November 19, 2015: Today’s New York Times tech policy column featured an article on YouTube’s new Fair Use Initiative which seeks to defend creators from unwarranted copyright infringement complaints. All the attention has been rather strange, but a good kind of strange.
It all started back in September 2014 (see Copyright Theater) when I received a copyright notice initiated by Secureteam 10. Then immediately after two more were registered by LookNowTV, who I had embarrassed in both the first two episodes. Until these were resolved my channel was taken offline, and UFO Theater temporarily moved to Vimeo. While on Vimeo I posted Speedebunking: Mister UFO/Mister Enigma, which led to this exchange with the hoaxer himself, Robert Simmons of La Crosse, Wisconsin. He had the video temporarily removed from Vimeo. When UFO Theater was up and running on YouTube again he tried the same nuisance tactic there in November 2014. Neither of us had any idea what he would set in motion.
It wasn’t until June of 2015 that I was contacted by YouTube (I’m sure their inaction on Simmons’ complaint was driving him mad), explaining that they had received the notice from Mister Enigma but “selected one of your videos as a candidate for a new effort that protects some of the very best examples of ‘fair use‘ from copyright takedown requests.” I assumed this meant I would be one of perhaps a few dozen creators chosen. I was absolutely shocked when I discovered I was one of only four in the entirety of YouTube. I imagine the odds are something akin to winning the lottery. I’ve probably not received a tenth of the copyright grief and harassment endured by the other three producers, but there I am, the only one quoted in the article, and a big ol’ flattering screen capture. Maybe I’m the only one Ms. Kang could reach for the story.
After seeing UFO hoaxes go viral week after week when they’re promoted by British tabloids, particularly the Express, it’s nice to get some notice for UFO Theater’s perspective. More episodes coming soon.
So an unexpected thing happened: after three weeks the UFO Theater Youtube channel is back online– sort of. This was based on Youtube vindicating us in a copyright dispute instigated by UFO hoax channel Secureteam 10. However. UFO Theater Episodes 1 and 2 remain offline until a similar dispute with hoax channel Looknowtv can be resolved.
Each copyright complaint is considered a “strike” against your Youtube account; three strikes and your channel is taken down. You can respond to the complaints, but the strikes remain until the disputes are resolved.
When Secureteam 10 made their initial complaint, we responded immediately and waited for a resolution. However, two days later Looknowtv complained about two videos, UFO Theater Episodes 1 and 2, in which we exposed a few of their UFO video clips as fakes. This added up to three strikes, because none had yet been resolved. But here’s the rub: when the channel is taken down, so is the account. We could not even browse Youtube as UFO Theater, and even worse, the links for providing a counter-notification (response to the complaint) are only provided within the channel. There was no email informing us “hey, we took your channel down, here’s why, and here’s what you can do about it.” Just… nothing. Had we not responded to the Secureteam 10 complaint immediately, there would have been no chance to get the channel back online. Luckily that dispute was found in our favor, and we now have the opportunity to respond to the Looknowtv complaints.
This is a glaring problem with Youtube’s dispute system, and needs to be changed. It creates a catch-22 in which you need to respond to a complaint to get your channel back up, but first get your channel back up to respond to the complaint. I’ve read stories from other Youtube creators on reddit who have had massive channels disappear overnight for this and other reasons, with no recourse because the channel was nuked with no notice or explanation.
We can only hope that once the other disputes are resolved UFO Theater will be bulletproof, but we’re not counting on it. Everything will continue to be mirrored on Vimeo from now on. We will remain a problem for hoaxers for the forseeable future.
Having proved unsuccessful at faking clear, close-up UFO video clips (see UFO Theater Ep. 1), profiteer UFO Youtube channel Looknowtv is trying a different tactic. In their latest post, “BEST UFO SIGHTINGS FEBRUARY 2014” they shrink UFOs to miniscule sizes where low resolution and compression obscure any evidence of tampering. Continue reading Looknowtv’s Latest Ploy: Honey, I Shrunk The Discs