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[ NNSquad ] YouTube's Nifty New "Song Remover" Should Ease Some Copyright Problems

   YouTube's Nifty New "Song Remover" Should Ease Some Copyright Problems


Regular readers know that YouTube-related questions and concerns --
particularly copyright related -- are routine appearances within my
inbox, and that the issues surrounding online videos are decidedly

Many observers are dissatisfied with the overall status quo when it
comes to striking a balance between those parties who claim rights to
content, vs. users who upload videos.  Outside the realm of totally
false claims, a significant grey area exists, especially relating to
public domain materials, "nested" videos, fair use, and "incidental"
inclusions of various sorts, among other associated matters.

None of these issues are amenable to "quick" fixes.  However,
incremental improvements are very important.

So I'm pleased to note that based on very useful discussions I've had
with YouTube recently, it's quite clear that Google's YouTube is
continuing work to evolve their copyright-related systems as much as
possible within the boundaries of existing related laws.

One example of this is a new YouTube feature (now in beta) that you
probably don't know about.  Introduced without any fanfare last month
(and so still in a very early stage) it's the nifty new YouTube "Song
Remover" (or song "eraser" if you prefer), the public help/information
page for which has now gone live: 

    http://j.mp/WzfV6Z (Google)

While the YouTube Song Remover (YSR) doesn't address the underlying
legal issues -- which are beyond the scope of any single entity,
including YouTube, to change unilaterally -- YSR does provide a very
useful new option to deal with an unfortunately relatively common
problem -- original YouTube video content that used background music
claimed by a third party.

Up until now, the use of such music could trigger an automatic Content
ID hit, which could then result in third-party ads running with the
video, or the audio track of the video being muted, or the video being
blocked in some or all regions of the world (depending on a number of
criteria and the claimed rights holder's choices).  And when a Content
ID hit has been triggered, the entire video has been affected.

An obvious problem here is that blocking of an entire video, or even
deleting just the audio track, also can wipe out non-infringing video
and audio.  A classic example of this is a wedding video that triggers
Content ID and has its entire audio track removed, or is blocked in
some or all locales, or starts appearing with third-party ads -- due
to the use of particular music claimed as copyrighted content, being
played at the event as recorded.

YSR provides an option for many videos (remember, the feature is in
early beta) that allows the uploader in some cases to strip the
Content ID hit (and related blocking or other negative impacts) from
their video, by removing the music in question but leaving all other
audio (and the video) intact.

What this means in practice -- after applying YSR on a video -- is
that where there was only the claimed music there will now be silence,
and where there was that music as background with foreground voices,
cheers, or other audio, the music will be removed but the foreground
audio will remain intact.  A video that had been flagged by Content ID
that is then run by the uploader through this process may then have
its Content ID hit expunged.

This is a rather cool and decidedly nontrivial process to accomplish.
And while it can't fix the broad scope of copyright claims and
counterclaims, it does offer an extremely useful alternative to the
ways in which Content ID has impacted many videos up to now.

Above all, this approach demonstrates that Google/YouTube is seriously
working to try provide more flexibility for uploaders, especially in
these kinds of situations.  While such technically-oriented approaches
can't and aren't meant to address the underlying legal complexities
surrounding copyright and fair use, they are extremely important
incremental steps, and should prove very useful to many YouTube users,
even as efforts continue to work toward more encompassing policy
solutions related these areas.

Kudos to the YouTube teams for this work!

Lauren Weinstein (lauren@vortex.com): http://www.vortex.com/lauren 
Co-Founder: People For Internet Responsibility: http://www.pfir.org/pfir-info
 - Network Neutrality Squad: http://www.nnsquad.org 
 - PRIVACY Forum: http://www.vortex.com/privacy-info
 - Data Wisdom Explorers League: http://www.dwel.org
 - Global Coalition for Transparent Internet Performance: http://www.gctip.org
Member: ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy
Lauren's Blog: http://lauren.vortex.com
Google+: http://vortex.com/g+lauren / Twitter: http://vortex.com/t-lauren 
Tel: +1 (818) 225-2800 / Skype: vortex.com
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