Three Strikes, We’re Out

I’m annoyed.

On July 7th, UN1TE Dance Company‘s Youtube channel was suspended indefinitely (see my first post about it here). As one of the primary video content creators for the channel, I am sad to see the over 300 videos and 1000 subscribers go down the drain.

We received an email saying that one of our videos contains a portion of the song “Billionaire” by Bruno Mars. I can’t recall anyone ever using that song in a UN1TE video.

Youtube helpfully provided a link to the offending video, but when I clicked on the URL, I was redirected to a page that said the video had been removed. I have no other details of what video this might be, and I can no longer log in to figure it out. How am I supposed to file a counter-notification if I have no idea what video has been accused?

Youtube takedown notice
The message that haunts me...

TechDirt’s Michael Masnick blogged about UN1TE’s experiences with regards to Youtube’s new three-strike policy. In digging around online, I came across many others who are equally pissed off about their channels being removed under this new system. And rightfully so! Why, if only three of a user’s videos contain claimed content, are all the videos then removed?

There are many reasons to dislike this new policy.

  1. Videos are removed. Instead of disabling them, Youtube now removes videos completely and instantly, along with user comments, view counts, and carefully crafted video descriptions. My wasted work!
  2. Putting up a video involves a risk. In her TED Talk on Youtube and Copyright, Margaret Stewart speaks positively about how record labels like Sony and Warner are given the option to either approve or reject videos based on their content. One commenter then writes, “How can any single user be expected to know which content owners have allowed what content on YouTube until they get a warning and have their video taken down?” It seems like Youtube is punishing users who attempt to take advantage of those labels who accept user-created content containing their work.
  3. Use agreements for copyrighted works can change over time. What’s being taken down online now may be restored within a year – and vice versa. One of our warnings was filed over two years after the video had been uploaded. We thought we were in the clear for that song. If a user can no longer securely believe that even their past videos are safe from removal, then how can they trust the system?
  4. ANYONE can flag your video for copyright infringement. Our second warning was caused by a claim made by someone named Andrei Rosca for the song “So Magical” by Lil Wayne. In hindsight, I should have filed a counter-notice. I have no idea who Andrei Rosca is, but I doubt he has anything to do with Young Money or any of the labels that Lil Wayne has worked with.
  5. There is danger in filing counter-notices. Since anyone can file a DMCA claim, when you submit your personal information, you don’t know where it’s going. In a video about MyRealityBytes’ struggles with a wrongfully filed DMCA claim, TheMaskedAnalyst points out that this is unsafe and spoils the whatever privacy you may have left online. To regain UN1TE’s channel, I have to submit a scan of my signature. Doesn’t this enable identity theft?

I hope Youtube recognizes the detriment this causes to user experience and looks for a way to keep all parties happy. Because right now, I (along with the Winnipeg dance community at large) am not.

Now, back to filing the counter-notification. UN1TE may be out now, but who knows what the next inning will bring?

Contemplating Copyright

Dance is an odd artistic medium. While choreography is visual, it’s often so tied to its accompanying musical work that to separate the two is offensive to its creator. When dancers use popular music without licensing it for certain uses (broadcasting, live performances, etc), problems arise. Things become more complex when choreography is posted on the Internet, where the battle for free use of copyrighted works is being fought, where illegal mash-ups thrive and Flikr images can easily be Photoshopped.

Why do I feel compelled to discuss this now? Well, the other day, my dance team’s channel was suspended on Youtube for copyright infringement. Over 300 videos (most made by me!) unable to be accessed. The horror!

UN1TE Dance Company‘s choreographers feel free to use whatever music they like in their classes. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy when you put videos from those classes online.

Class with UN1TE
Joel Natoc teaches a class for UN1TE (photo by John Orcullo)

Youtube used to either cut the audio out (based on distribution agreements with various record labels) or remove the video altogether. Now, it seems, they’ve taken to suspending accounts if you are flagged one too many times for this offense.

Let’s be clear – all of the video content is mine, except in some cases where I gained permission to use the footage. And the choreography belongs to its respective creators. So, it seems unfair that the visual portion can’t be seen.

However, I do recognize the larger problems that this represents for the hip hop dance community and would like to address them properly. I’m considering organizing an event (with a panel of experts) for those interested in the smallest details of copyright law as it applies to the arts.

Those who’ve responded to my call for help on Twitter have given me links to CIPO, SOCAN, CMPA, and other various acronyms. I’m excited to read Michael Geist’s site on the topic, too.

I’ve created a temporary Youtube channel for UN1TE Dance Company for your viewing pleasure.

Please note that many of the videos posted here on my blog will not play. It is a sad, sad time for Shadling.