YouTube has taken an important step to protect its users against frivolous takedowns, instituting a formal process for appealing blocked videos under the ContentID program. In a Wednesday blog post, the Google-owned video site announced that copyright holders that wish to keep a video offline after the uploader disputes a ContentID claim will (in most cases) be required to file a formal takedown notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. That matters because there are legal penalties (albeit relatively modest ones) for filing bogus DMCA takedown requests.
We’ve covered a number of incidents where copyright holders have gotten YouTube to take down videos that didn’t belong to them. In one case, a video related to the Curiosity lander was taken down because it used public-domain footage from NASA that had also been used by commercial news outlets. In another case, videos featuring President Barack Obama singing a few words from Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” were taken offline by the firm that owned the rights to the music, even though the videos appeared to fall squarely within fair use.
Some media outlets have described these as takedown requests under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, but most of them appear to have been taken down using the separate ContentID system. (YouTube has repeatedly refused to tell us, at least on the record, which takedowns were due to ContentID and which were DMCA requests.) Under ContentID, copyright holders upload samples of their copyrighted works and YouTube’s software automatically blocks “matching” videos.