In my “Music in the Digital Age” class I was recently tasked with reading this blog:
And afterwards making comments on what I thought of YouTube’s content ID system. These were my thoughts:
I think YouTube’s current content ID system, although not perfect, is a promising example of how copyright can be handled.
Long before I ever knew what it meant to violate copyright law, I heard the saying “it’s better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission”, and this quote/general way of life resonates deeply with me. Slightly breaking the rules (as long as you know that the final product will make up for your transgressions) has resulted in boundaries being pushed in the past. Because of this, progress has often been made. Sometimes rules are made by closed-minded individuals and it takes the force of creative rebels to promote a more utilitarian look at the way art is used. This maximizes happiness and reduces sadness. Isn’t that the primary objective of all art forms to begin with?
YouTube’s current system of asking users not to violate copyright law, while at the same time taking steps to often keep said violations on their site, is in my opinion a step in the right direction. Many discussions of the flaws in this system center around the automated part of the process, which is often incapable of discerning violations from fair use cases. But, we all know that the metaphor of walking before running is cliché for a reason. YouTube’s content ID system is in its infancy; but, it harnesses the potential to completely close the gap between what were once almost unreachable corporate copyright holders and, say, a 12 year old kid who dreams of being the next Kubrick who throws the completely awesome opening of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” into her most recent YouTube Epic. (An admittedly tricky example as the song was written in 1896… but someone must own the rights to the recording I’m sure.)
I have been posting videos to YouTube since 2006, the very first of which blatantly contains two copyrighted songs: Radiohead – Everything In Its Right Place owned by Warner Music Group, and Afroman – Because I Got High (Dirty Radio Edit) owned by Universal Music Group. At the age of 15 I didn’t know I was breaking the law by posting my video. I had created a 9 minute film for a school project that I was proud of and wanted to show to the world. Thanks to YouTube’s content ID system, my silly little school project is still viewable after 8 years, currently sits at 18,982 views, and has probably made Universal and Warner literally a few pennies. I have thankfully never been sued and everyone can sleep easy at night. Although ignorance is never an excuse for breaking a law, I think YouTube is putting a value on the creative intentions of its users. This attitude is shaping the face of a generation fueled by the generation of content.