Copyright controversy angers YouTube professionals
The video generation
YouTube has become a publishing phenomenon, providing millions with the opportunity to create their own video channel. Most won’t reach the dizzy heights of video gamer PewDiePie, one of the platform’s most popular personalities, boasting 11 million views and 49 million subscribers. But many will be able to share their talents – and some might even make the big time.
With YouTube, the bigger the audience, the greater the likelihood of being able to monetise your channel. Self-made YouTube stars can command tens of thousands of dollars a year in advertising revenues. PewDiePie, real name Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, reportedly earns more than $5 million per annum – all from recording himself playing video games.
A worrying new development is resulting in innocent YouTubers succumbing to blackmail attempts by cyber criminals who appear to be exploiting YouTube’s ‘three strikes and you’re out’ copyright policy to target the platform’s users.
It’s an experience shared by Afghan-American brothers Shukran and Roshan, known to many as the ‘SR Brothers’. Shukran and Roshan told the iNews online paper that their efforts to build a loyal YouTube following had been thwarted by a series of copyright complaints issued against their videos in what they believe to be a calculated attempt at extortion.
The pair had posted a selection of home-made videos including pop parodies and comedy spoofs which were receiving positive feedback, plus 17 million views and an audience of 65,000 subscribers. Not quite PewDiePie success, but an impressive record, nevertheless.
The brothers initially thought that the message from YouTube was a mistake but when they received an email from an unknown source demanding $1,000 in return for withdrawing the complaint, they realised that it was a blatant attempt at extortion. When they refused to pay, their channel was taken down.
YouTube’s automated copyright protection system is part of the problem. It automatically escalates complaints of copyright infringement, leading to the suspension of a channel after three ‘strikes’. The claims can be contested but in the meantime the channel remains offline.
The system is open to abuse because of the assumption of guilt. As hundreds of thousands of videos are uploaded to the site each hour, it’s a tough task for YouTube to balance their responsibilities fairly. Perhaps a community-based approach to vetting claims may be the way forward. It’s an issue that YouTube will need to address, if it’s to retain pole position.
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