christian-wiediger-NmGzVG5Wsg8-unsplashThe general absurdity of YouTube's copyright system is well-trod territory on this blog, but it's always worth reiterating anytime the company bungles cases or otherwise misses the mark on IP matters; after all, YouTube is perhaps the repository of videos online, so if the copyright system is wrong on the site, it's going to affect far more people than almost anywhere else.

Reaching back into March (which may as well be last year at this point), The Verge has a story about NYU's School of Law hosting a conference on intellectual property — a noble cause, to be sure — featuring a panel discussing music copyright. While hosted by an academic institution, the talk wasn't itself strictly academic in sticking to generalities and theory; as with any good talk, the panel used real-life examples of music copyright cases to illustrate their points, complete with music clips of the songs in question. All perfectly reasonable and within the bounds of what is widely understood as fair use.

By now you can probably guess what happened to make this case worthy of news coverage: NYU School of Law uploaded a video of the panel to YouTube and was notified in short order of a litany of violations of the platform's copyright policies, which if upheld could potentially serve as one or more strikes against their account. Unlike most of these stories, however, the school had the resources and certainly the knowledge and expertise to push back against the claims, arguing to YouTube that the video and the clips constitute fair use. Shockingly (or perhaps not shocking at all), once the matter was referred by YouTube back to the rights-holders who made the claims, the claimants still maintained infringment on the part of an organization made up of legal experts.

Fortunately, the matter was resolved when the law school got in touch with YouTube directly, who were seemingly smart enough to see the wisdom in taking a law school's word on copyright matters. Still, not every user receiving a copyright notification on YouTube has a bevy of lawyers to draw upon; most are forced to simply take down the offending material regardless of the merit of the complaint rather than face the possibility of a strike to their account or a protracted battle over the issue. It's that calculus that can turn copyright into a weapon for the rights holder rather than a protection, and a problem that YouTube has been unable to solve to this point.

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