YouTube launches highly criticized “Copyright School”

Rather than simply sending alleged copyright infringers on their way with takedown notices, and eventually a suspended account, Google-owned YouTube has devised a plan to “educate” (I use that term loosely in this context) users and give them another shot at creating videos.

YouTube users who receive copyright takedown notices for something they’ve posted are now required to attend “Copyright School,” which consists of a short animated video followed by a brief quiz to make sure they’ve gotten their point across.

While this sounds great in theory, the company’s approach largely glosses over fair-use scenarios allowed by copyright law, causing critics and users to pan what might otherwise be a good idea. In fact, YouTube sends users such a narrow-minded message, the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) has already weighed-in on it.

Here is an overview of YouTube’s Copyright School video from the EFF’s perspective:

Users are first asked to watch a short movie which celebrates avoiding legal trouble by “making your own video” – and it is clear that “your own video” does not include mashups and remixes. Fair use gets short shrift — instead of explaining the term and how it might apply in various circumstances, the video simply shows users a short legalistic blurb (with a sped-up voiceover) and tells users who have any doubt to ask a lawyer. They also better consult a lawyer before sending a counter-notice: users get a stern warning that misusing the counter-notice process can get you in “a lot of trouble.” (The same applies to folks who send improper takedown notices, but there’s no mention of that.) The video concludes by congratulating the protagonist for making a video with 100% self-created content. “That’s more like it!” says the narrator.

That’s it. As far as remixes and parodies go, YouTube would appear to prefer that they not exist.

The “lesson” YouTube provides is confusing at best and actually pretty misleading when it comes to fair-use practices and what they seem to be calling piracy. Users are so put off by the message that the video has already racked up over 2100 “dislikes” and only 490 “likes” out of 77,000 views.

Sure, copyright law isn’t an easy thing to navigate for anyone, but I find the overly-simplistic ideas conveyed by YouTube to be pretty insulting. At least give users some real information surrounding the legalities of creating and posting videos, and resources to encourage further research. Otherwise, don’t bother.