going to feature them in a special section of the service to showcase clear examples of fair use.
According to the company, it is taking these steps to help video creators defend against abuse of the DMCA, which allows for putative rights owners to demand a website take down user generated content or face trial. In fact, the DMCA is intended to balance the needs of rights owners, platform owners, and users uploading new works to streaming services, but in real life the law is frequently abused to demand the takedown of works the claimants have no legal authority over.
If a video falls under a fair use defense and is subject to a DMCA takedown order, its creator can file a “counter notification order”. However, this is a confusing process, which can open a creator up to further legal penalties, contrary to simply acquiescing to the takedown.
YouTube explained it had to act because creators can be intimidated by those counter notification process and potential for litigation. In addition, the company will collate all the videos that it is defending in one place, thus creating a kind of showroom of works with strong fair use defenses. Google believes that it can help both the YouTube community and rights holders better understand what fair use looks like on the Internet.
So far, the company chose the following videos to defend: one by a UFO skeptic, one by a British gaming journalist, and one discussing footage of the Ohio state legislature. These videos have been restored in the US, but are still unavailable in other countries. Despite the 17-year history of this law, large web companies have only recently put their clout behind defending users against malicious takedown notices.
For example, a couple years ago, the British journalist Oliver Hotham was targeted with a takedown notice after he interviewed homophobic protest group, which tried to argue it owned the copyright on the interview. However, the company hosting his blog called the notice “censorship using the DMCA”, and helped defend the journalist in court, in result winning almost $25,000 from the group for over-reaching takedown notice.