YouTube is updating the way it handles manual copyright claims with changes that should make them much less of a headache for video creators.
Owners of copyrighted content — like a record label or a movie studio — will now have to say exactly where in a video their copyrighted material appears, which they didn’t have to do in the past when manually reporting infringement. That’ll allow creators to easily verify whether or not a claim is legitimate and to then edit out the content if they don’t want to deal with the repercussions, like losing revenue or having the video taken down.
Until now, copyright owners didn’t have to say where infringing content appeared when making a manual claim. That’s been the source of much frustration for creators, who would find themselves searching through lengthy videos to determine exactly what part was even at issue. The lack of detail made it hard to dispute the claims, and it meant that if a creator tried to edit potentially infringing content out, they’d have to wait and see if the copyright owner agreed that the problem was resolved before the claim would be let go.
With this change, the whole system will be a lot clearer and should operate much smoother. Video creators will be able to see the chunk that’s been claimed, and YouTube will allow them to mute the audio during that portion, replace the audio with a free-to-use song from YouTube’s library, or cut out that chunk of the video. If they choose any of those options, the copyright claim will automatically be released. (All of those options were previously available, but creators had to figure out on their own what they needed to cut out.)
While a copyright claim might be obvious if a YouTuber used a popular song as a soundtrack or played a clip of a movie, it’s often not that simple. YouTubers have complained about being served copyright claims over snippets of songs — sometimes just seconds long — that played behind them in a store they were in; other YouTubers have been unaware of laws protecting musical covers, which can still receive claims.
The more egregious copyright violations on YouTube often come through automatic copyright detection. That feature already provided specific timestamps so that creators know what portion of a video is being claimed. Because of that, manual claims have been more likely to be used in edge cases that couldn’t be automatically detected and then lacked clarity in what they were actually about.
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said the changes were coming earlier this year. “We are exploring improvements in striking the right balance between copyright owners and creators,” she wrote in April.
This still doesn’t solve all of the problems video creators have had with copyright claims on YouTube. YouTube is incentivized by law to work with copyright owners once it’s received a claim, which puts video creators at a disadvantage when they try to prove fair use. That can make it hard for YouTubers to make educational content that involves breaking down songs or movies, since they risk the videos being taken down or having a portion of their revenue shared with the copyright owner they’re sampling from.