Last Thursday night, protesters projected human rights images including: monks being arrested, olympic rings turning into handcuffs, and so on, onto the side of the Chinese Consulate in Manhattan. Video of this event was uploaded to YouTube, and has since been removed at the request of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The video is a crystal clear case of fair use â€”it’s 100% legal and non-infringingâ€” and the IOC has absolutely no right to force the video out of view.
The public sometimes takes notice when high profile political videos like this one get censored, but in most cases videos just quietly vanish from YouTube. More decentralization in online video and accountability from YouTube are the keys to avoiding this type of censorship.
Making internet video more decentralized is a first step. Decentralization makes it less likely that people will go directly to YouTube to for their video fix; they’re more likely to be looking across sites, which means they’re more likely to find the mirrored version of the above protest video, which is currently available on Vimeo. We can achieve this goal by supporting open standards (such as Media RSS) and making video files available for download (Nicholas and I even put together this page, advocating a more open and decentralized online video space).
A second key is to keep the pressure on YouTube â€” they have automatic video scanning software that highlights videos that may be infringing a copyright, and offers to remove the potentially infringing videos for content owners. So big copyright holders have great tools to make sure that YouTube doesn’t use their material illegally, but the rest of us don’t. We should pressure YouTube to put up a form for accepting DMCA takedown counter-claims (and making that last link easier to find).
I’m working to advance both of these issues (officially with Miro, and unofficially with YouTomb). Feel free to join me â€” you can start by choosing video services and publishing tools that promote openness (check out Show in a Box, blip.tv, and MakeInternetTV), making noise about incidences where legitimate YouTube videos are taken down, and of course recommending Miro as a way to aggregate video from all over the web.
Please comment if you’ve got an interesting takedown story to share.
Update: The IOC withdrew their DMCA request and the video was reinstated, after YouTube took extra measures to contact the committee.