In recent months I have been beefing up my YouTube channel with more videos. It’s been a slow process, trying out different video styles and subject matter to see what works. I have amassed a meagre 17 subscribers, so YouTube fame is a long way off, but I’ve broken the 1,000 views mark for one of my videos. I’ve also successfully countered my first copyright takedown notice for a video.
I thought I’d document the latter experience here, as a reminder to myself (and anyone else out there) of what happens in such a situation.
I posted the video in question on the 18th November 2021. It’s a one-take, point-of-view recording of the Vancouver seawall, shot on a GoPro, on a bright, Fall afternoon.
On 22nd November 2021, four days after posting it to YouTube, I received this email:
“Due to a copyright takedown notice that we received, we had to take down your video from YouTube:
Video title: Vancouver Fall Sun Bike Ride – Sunset Beach to Science World
Video URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XBNNBhwXa8
Takedown issued by: ######### (name of YouTube channel redacted by me)
This means that your video can no longer be played on YouTube.”
The email continued to admonish me for my alleged offence.
“You now have 1 copyright strike. If you get multiple copyright strikes, we’ll have to disable your account. To prevent that from happening, please don’t upload videos containing copyrighted content that you aren’t allowed to use.”
This was a bit baffling to me. The video is thoroughly innocuous from a copyright viewpoint. I didn’t use any soundtrack and I didn’t even capture some incidental music that might have fallen foul of YouTube’s algorithm.
The footage was shot in a public space, the Vancouver seawall, by me, alone.
I watched my video again. I couldn’t see where the problem was.
Then I went to the channel for the YouTuber who had issued the takedown order, a Canadian tourism channel with over 2,000 subscribers.
I could see that there was a similar video to mine, but clearly different. It was uploaded on a different date, days after my video was posted to YouTube.
The email from YouTube offered two routes for me to reinstate my video:
“If you believe that you’re not at fault in one or more of the instances above, you can appeal this takedown by submitting a counter notification. Keep in mind that there may be severe legal consequences for submitting a counter notification with false information.”
The email from YouTube also offered a second option:
“You can also contact the party that removed your video and ask them to retract their takedown.”
So I contacted the owner of the tourism channel, thinking any reasonable person would see that they’d made a mistake and rectify it.
I wrote: “I see that you have filed a copyright claim against my video titled:
“Vancouver Fall Sun Bike Ride – Sunset Beach to Science World” which has led YouTube to remove the video.
It may be that some of my footage looks similar, however I can assure you that I shot this video myself.
Please can you retract the claim.”
A brief email came back.
“Hey this was automatically done I will see it and fix it, like share subscribe <winking emoji>”.
I was surprised to hear that this was automated. The notification in my account from YouTube implied that this was a manual takedown request, made after around 4 minutes of the 10-and-a-half minute video had been watched.
It sounded like he was going to retract the takedown request, so I sent a friendly response.
“Ok, thanks. Let me know if you need anything else.”
And then I waited.
Three days later, I still hadn’t heard anything back.
I realised I needed to try the other option YouTube suggests which is a counter-strike, or rather copyright counter notification.
I made my case via the form on YouTube:
I wrote: “I personally filmed the original content of the video “Vancouver Fall Sun Bike Ride – Sunset Beach to Science World”, using a GoPro Black 9 mounted on my bicycle handlebars. I am the legal author and own all rights to it.
(2) The footage in the claimant’s video which was cited as being infringed “###name of video###” was clearly acquired on a different occasion by a different method from mine. The video alleged to be copyright-infringed was shot on an electric scooter. The video and the audio track are very clearly different from my video that YouTube has removed.
(3) According to YouTube’s published date, I uploaded my video to YouTube days before the claimant uploaded his video to YouTube. As I have no connection to the claimant or access to the claimant’s video beyond YouTube, this would make it physically impossible for me to re-use the claimant’s allegedly infringed video.”
After submitting my counter strike on 25th November, I received a form email from “The YouTube Team”.
“Thank you for your counter notification. It has been forwarded to the party that sent the takedown notification.
Keep in mind that by submitting this counter notification, you’ve initiated a formal legal dispute process. As such, YouTube will handle this process in accordance with the law. This process takes some time, so we kindly ask for your patience.
Upon forwarding your counter notification to the claimant, we will allow them 10–14 business days from this date to respond with evidence that they have taken court action against you to prevent the reinstatement of the video(s) in question.
If we receive no response, after that time period your videos will be restored and the associated penalties on your account will be resolved.”
The next day, I heard from the tourism YouTuber.
“Hey just re-upload the video,” he emailed me.
That didn’t seem like a good idea. That would leave me with a strike against my channel and the possibility of a second strike if, as he claimed, the alleged copyright infringement was auto-detected. YouTube states that after three strikes your account, along with all your channels and videos,“is subject to termination”.
Also, it was a relatively large video file to upload and it took hours to process the 4k version.
“If I do that I risk a second copyright strike against me. You have to retract your claim and YouTube will reinstate the video“, I emailed back the next day, assuming it would be that easy.
“Already did I’m number 897 in line its (sic) a phone nightmare, plus they said its (sic) holiday Thanksgiving,” came the reply.
That’s where we left it.
More waiting ensued, during which time the video was hidden from public view.
Then, 15 days later, on the 10th December I received a short email from YouTube.
“Dear Robert Alstead,
In accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we’ve completed processing your counter notification.
The following videos have been restored unless you have deleted them:
– The YouTube Team”
The strike against my channel was removed and the video was restored to public view. Not that it made a great deal of difference to the profile of the video itself. It has garnered only 3 views since it was released from the copyright penalty box.
Maybe the video has been penalised due to this copyright fiasco, but, at least, people can see the thing if they want to and, hopefully, having defended the integrity of the channel, YouTube will be more disinclined to issue spurious takedown requests to me in the future.