A YouTube horror story of sorts has been making its way around the internet in the last week. Brian Kamerer and his friend Travis Irvine made a simple, upbeat video for Irvine's mayoral campaign in Bexley, Ohio in 2007. Then, in 2009, Jay Leno, of all people. showed the video at the end of The Jay Leno Show and naturally, Kamerer and Irvine were pleased to get such exposure. They weren't asked about using the video, but they didn't think about it too much: just getting the publicity was enough. That was, until NBC decided that the video was their own property, and took it down from YouTube.
YouTube Lacks A Face In These "Copyright" Controversies
Of course, no matter what Kamerer could possibly say to YouTube on the matter, he's going to get a deaf ear. One of the most curious and glaring flaws of YouTube is that there isn't anyone you can talk to when things like this happen. Even if you can, it's not going to go far. And with NBC, they probably didn't personally take the video down and claim it as their own, they just used their Content ID rights and that video happened to correspond with something that was on Jay Leno and they made a copyright claim to take it down. YouTube is very proud of this content ID thing but it does show a flaw in the process.
By the way, Kamerer went ahead and re-posted the video on Funny Or Die:
The fact that this is on Funny Or Die quite freely shows where the flaw is in this system. It shows that NBC doesn't really care about the video, but due to YouTube's Content ID, they've paradoxically claimed someone's video as their own. Thus, Brian Kamerer took to Splitsider and posted this open letter to Jay Leno. In it, he says:
Your company NBC just up and blocked our video and claimed that we are copyright infringers! But we are not! We made it! And this is the video that you said you loved! Now, if you try to watch our video (and again this is the video that had nothing to do with you until you used it in your show without asking) on YouTube it’s just a big black sign that basically says, “the makers of this video stole this video from NBC, so you can’t watch it!” Jay, what in the hell is going on here?
Kamerer would go on to imagine a scenario by which Jay Leno wanted to use a video for his show, but not tell the creators for any reason. Understandably, he's pretty angry. He finishes it with:
Don’t hide behind NBC on this one, dude. And don’t blame YouTube. And forget about the robots. I’m not talking to the robot now. I’m talking to you, Jay Leno. Where does the buck stop on The Jay Leno Show, if not with Jay Leno himself? The buck stops with you Jay.
Jay, please apologize for using our video without asking, and then getting our video blocked and publicly calling me and my friend Travis thieves. I’m sure you would like to talk this through with us on your television show, but I’d rather meet somewhere more objective. My first choice would be to discuss this with you on the People’s Court. I had hoped arbitration would not be necessary, but I fear we are opening that door. Hope to hear back from you soon!
This seems like a tremendously simple thing to get corrected, but as Violet Blue says in her article about this:
I think Kamerer’s post is a little over the top, but I also think that he has every right to lose it over this insanity. I mean, have you ever tried to tell YouTube that NBC is wrong? (I have, and no, they don’t listen.)
And that's the biggest problem. Even though Kamerer is shooting for Jay Leno, which is wise because it puts a face on the whole thing, the real problem is that a guy like Kamerer can't go to YouTube and say, "NBC is wrong, let's sort this out," to anyone. He can't put in a claim that says he posted the video on this date, and the NBC show containing his video aired on a following date, which seems like a terribly simple fix to the problem (although, no doubt, there would be executives claiming that footage can be stolen before the program aired…but in this case, we're talking years after).
But maybe because YouTube has so much content coming in at once (72 hours a minute), the idea of having a department dedicated to approaching the creators' issues in a sensitive way seems impossible. But if you can get Content ID to scan 100 years of content every day, surely you can come up with a "False Claim ID" or something of that nature by which a user puts in dates and other pertinent information into a form, and someone or something can investigate it properly.
This is something I hope YouTube fixes in the near future, because problems like this are probably going to escalate. But you know what combining hope and YouTube is like.
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