Biased YouTube Content ID system causes content creators to lose revenue

The Youtube Content ID system scans uploaded videos against a database of files that have been submitted by individuals or entities holding copyrights to specific content.  If the Content ID system identifies a match, it assumes there has been a copyright infringement. The rightsholder may then have Youtube block the video from public view, place ads on the video to generate revenue, claim the revenue from previously linked ads, or request viewership statistics on the video. 

Youtube content creators argue the Content ID system discourages fair use, is biased toward corporations, exploits creators, and steals revenue from their content by withholding revenue payments starting the day a claim is made. YouTube’s Content ID system assumes claims of copyright infringement are correct, leading to millions of videos that are falsely flagged as infringing, and automatically awards claimants full monetization for a video. In some cases, a creator’s entire channel will be terminated based on these false claims. Youtube creators report that challenging a Content ID match is difficult, especially against large companies. In 2021, YouTube reported that:

  • 772 million copyright claims were made through Content ID, 
  • 99% of all copyright claims were Content ID claims, meaning only 1% were DMCA or other forms of complaint,
  • 6 million removal requests were made with YouTube’s Copyright Match Tool.
  • Fewer than 1% of Content ID claims were disputed,
  • 60% of the time disputes were resolved in favor of those contesting the claims.

YouTube’s Content ID may violate the Copyright Act’s explicit authorization of unlicensed use of copyright-protected works when the use is deemed a “fair use” by automatically targeting and penalizing creators that post content that is well within fair use guidelines.

In 2007, Viacom sued YouTube, alleging the company should be held responsible for copyright infringement by users. The settlement details were not disclosed, but the 2nd Circuit did hold that YouTube was not required to monitor “its website for infringing videos, so long as it removed such videos after receiving demands from copyright owners.” Nevertheless, YouTube went on to build and implement its automated copyright infringement product Content ID.

However, Content ID raises other liability concerns. Nine years after Viacom v. YouTube in Lenz v. Universal Music Corp, the 9th Circuit held that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act requires copyright owners to consider whether works are lawful fair uses before sending takedown notices targeting them.

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