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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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All your IP are belong to us

5 May 2021

The internet is an interesting place, from the perspective of intellectual property rights.

In the beginning, nobody much cared about copyright on the Net. After all, it was a strange, almost mystical place populated by only a few academics and geeks. I suspect that the recording and movie industries not only didn't understand the Net but they also didn't see it as a threat.

Oh goodness, how times have changed?

A couple of decades ago, the movie and music industry finall woke up to the fact that digital copies media could be reproduced and distributed with 100 percent fidelity and at very little cost. This meant a huge threat to their revenues but also a massive opportunity to cut costs.

Thus began the love/hate relationship between big media and the internet.

Today the publishers get a lot more value from the internet than that which they lose to piracy.

Just try to buy a CD or DVD player these days and see how you get on... obviously the physical distribution of content in digital format has almost completely disappeared. Instead everythying is streamed.

Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Hulu, Disney+ -- they're all out there delivering their wares by way of the internet.

Of course copyright is still a huge thing and the movie companies still spend inordinate amounts of money trying to shut down those who would write plug-ins for Kodi that scrape file-sharing sites to allow the unauthorised watching and downloading of movies and TV series.

Oh, I did mention YouTube didn't I?

YouTube has been very active in policing the copyright of movie, TV and music publishers on its platform. Upload a video containing almost *anything* owned by these huge publishers and you'll likely get a copyright strike against your channel. Do it twice more and your entire channel, regardless of how many subscribers, views or videos you've got, will be deleted forever. What's more, YouTube says that once you've been deleted you may not create a new YouTube account -- EVER!

Yep, protecting copyright owners rights is so important that nothing may stand in the way, not even a subscriber-base of millions.

The company's own Terms of Service clearly state that as a YouTube user you may not upload anything for which you do not either own the copyright or have a license to republish from the copyright owner. Clearly they're very pro-copyright... right?

Well it seems not so much these days.

YouTube content creators have just discovered that the company has changed the rules without warning and without even advising them of the changes. What's more, those changes have effectively said "we care about other people's copyright -- but not yours" to the millions of channel owners and content creators.

That's because they've added a small checkbox to the upload screen that basically gives other YouTube creators the right to use your videos in their own works in a way that goes way beyond fair use. By default, that checkbox is ticked so that if you do not want to let others steal your videos, you must uncheck it.

No big deal?

Well if you're a channel (like mine) that has thousands of videos, and all those videos have now defaulted to "yeah, let others rip off my video content" then it IS a big deal.

Is there any way to uncheck that box on all those videos?

Yes there is... but only by going through each individual video and doing it manually -- there is no mass opt-out available.

The intention is clear here. YouTube does not want anyone opting out of this so they have made it incredibly difficult out opt your back-catalog out and they didn't say a word about this new check box appearing. They also placed it way down the bottom in a part of the page that is normally hidden from view.

To me, that spells *EVIL INTENT*.

But why would they do this? Why would they want to let YT creators steal from each other?

Well I expect it's probably because they get a lot of complaints from creators who have found bits of their videos being used by others without permission. There's a definite cost to dealing with those legitimate complaints so the easiest solution to cutting costs is to make it legit to steal.

I would *love* to know whether all the uploads by VEVO and other music publishers have this little checkbox ticked so that the rest of the YT community can steal their content without fear of penalty -- I strongly suspect not. There is a growing "two tier" attitude to content on YouTube and mainstream publishers always get preferential treatment ot those who are just individuals.

I can see the seeds of destruction germinating within the machine that is YouTube. Every week they edge just that little bit closer to the point when people will say "enough!".

One morning, Susan W (CEO of YouTube) will wake up and wonder what the hell has happened because views on the platform will be down, major independent creators will have stopped uploading and YouTube will become the next Yahoo or Geocities -- forever relegated to "was once popular" status.

Personally, even though I have a lot to lose, I can't wait.

And just in case you're wondering, yes, YouTube *can* legally implement this new checkbox because as part of the terms of service you agree that they can do whatever they want with the content you upload -- although I expect that the TOS for mainstream music and movie publishers is a little different (wink wink).

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