What's the biggest video-sharing website in the world right now? Sure, everyone has their preferences- Vimeo, Dailymotion, some other third one, but logistically speaking, it's all about one; YouTube.
YouTube is how we get all of our favorite user-created videos. From CinemaSins to Pewdiepie, everyone has a favorite YouTube channel and a favorite YouTuber.
A lot of us are even YouTubers ourselves. Sure we can't all have millions of views and subscribers, but as the internet has become even more vast these days, so many people are turning to YouTube to make an honest living.
Yes in this day and age, where we spend half of our time on the internet, YouTube has become much more than just a website for people to share their shaky home videos—it's become an accepted way of living, and a substantial source of income.
So many people use YouTube to entertain others and pay their bills. Which is why it's a shame that nowadays, making a YouTube video makes you an easy target for copyright infringement.
Yes, it's true that a lot of people use YouTube to post illegally downloaded or recorded movies, and movie studios have every right to take a stand against those that do this. But sometimes a YouTuber is accused of copyright infringement when they didn't actually commit any crime. This happens way too often. Don't believe me? Just watch this video by Doug Walker, a.k.a the Nostalgia Critic, about the issue of false copyright claims on YouTube:
Doug Walker isn't the first person to address the issue of false copyright claims, but he's using his channel and this video as a call to action to all YouTuber in a campaign titled "Where's The Fair Use?" or "#WTFU?"
For those who don't know, fair use is a law that basically allows short scenes of copyrighted material to be used for things such as news, reviews, and research.
The official definition of fair use law is:
The doctrine that brief excerpts of copyright material may, under certain circumstances, be quoted verbatim for purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, and research, without the need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder.
Now obviously, fair use doesn't allow the use of entire films or shows. Uploading an entire movie on to YouTube that you don't own the rights too is very illegal and studios are allowed to sue you for copyright infringement.
A great example of fair use is the gif above, which shows a scene from the CinemaSins video 'Everything Wrong With Twilight'. CinemaSins' videos feature a narrator picking apart movies and counting the various "sins" that they have.
They've been doing this for years, and according to the fair use doctrine, they aren't doing anything wrong. But as you heard in the video, that doesn't really matter much if a movie studio all of a sudden decided to file a complaint towards them. Due to YouTube's system (which is in serious need of an update), if CinemaSins or any YouTuber got a strike on their channel, they could risk having certain limitations on their channel, or worse; deletion.
So Why Should We Care?
So you're probably thinking "Hey, why should I care? I'm not a big time YouTuber with a popular channel". Unless you are a YouTuber with a popular channel, in which case, thanks for reading this!
But most of you who are reading this aren't popular YouTubers with millions of subscribers and views. So you probably aren't as worried about YouTube's broken system. But you absolutely should be worried, for a number of reasons.
Your Favorite Channels Are At Risk
The most obvious reason for why you should care about #WTFU is that your favorite channels are at risk. With the way #WTFU has been presented, it sounds like only channels that use clips from movies are in danger, but this isn't true. Even if it was, A LOT of popular YouTube channels use movie clips, so that should still worry you.
But like I said, it isn't just channels that use clips or scenes from films that are in danger of false copyright claims. TeamFourStar is a channel that specialize in abridged anime videos. Their most popular series, Dragon Ball Z Abridged, uses clips from Dragon Ball Z with the original audio replaced with that of Team Four Star's voice actors.
They've been doing this abridged series since 2008, and have amassed a large number of fans and views. While it may seem like they're violating copyright laws, everything that they are doing is completely legal under the fair use doctrine.
If you looked them up on YouTube now, you'd be directed to their YouTube channel. But if you had tried to search for them just 24 hours ago, you wouldn't have found anything.
That's because due to "copyright infringement", their YouTube channel was taken down. Luckily, they managed to recover it, but they might not have been so lucky. So you see, it doesn't matter if your favorite channel uses clips from theatrical films, or from video games or anime. They are ALL at risk. In fact, it isn't just the popular channels like Team Four Star that are at risk.
Every Channel Is In Danger!
It may seem like the only channels being attacked by YouTube's copyright system are the big channels, the ones with millions of subscribers and videos with large amounts of monetization.
But that's only because those big channels have fanbases large enough to speak out and get heard—that doesn't meant that they're the only ones affected by this. In fact, EVERYONE on YouTube is affected!
It doesn't matter if you have 1 subscriber or 1 million subscribers, if you've ever used a movie clip in any of your videos, you have a chance of being a victim of false copyright claims. Even if what you're doing is completely legal.
It isn't just movie clips and scene from TV shows that can make studios falsely accuse you of copyright infringement. Mentioned in the video above is the Lenz v. Universal Music Corp. case. All Stephanie Lenz did was post a video of her children dancing, with Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" playing the background, and that was all Universal needed to send YouTube a take down notice—effectively forcing Lenz' video to be removed.
It doesn't matter if you use movie/TV clips, song excerpts, or even something as small as having a movie poster on your wall or having a show playing on TV in the background. If you've ever made a YouTube video, there's a very big chance that you could be falsely accused of copyright infringement, and have your video or even your entire channel taken down!
So What Can Be Done?
It's 2016, and whether you like it or not, the internet is a large part of our way of living. It's no longer just the place where we go to watch funny cat videos and search the many questions that run through our minds at 3 in the morning.
We still do that sure, but the internet has become so much more for that. For many, the internet has become a way to make a living. It's become a way for people to pay bills, to keep their preferred way of living the best way they know how; by expressing themselves.
It doesn't matter if you have a ton of subscribers or if you have only a few, this affects everyone. And you might be thinking "I don't have a YouTube channel, how does this affect me?"
Well it may be YouTube today, but it could be any site tomorrow. What happens if studios start trying to crack down on people posting things about movies on their Facebook wall, or even people talking about movies on Moviepilot! It's unlikely, but the point is YouTube's very broken and one-sided system is a prime example of just how vulnerable every creator on the internet really is.
I'm not going to pretend like I'm an expert on YouTube, Google, or the fair use law, but I do know that there have got to be some changes made to give content creators at least a fighting chance.
I understand that there are a lot of people who use YouTube to illegally upload full movies, TV shows, and songs, and studios have every right to battle them.
But for those who are protected by the fair use law, it just seems incredibly fair that they have to go through so much every time they legally make a video.
So what can we do? For now, all we can do is share our support for #WTFU and show YouTube that we have a voice, and that it's going to be heard. I don't know what YouTube is doing to support their creators, or if they're doing anything at all, but campaigns like #WTFU are needed to let them know that we can't just sit back and allow this to happen.
If you want to support #WTFU, it's as simple as using the hashtag on Twitter or Facebook. Or if you've got the tools, make a video sharing your support on YouTube or an article just like this one on Moviepilot.com!