Take a brilliant parody video, strip out the audio, and only a husk remains â€” Fatal Farm’s redux of the Golden Girls intro is a perfect example. It was one of my favorites: clearly a parody, clearly protected as a legal remix under the fair use doctrine, yet still singled out and, for all intents and purposes, ruined.
Unfortunately, droves of videos are being ruined this way, or being removed from YouTube entirely â€” the EFF calls the past two weeks a Fair Use Massacre. Fair use is an exception to copyright that legitimizes certain types of remixing and reuse, specifically for purposes of criticism, education, parody, news reporting, scholarship, and so on.
While takedowns of fair use videos have been happening on YouTube for a long time, the recent shift into high gear is due to bad blood between Warner and YouTube. Warner has deployed YouTube’s automated media ID’ing software to locate instances of their copyrighted material and scrubbing all positive matches for audio from the video sharing service. The unfortunate side effect is that remixes, parodies, personal a cappella performances, and clear cut cases of fair use are being swept up along with the more egregiously infringing material.
What can we do about this?
Kevin Driscoll notes that many users are migrating to other services, and suggests we figure out a way to massively reupload and/or mirror videos that have been taken down. The EFF says they’re willing to defend users who make DMCA counterclaims (to get their videos working again).
One thing is clear to us: this will remain a problem as long as one video website is as dominant as YouTube. Further decentralization and openness in video are critical pieces to this complex puzzle.
Note: If you’re interested in the limitations of fair use, see the Center for Social Media’s code of best practices for fair use in online video.