The current era of content has proven difficult to navigate for many of the creators that take advantage of the platform that social media offers to all to make their voices heard, particularly for those working in the areas of education or critique. There has always existed a tension between artists and studios and those who base their own work off of the work of others, but there has never before been the means for such an escalation of the conflict between the two parties as exists now.
A recent report from The Verge highlights the growing stakes of the conflict, as YouTube creators recount the damage done to their channels, and in the case of the more successful stars their income, by the zeal of studios and other related entities filing claims on videos making use of copyrighted works that seemingly fall within the bounds of fair use. Among the cases profiled are an audio engineer dinged for an educational video on his craft featuring a clip of an Iron Maiden song and a channel that uses guitar riffs from popular songs to demonstrate the qualities of different guitars losing revenue to the studios that have filed complaints.
These accounts represent another case of YouTube's Content ID system, which allows creators to upload their works to the platform to prevent infringement, exceeding its mandate, if it can be said an automated program has one. As noted in what I've written about the case of the somehow copyrighted public domain Mueller report, the system in place works well as a hammer even in situations better served by a chisel. The article does point out the complications surrounding fair use, and the questions raised as to whether what most of the aggrieved YouTubers have a legitimate claim to fair use, but it also notes the difficulty in navigating that narrow terrain for the average creator, and the inherent conflict of YouTube trying to act as an impartial arbiter while also relying upon studios and record labels for their YouTube Music streaming service.
Regardless of the outcome, this latest fight between YouTube and its users is just a skirmish in an ongoing battle over copyright and how to best protect it in the digital age, a battle that may not be settled anytime in the near future.