christian-wiediger-NmGzVG5Wsg8-unsplashI've written before about the problems with both the aggressive assertion of copyright and the inability of online platforms to discern legitimate claims from the misuse of reporting tools on offer, with YouTube as the convergence point of these dual phenomena. Invariably the response from these platforms is that their user base is too large and too spread out to offer any effective administrative policing, so the task falls to users to police one another. The problem with this approach comes from the baseline assumption that users can be trusted with these tools and this power; as we've seen in society at large, while the vast majority of people will probably do the right thing, it only takes a few to do wrong and ruin the whole thing for everyone.

The latest incident in a string of bogus copyright claims involves streamers losing out on monetization from a pair of videos over numbers. As reported in Techdirt, a YouTube creator working under the nom de guerre AnneMunition was hit with copyright claims on a pair of videos with the assertion that she didn't hold he copyright to the numbers 36 and 50. AnneMunition posted the text of the former claim on her Twitter account, showing that her 2017 video of a Witcher 3 playthrough was dinged by a "copyright owner" for her use of the number 36; further down the tread are additional claims, with the reveal that they originated from a company called Fullscreen, Inc.

Who are Fullscreen, Inc., and what might possess a company to make such a claim? Techdirt notes that they're a social media content company, but they could be Pythagoras reincarnate and their claim over numbers would have no more merit. Even those with no knowledge of intellectual property law could intuit that you can't copyright numbers, and Fullscreen would seem to know a little bit more than nothing if they're on YouTube making claims as to what is their IP. Unless they have no access to common sense or any sort of legal advice, they had to know their claims have zero basis.

It's easy to impugn Fullscreen and their motives, and rightly so if there actions prove to be in bad faith. But we can't overlook the role that a lack of oversight on the part of YouTube plays in this ongoing issue. Tech companies can't, or at least shouldn't, talk out of both sides of their mouths, asserting their growth and dominance for investors while demurring that they're but a humble and limited operation for lawmakers and others who demand oversight. Bogus copyright claims might not be as urgent a matter as hate speech and other vile behaviors that fester online, but they're part of a larger pattern of bad behavior that goes largely unpunished. For the sake of our society and IP, tech needs to outgrow its indifference, or be made to.

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