Monday, October 1, 2012

Not Even Quatermass Can Avoid the Youtube Copyright Checker!

From time to time, I put some video excerpt up on Youtube usually as supporting evidence in favor or against some point in some discussion I am having with someone. So for example, whenever someone calls me crazy, which really irritates me, I want to point him to the scene from Jon deBont's masterpiece, Speed (1994), in which Keanu Reeves calls Dennis Hopper crazy and Dennis replies "No, Jack.", he says, "Poor people are crazy. I'm eccentric".

So I use these different scenes to illustrate ideas, or technique, and of course I rarely if ever own the copyright.   I think that I am allowed to do this but it depends on one's interpretation of the FCC Fair Use Guidelines, which are not black and white but are subject to interpretation. I think I am ok in this use for the following reasons:

(a) I am not making money with these excerpts, nor am I trying to make money,
(b) I am not causing the legitimate owner to lose money, nor am I trying to do so,
(c) Only a small part of the original material is being used, e.g. an excerpt not the complete piece,
(d) The purpose of using the material is education or analysis

I actually hope I am helping the real owner get more money, not less, from his film, by exposing people to a teaser from their work.   Thats what I hope.

[I will insert link to good fair use guide when I find one]

But that is not how Youtube sees it, and sometime after I post the excerpt, Youtube detects it and sends me a nasty note of varying severity. I am fascinated by how they detect these pieces among the hundreds of millions of scenes that they are managing, roughly 120,000,000 of them, and about 200,000 new ones a day.

Of course Youtube does not discuss the process they use. But here are a few things that are observed and inferred and submitted here for your consideration:

1. Sometimes its fast, sometimes its slow.

Sometimes I post a clip and before I know it I have an email from Youtube telling me that it is part of someone else's copyrighted material. From that we conclude that Yourtube pays particular attention to newly loaded videos. But sometimes it ignores a video for months and then discovers it. Why is this? It could be because new material is being added to their checking process all the time, and maybe this particular piece is part of something newly added. Or it could be because some pieces are on a "check often" list, and some are on a "check occassionally" list, or it could just be random. Usually however, if it does not discover and complain about a piece within 1-12 hours, then it probably won't complain for at least a few weeks if not longer.

2. Reversing the video does not seem to help.

It is believed among some people that reversing the video (e.g. flipping it horizotally) defeats the checking algorithm. My experience says that this is not true, but admittedly I only tried once, and I reversed the entire piece. Maybe you have to flip various sections of a piece to confuse it, or something.

3. Some believe that the audio is the key.

Some believe that they are really checking the audio, not the video per se. As audio is harder to mess with and still get the meaning across, whereas there are many things one can do to distort the video. I dont know, it seems plausible to me that checking the audio would be part of their bag of techniques.

4. Some pieces they hate much more than others.

Once upon a time, an afterschool special was shown on NBC that had a very funny conspiracy theory about GE (which owned NBC) controlling the news in this country. The piece ("Mediaopoly") was animated, tongue-in-cheek, humorous. It suggested in a non-serious manner that there was a relationship between the news that NBC and the other networks printed/aired and other corporate issues such as nuclear power plants, the B1 bomber, and possibly even the JFK assassination. NBC went through the roof, the piece was never shown again, and they have been suppressing this piece in all media ever since to this day. I have a very bad copy of this piece which was downloaded with great difficulty from the Internet many years ago. I can not get it up on Youtube for longer than about 1/2 second before it is banned in all forms and all countries and a nasty note is in my inbox telling me that if I try that stunt again they will permanently disconnect my Youtube account.

Why you would almost think that there was a conspiracy not to allow this piece to be seen, wouldn't you? Why you could almost believe that they were afraid of something.

5. But mostly they just want to sell advertising.

But there has been a new policy recently on all excerpts except "Mediapoly" which I am delighted with. They send you a note that says that your piece may be copyrighted by someone else, but don't worry, thats ok. Its just that when someone views it, they may also see some ad that is appropriate given that someone else wants to get some benefit from this. I think this is great, I get to show the piece, they get to make some money, everybody is happy.

Not even Dr. Quatermass is safe from Youtube. I had the following excerpt up on my site for months when just yesterday they told me that it was owned by a 3rd party but that I should not worry: the video can stay up and my viewers may see some ads from time to time.   I love this solution.

Here Quatermass and his lovely assistant are reviewing the ancient records involving mysterious and possibly devilish activities at Hobbes Lane.

Dr. Quatermass and his lovely assistant.  We all suspect that they are having an affair.

The excerpt is from "Five Million Years To Earth" (1967) which is a remake of the famous BBC "Quatermass and the Pit" from 1958, starring the esteemed Dr. Quatermass. This is from the remake, the original from BBC, which you can find on Youtube at last, is remarkable and may even be some sort of live television event.

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