An open letter to YouTube: End copyright trolling!

Note: This is an open letter to YouTube.

Your copyright process is both dishonest and deeply unfair and needs to be reformed.

I upload sermons to the YouTube and Facebook pages for a small church in Lyons, Indiana. Before the sermon, the pastor’s daughters sing a hymn. Every one of these hymns are in the public domain and are over 100 years old, but four of the last seven sermons have had copyright claims put on them. Obviously, this is absurd. There is no violation of copyright in any one of these videos.

The church has no intention of monetizing these videos. That is not the point. These companies claiming “copyright infringement” are not entitled to monetize a public domain hymn sung before a sermon. They have no right to earn any money from the work of a small church in rural Indiana. In claiming monetization for content they do not own, they are stealing.

I understand that this is probably due to an algorithm that searches YouTube videos for copyrighted content, not that actual human beings are watching these videos. But that is why this process is so deeply unfair. There is no due process for content creators. Videos that are not violating copyright are nonetheless flagged and restricted with no chance to appeal or present a case.

I understand that copyright violations are a huge problem on YouTube, and why you must take steps to restrict copyrighted content. Copyrighted material is posted every day on your platform, from music videos to TV programs to full-length movies. There are even independent content creators who make their living with their YouTube videos, and having their content duplicated reduces their household income.

But the worst part of this is the appeals process. Not only are videos subject to copyright claims with no opportunity for input from the content creator, but the corporation making the false copyright claim is the one who gets to review the claim! It is not reviewed by anyone at Google! Do you understand why this is so deeply unfair and puts “the little guy” at the mercy of giant corporations?

Here is a solution: Ban the use of all bots, crawlers, algorithms and scripts that troll through YouTube videos for content claims. Any claim submitted by these things should be automatically rejected. Accept claims only from actual human beings. Next, have a Google employee actually review the content claim before any restriction is placed on the video. Finally, implement penalties for false copyright claims. Any corporation that repeatedly makes false claims would be permanently banned from using YouTube.

When Google was founded, it had a very simple motto: “Don’t be evil.” You have utterly failed to live up to this motto in dealing with your YouTube users. If you want to restore the public’s trust in your content moderation policy, you need to radically reform your policy and practices.

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