Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Please Rewind Napoleon: Where's the Fair Use?

It's something that many YouTube critics or entertainers are asking. The situation regarding YouTube's current copyright system scares a lot of users, and is currently making me want to not become a partner if this is the case. Oh, I think I am getting way ahead of myself here. Let's start off with the basics of the topic of Fair Use.

What is Fair Use?

Fair use is defined as a legal doctrine that permits limited use of copyrighted materials without acquiring permission from the rights holders. Examples of fair use include commentary, criticism, research, and parody. YouTube content creators like Nostalgia Critic, I Hate Everything, Anime America, and even Please Rewind Napoleon are examples of critical and commentary based fair use content, while TeamFourStar and "Weird Al" Yankovic are major examples of parody creators. Whether the release is YouTube or the open market, the content made with use of copyrighted material is protected because some form of transformation was made to what was being used.

Why Are We Talking About This?

Recently, some of the big YouTubers, Nostalgia Critic, I Hate Everything, and TeamFourStar to name a few, have been hit with copyright claims and strikes under the current copyright system being used by YouTube. Many companies or users claiming to "represent these companies" are placing these claims on the users mentioned stating that they own the content being used. With this, any money earned by the YouTuber through ad revenue goes to the copyright claimer, and a potential copyright strike is placed on the user's account.

TeamFourStar makes a parody of the anime series DragonBall Z, which has multiple owners in Funimation, Toei Animation and Fuji TV. The Nostalgia Critic creates critical content on various movies. The former channel was recently terminated due to a large amount of copyright claims made against them, despite their content falling under fair use, while the latter had monetization removed from their channel due to numerous claims made on many of his reviews. These users make their living through the content they produce, and with a lost income, they can't pay their bills or any sort of production crew they may have.

Sometimes, the company that makes these claims aren't even true owners of the content being claimed. Anime America, an anime review channel on YouTube, had many of their videos claimed by an Italian company that claimed to own some of the content that was seen in the video, which even included the users' avatars and commentaries in the videos. This sadly forced them to block their videos, including new uploads, from view in Italy until things get fixed.

How is Please Rewind Napoleon Affected?

Right now, Please Rewind Napoleon is a non-profit, non-YouTube-partnered review series, so it isn't affected at this time. However, this does make me nervous regardless of whether I choose to go into a partnership or not. Prior to my recent revival of the channel, I had claims placed on my earliest reviews. Universal Music Group claimed my videos because of the music used in my original intro, Billy Preston's "Nothing From Nothing." Time Warner claimed my Swat Kats review because Swat Kats was owned by their Cartoon Network Studios. And recently I had to dispute claims made by Viz Media on my Sailor Moon review and deleted joke idea, both of which used footage from the DiC and Cloverway dubs. I won against Viz's claims mostly in part of them not responding to the counter claim, but if I had those videos monetized, then I would've lost any money made during the claim dispute to Viz Media. As for my older videos, Universal made my videos unable to be seen in Germany or on certain platforms, and Warner is placing ads on the Swat Kats review to make money off of my video. I argued fair use to Warner, but lost the counter claim, luckily no strike was given to me. If this is what a creator of content that should be protected by fair use has to go through on a regular basis, why should I either consider a partnership or even create more reviews?

There are some major changes that YouTube needs to make to its current handling of copyright claims. Doug Walker, the man behind the Nostalgia Critic, has suggested that a side account be made for the funds that are being held/seized during a claim dispute, so that money goes to whoever wins the dispute. I'm sure there are other things they could do better, but I'm having a hard time figuring them out right now.

Until the next review, I have just one question. Where's the fair use? #WTFU