thomas-kelley-78865-unsplashThere is much made over automated programs that look to protect copyright online. They can be overly aggressive in what they consider to be infringement, and often lack the understanding and nuance of human arbiters when it comes to determinations between actual infringement and fair use and determining the original creators of work. This lack of actual cognition and comprehension can lead to cases of unfounded takedown requests or permitted infringement that escapes the notice of the programs designed to prevent that very problem.

In the case of one YouTube artist, he was the recipient of copyright notices for what turned out to be his work. Paul Davids has a YouTube channel dedicated to most things guitar — riffs, techniques, and the instruments themselves. Upon receiving a copyright infringement notification from YouTube, he was surprised to discover that the song he was accused of infringing upon was a version of his own that someone had taken and added additional vocals and instrumentation to in order to pass off as their own.

Davids reached out to the person that had uploaded the track to ask if the copying was intentional and received a response that the offending party had in fact downloaded riffs from YouTube and asked for permission to continue using the song, which Davids eventually granted. And while that magnanimity is admirable, it doesn't excuse either the theft or the additional harm caused by potential demonetization due to copyright infringement.

YouTube is often criticized for its failures in both protecting copyrighted work and dealing with infringement, and while it has made attempts to address both issues, the solutions have failed to fully or adequately address the problems. In addition to its Content ID program for automatically identifying infringement, YouTube has just introduced its Copyright Match Tool to further combat the problem. But the new tool has its limitations, as the YouTube Help overview notes that the tool finds only full or nearly full re-uploads of videos after they are uploaded originally; videos that are using clips of others' copyrighted works fail to be caught by the program, and the program has no way to determine actual ownership beyond first upload.

Maintaining copyright and ownership are some of the biggest challenges facing social media platforms and the internet at large, and the tools to tackle the problem don't yet exist, and may not for some time given the inherent complexity. For the immediate short term, each creator and owner is burdened with staying vigilant in protecting their work from being stolen online in order to ensure that they receive the credit and compensation they're owed.

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