Having spent 10 years navigating the DMCA and how YouTube’s ContentID tool manages claims, I’m not surprised to see the copyright tool used as a weapon to censor.
I’ve chronicled my adventures with copyright law and fair use quite a bit. Today I read of the latest example of the tool allegedly being used by the government of Turkey to silence critics outside of its borders.
I’ve called ContentID a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) which can be weaponized and used as a tool for censorship. I view it as akin to nuclear energy which can be channelled for good, but also for evil. I’ve seen first-hand how YouTube makes this WMD available not just to its allies and frenemies but also certain rogue-ish organizations who then abuse it. In my analogies, the
- “allies and frenemies” are amongst others the record labels who have a plausible need to protect their IP but then find themselves on a slippery slope abusing the tool to arguably encroach on others’ rights and unlawfully enrich themselves.
- the intermediaries are the third-party organizations who are mandated by rights holders to manage the morass that is YouTube, but who then are incentivized to abuse ContentID because it’s easy money given YouTube’s 3 strikes you’re out law.
Despite rights holders generally encouraging us early on to cover them through our editorial, over time as YouTube became ground zero for advertising, we got caught in the crossfire as a superpower shared its WMD with others. You can imagine the toll that takes on you when such a weapon is released in the wild without those sharing it understanding its full effects. Now granted, given my personal roots and extensive historical studies, you can imagine some of the other parallels I see with an American superpower passing of such weaponry to others who then abuse it – but we’ll leave that for #AnotherArticle. I will add that I don’t think there’s any malice on Google/YouTube’s behalf, they’re caught between a rock and a hard place,
- on the marketer front when it comes to brand safety;
- on the rights issue between rightsholders and channels like ours;
- fielding requests from each jurisdiction while trying to maintain a global platform. More on this in this video on Article 13.
The Rise of Corponations
Today’s news is an example of governments now possibly using ContentID to exert their influence abroad. This brings up the notion of “corponations” (a play off corporations and nations) like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple et al that have built boundaryless armies consisting of people and machines.
Last year for our Business Battleground series, I looked at how such CorpoNations’ bets on in AI would raise substantial ethical questions. It’s one thing to discuss what is right and wrong with regards to online advertising and what content can be made public to global audiences, but as these firms fund the technology that will power AI-powered soldiers (yes, robots), the stakes change. You can watch the video on “CorpoNations: Will Tech Firms Will Destroy the World with AI?”
While ethical experts and watchdogs will be calling for bans on military applications of AI, the lure of massive wealth will be too tempting for money-driven shareholders, while boundaryless power will prove too tempting for politicians. The likes of Google, Facebook, Microsoft cut deals with governments to give access to their technology, creating this weird dynamic of rivalries between nations and corporations… with some switching allegiances. I’m actually working on a scripted series based on this universe.
ContentID is a modern day equivalent of WMDs. How did that fare?