YouTube’s relationship with its creators has always been asymmetric; the platform necessarily has all of the power, and it’s not super transparent about the changes it makes that affect people who rely on the site for revenue. This January, for example, YouTube announced that it would now require creators who wanted to enter its Partner Program — which allows creators to earn money from the ads that run on their videos and from the YouTube Premium subscribers who watch their content — to have at least 4,000 hours of views in the last year and at least 1,000 subscribers. Now, YouTube has changed its Partner Program policies again — this time around video duplication, which, as is typical of YouTube, seems inconsistent in its enforcement.
A few days ago, in a post on its help forum, YouTube gave an explanation to people who may have been removed from its Partner Program for “duplicative content,” which appears to have less to do with fair use and copyright and more to do with videos that don’t add value. For YouTube, that means anything that “appears to be automatically generated,” anything “pulled from third-party sources with no content or narrative added by the creator,” stuff that’s been “uploaded many times by multiple users” if you’re not the original uploader, or content that’s been “uploaded in a way that is trying to get around our copyright tools.”
“The spirit of this YPP policy is to make sure we’re only allowing channels into the program when the content adds value, and is original and relevant,” a YouTube staffer named Jordan wrote. “If you upload content from multiple sources or repurpose existing content, you may still be eligible for YPP so long as you’re contributing to the value of that content in some way. For example, if you add significant original commentary, educational value, narrative, or high quality editing, then your channel may be fine to monetize.” YouTube says that if you’ve been demonetized because of duplication, you’re eligible to reapply after a 30-day waiting period.
As Mashable pointed out yesterday, the move means that YouTube is starting to do more quality control. And, as Mashable’s Matt Binder explained, duplicative content doesn’t actually violate YouTube’s site guidelines. “There’s been some confusion online over whether channels with duplicative content were being completely removed from YouTube,” Binder wrote. “Mashable has confirmed with the company that duplicative content only violates YouTube Partner Program policies.”
If the comments below YouTube Jordan’s post are any indication, the duplicative content change has not gone unnoticed: hundreds of angry creators have taken issue with what they see as an opaque policy. “My channel was removed from the partnership program because of duplication,” wrote user MattTV. “It doesn’t make any sense! All the content on my channel is mine and I filmed and edited everything. I was falsely removed and YouTube doesn’t care.” User Ling Li, whose 20,000-plus subscriber channel hosts gameplay videos, wrote that he also believes he’s been falsely dinged for duplication. “I really hope this can get resolved soon as I feel I’ve been wrongly demonetized and I really need that money to survive or I will end up living in Poverty,” he wrote.