YouTube is opening its wallet to protect video creators from legal threats

YouTube has promised to defend a handful of video creators from legal threats to help protect “fair use” rights overall, the company announced on its blog Thursday.

When someone uploads a video using existing content, like news clips or music, they’re protected from copyright infringement if the final product has social value beyond the original, often as a parody, remix, or news criticism.

But that doesn’t stop some copyright owners from trying to have the videos removed from the web. YouTube believes that some videos taken down through the Digital Millennium Copyright Act actually represent clear fair use cases.

So, it will now protect videos that it says represent the best examples of fair use by keeping the them live on the site and covering the cost of any copyright lawsuits brought against them.

For example, creator Constantine Guiliotis tells The New York Times that he has received three takedown notices for videos in hit UFOTheater channel, where he explains how you can tell that many UFO sightings from YouTube videos are hoaxes. YouTube reposted the videos and says it will defend him against any future legal actions.

YouTube copyright legal director Fred von Lohmann writes that the company is taking these steps because it doesn’t want creators who are intimidated by the DMCA’s counter-notification process to remove fair use videos out of fear.

He’s also hoping that this stand could help educate people on both sides.

“In addition to protecting the individual creator, this program could, over time, create a ‘demo reel’ that will help the YouTube community and copyright owners alike better understand what fair use looks like online and develop best practices as a community,” he adds.

The Facebook factor

YouTube’s stand for fair use could also benefit its business. The announcement positions YouTube as a positive partner for creators. That’s important as YouTube faces growing competition from Facebook to be the main online destination for video.

With billions of dollars in video advertising at stake, both Google and Facebook want to be the primary place where video creators decide to post their work.

Right now, Facebook is facing a lot of criticism. A video accusing Facebook of “stealing” views and failing to do enough to protect creators from content thieves recently went completely viral.

YouTube wants creators to know it will stand with them to protect their rights.

“We believe even the small number of videos we are able to protect will make a positive impact on the entire YouTube ecosystem,” Lohmann writes, “Ensuring YouTube remains a place where creativity and expression can be rewarded.”

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