In the age of the explosion of digital piracy, it is no surprise that content hosts that allow user-uploaded content (like YouTube, Facebook and Twitch amongst thousands of others) have looked for ways to automate the copyright infringement checking process.
Hosts generally check user-uploaded content with quite complex automated systems that attempt to recognise, flag up and disable videos which use copyright material without permission.
YouTube's system is called Content-ID. Content-ID is responsible for weeding out both explicit content and content that infringes copyright. However, while the system has been very good at disabling videos of families singing their favourite pop-songs, it does not seem particularly adept at allowing through videos that take advantage of content in the public domain or that is used under "fair use" exemptions.
Dr Ulrich Kaiser has highlighted the problem in an article published recently which can be read in full here. As he describes, the Content-ID system is regularly flagging up and disabling access to videos containing music of classical composers who have long since died, and whose music is now in the public domain.
Kaiser went on in his article to warn of the risks if legislators continue with their push to make obligatory automated digital content checks for all websites hosting user-uploaded content. He also explained that even though YouTube has since acknowledged that the content he has uploaded does not infringe any copyright and has reenabled access to them, they are not properly categorised under a Creative Commons license.
The Creative Commons license would have enabled others to download, manipulate, and redistribute Kaiser's material, which was his original intention.
YouTube's Content-ID system has faced significant criticism before. Notably in 2016 it was disabling the copyright owner's own video while dealing with and disabling infringing videos. That meant that the more frequently a legitimate video was copied or infringed, the longer the rights-holder would be without their revenue stream from advertising.
If automated content filters and checkers like Content-ID are to become mandatory, it seems as though the technology still has a long way to go.
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