A loophole in YouTube’s copyright infringement notification system is allowing Internet trolls to file copyright claims against video uploaders, forcing them to either provide their personal information or sit by as their videos are taken down.
Blogger “girlwriteswhat” called attention to the tactic after being on the receiving end of multiple bogus infringement claims. Three of her original videos were taken down from YouTube after individuals filed complaints with the site, alleging that the content in question infringed on their works.
Update 2: Looks like there’s a happy ending to this story. According to the blogger, the original accusers have retracted their claims. Her account is back in good standing and all her videos have been restored.
The complainants filed two notices against the videos, enough to take them down but just shy of closing the YouTuber’s account. In order to submit a counterclaim and have the videos restored, the blogger must provide her personal information to the claimants, a move that she believes would result in “a campaign of real life harassment.”
“Girlwriteswhat” went on to say that the only way the so-called trolls will get her information is if she sues YouTube to fight the copyright claim process.
In its instructions for filing copyright complaints, Google cautions parties not to make false claims. An individual who “knowingly materially misrepresents” an infringement claim could be held liable for damages.
At the same time, YouTube’s own copyright counter-notification instructions state that personal information will be forwarded to the one who filed the claim.
“Please note that when we forward the counter notification, it includes your personal information. By submitting a counter notification, you consent to having your information revealed in this way. We will not forward the counter notification to any party other than the original claimant,” the page read.
Of course, this isn’t the first criticism of YouTube’s copyright abuse reporting system. One site, Fair Use Tube, has been compiling a “wall of shame” documenting frequent offenders who have filed false content claims.
Earlier this month, a news service mistakenly filed a complaint against NASA footage of the Mars rover landing. Notably, NASA’s footage isn’t copyrighted and belongs to the public domain.
Update: A Google spokesperson has responded with the following statement regarding the DMCA:
YouTube expeditiously removes content when it receives a DMCA notification. We also implement the counter-notification process provided by the DMCA to allow users to address mistakes or misidentification of content. As required by the DMCA, we gather the user’s name, address and telephone number, and forward the complete counter-notification to the claimant.
Unfortunately, in some cases, individuals abuse our copyright notification process by submitting fraudulent claims. When we become aware of this, we reinstate the videos and/or accounts affected, and take action against the individual responsible.
The Mountain View, Calif., search company recently announced plans to count valid copyright infringement complaints against search rankings. YouTube will also be subject to the new rules, though Google says it doesn’t expect “popular user-generated content sites” to be affected by the changes.
On its way to becoming the video website of record, YouTube has faced its own share of legal troubles. The current copyright infringement system has been put in place to keep Google in the clear with respect to liability.