leon-bublitz-uDTzfsGJihw-unsplashThe problem of copyright online has long been a vexing issue for all parties involved in trying to tackle it to the ground. Social media companies can seem to lurch from indifference to hamfisted attempts to solve problems that inevitably create different problems, with seemingly no middle ground.

Such has been the case for YouTube in its effort to manage copyright infringement on its platform. The tools provided to the average user were blunt instruments to go after those deemed copyright offenders, and as the saying goes, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Users were finding their videos taken down for infractions big and small, with no consideration for fair use, as both people and companies saw a cudgel to wipe the platform of anything that might even hint at infringement. As with many well-intentioned tools, it well served those willing to be bullies, less so those that ended up bullied.

Thankfully, YouTube has introduced some refinement to the manual copyright reporting system on its platform. With the new changes, copyright claims will be timestamped to indicate what is alleged to be the offending material; previously, the claims were a blanket complaint, leaving the onus upon creators to figure out what the precise issue was. The new system provides users options as to how to resolve the claim automatically by editing out or muting the offending section of their video.

Gizmodo reports that YouTube will also be verifying the accuracy of the timestamps of the manual copyright claims, with those failing to accurately report issues at risk of losing their right to file manual claims. At first blush, the new system seems a vast improvement over its deeply flawed precedent, but there remain larger issues yet unresolved. YouTube has yet to demonstrate the ability to distinguish between fair use and infringement, and while this new system of reporting will more specifically indicate where copyrighted material appears in a video, it seems doubtful that any arbiters will be even willing to discern between fair use and an actual violation, given the company's incentive to placate larger and more powerful copyright holders. Thus the system remains ripe for exploitation on the part of many rights holders, albeit perhaps a less egregious variant.

It might be difficult, if not impossible, to strike a perfect balance between creator and copyright holder, and asking a company as big and unwieldy and immune to quotidian concerns as YouTube to truly fix this or any issue may be a fool's errand, given how much money the platform pulls in despite its many problems. For now, users have to content themselves with the smallest of victories.

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