YouTube institutes automated removal of unlicensed music from posted video

UPDATE:  News.com reports in greater depth on this situation, and as it turns out, the system isn't a unilateral, automated removal of soundtracks at all.  Apparently,YouTube identifies videos with unlicensed music using an automated filter, and then notifies the uploader/user of the situation, giving the CHOICE to mute the audio, or remove the entire video.  As commenters have pointed out, this is still problematic, as it fails to consider Fair Use as a possible defense or justification for the inclusion of the music.  YouTube's already been taken to task in court once over indiscriminate take-downs…

In this post, Read Write Web reports that YouTube has apparently instituted an automated system to remove unlicensed music tracks from videos posted to the YouTube site.  The altered videos appear without audio, apparently the ENTIRE audio track is removed, even if only a short segment contains the unlicensed music.  If true, this concession to interests of copyright holders in music will have far-reaching implications for the site.

Does such editorial action (regardless of whether automated or handled by real people), when implemented BEFORE receiving takedown notices do harm to YouTube's DMCA safe-harbor protections?

Will YouTube be liable to its users who upload material that the system “edits” erroneously? (likely covered by the Terms of Service)

Will users be notified of this policy formally, when uploading, or will the “edits” just occur?

Will YouTube also implement similar filtering for unlicensed video, photos, etc?  What about videos featuring people who've not signed releases allowing the use of their likenesses, performance, etc.

Seems to me, this opens a real can of worms.  Should keep the entertainment and internet lawyers busy for  years to come.

What do you readers think?

7 Responses to YouTube institutes automated removal of unlicensed music from posted video

  1. I’ve stopped posting to you tube entirely. The site has now lost it’s appeal. I know encode my movies into flash and directly embed them into my blog posts.

    Goodbye YouTube, it was fun while it lasted. I now consider you, the boob tube of 2009.

  2. This article explains that it’s the users who choose to mute the audio: http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-10142694-93.html?part=rss&subj=news&tag=2547-1_3-0-20

    Apparently, YouTube has had the mute-rather-than-takedown option for awhile but it’s only being noticed now because of Warner Music’s pulling out of its YouTube arrangement. The video creators have the option to mute the video rather than have it take down. I don’t know if they were asked to choose as soon as the negotiations with Warner fell apart or if YouTube waited ’til it received Take Down notices.

    I fail to see how muting is anymore of a censorship issue than wholesale taking down of the video, regardless of how much of the audio is potentially infringing. (Take downs almost never consider fair use.)

  3. Interesting that the whole audio track is removed. Sounds like a quick and easy solution for YouTube. If the unlicensed music is only used in part of the audio track and the whole track is removed, that is censoring any original content by the author. It is definitely not fostering creativity, which goes against the spirit of copyright. I do not agree with or condone infringement, but I do agree with authoring new material. I think only the infringing portions should be removed. However, that would make a lot more work for the YouTube folks.

    By the way Gordon, I put a link to your podcast on my website.

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