Back in 2006 my 11 year old self made my first YouTube video with a friend. It was a terrible spoof nature documentary in his back garden consisting of a piece of bamboo, a coat hanger and a very old slide. Having watched YouTube change and used the website since its early days I often find myself longing for the old days. Forgive me for getting all nostalgic but the thing that enchanted me about YouTube was the community sharing, rating and discussing. There was this ever present need to find new people and new content. Nowadays it’s all about money and drama.
Understanding YouTube Drama Part 1
The amount of content available on YouTube is absurd and it is estimated that 500 hours of video is uploaded every minute. With YouTube being many peoples full-time job this creates a huge battle for attention. If you don’t get the views then you don’t get the money and this is where YouTube turned sour. Instead of creating genuinely interesting content people will create the content that takes the least amount of effort and gets them the most views. Why do you think video game Let’s Plays are so big. It’s not hard to play a video game for 4 hours then upload it over 3 days. Now I digress, before anyone gets up in arms to defend their favourite channel or YouTuber I am not talking about everyone. There are still thousands of quality content creators out there but that’s not what this article is about. This is about an issue which has caused a large amount of controversy on YouTube recently and that is Fair Use and Copyright. I know that sounds boring but give me a chance.
Fair Use is where someone can use copyrighted content for criticism or commentary aslong as your use is transformative. In the same way that using samples in songs creates a new product using videos clips from copyrighted sources is protected under the Fair Use law. For example if you want to review a film you can use clips form the film to illustrate your arguments and points. You can’t upload the whole film then just talk at the end as that would be a breach of copyright. The wording of the law does leave it open to some interpretation and this is where the problems lie. On YouTube many large companies are having negative reviews of their films taken down by falsely claiming copyright on fair use videos. This is a problem as YouTube seems to run on a guilty until proven innocent basis meaning content creators who rely on YouTube as there primary source of income can go days without receiving any money from their videos and come close to losing their channel (if a channel receives 3 copyright claims they will be shut-down unless they are proven to be false). One of my favourite channels was hit hard by this recently having his entire channel removed without any notice and it was only with a huge twitter campaign and support from other YouTubers that he got it back. He explains it very well in the video below.
Basically YouTube is protecting the larger channels that make them the most money. It’s much easier to take down controversial and “smaller” channels to let the channels and companies that make YouTube the most money stay. “That’s not that bad” I hear you say. Well there’s more.
Another huge issue not just on YouTube but on Facebook as well (but that’s another article for another time) is people stealing other peoples content or “freebooting” as it’s become known. Reaction Channels are the latest fad and while I dislike them some channels adhere to the rules well but its the ones that don’t who are literally stealing content from other people. The idea is they watch a video and react to it, simple right? Now imagine that they take the funniest clips from say 10 minutes of reacting and edit it down into a short 3 minute video. That would fall under fair use and wouldn’t be stealing. Now imagine they play the original video in its entirety while they just sit in the corner and say absolutely nothing like the image below.
That is stealing. There are channels with millions of subscribers that just play other channels videos in full while barely saying anything of worth and guess what YouTube couldn’t care less. As long as the money keeps rolling in they do very little to address these channels. Luckily a large portion of the community has begun to speak up about this including IHE, GradeAUnderA and JacksFilms causing untold YouTube drama very succinctly summed up by Ozzy Man Reviews below.
*WARNING NSFW LANGUAGE*
In summary YouTube needs to sort out is Copyright and Fair Use laws and they seem to be on the way there. The only way things change are when the community make a fuss and the larger channels start generating less income. If you want to help every time you see a video think “Is this the original creators work or is it some money grubbing idiots cheap attempt to make some cash of someone else’s work”. If you enjoyed this rambly and angry article you’re in luck because there’s more to come in Part 2 where we tackle YouTube Community Guidelines. Has a more thrilling sentence ever been written? I doubt it.