Cases regarding violation of Law

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Majority of the criticism, infringements and rulings regarding YouTube is about issues related to copyright and privacy. In some cases the popular video-sharing channel is seen to act against polity. However, the biggest and far more dominating concern is copyright. In majority of western societies laws regulating copyright say clearly that reproduction or any other commercial use of a material that belongs to someone else is illegal. People could even go to jail for that.

Notices from copyright holders

In spite of that YouTube administration takes down thousands of video clips and other recordings every day, after receiving notices from the holders of copyright: music studios, movie companies, organizations representing them etc.

Media companies can easily block their media content loaded to YouTube, but the hassle is discovering the violating videos. Large amount of TV shows, adverts, music videos, concerts etc is still being uploaded to YouTube without permission, since there is no one keeping an eye on this.

To give an idea how large-scale the copyright issue is: US media conglomerate Viacom reviewed manually over 1,7 million YouTube clips in 2007 and identified over 187 000 pirated ones of their copyrighted content. Repeatedly searching the entire YouTube archive and sending take-down notices to the site is what the media companies inevitably have to do.

Noble music promotion page was taken down

A recent case from Estonia: A Spaniard who had his special Estonian music channel in YouTube, was surprised when YouTube recently took it down, after Estonian Organization for Copyright Protection (EAKO) had noticed YouTube about the violation.

It turned out that the guy had used his channel to collect music from famous Estonian pop artists like Tanja Mihhailova, Sandra Nurmsalu, Laura and others for years. His aim was to promote Estonian music without any personal gains and he thought that was a noble thing to do. For EAKO this was just a routine procedure. The organization claims that using content, that belongs to someone else is illegal even without gains. Every month 500-1000 Estonian music videos that violate copyright law are taken down from YouTube.

Warning seems to be not working

YouTube shows a following warning when uploading a video: “Do not upload any TV shows, music videos, music concerts or commercials without permission unless they consist entirely of content you created yourself. The Copyright Tips page and the Community Guidelines can help you determine whether your video infringes someone else's copyright”, but that doesn’t seem to be enough. Although the videos are moderated, the channel has no resources to examine all the content before it’s published.

So they rely on two things: users who sending notices of inappropriate content and copyright holders sending take-down notices. But that raises a more general conflicting question – who’s responsible for the material uploaded in the Internet – user (the one who uploaded) or publisher (site, where the material is uploaded)?

This issue has raised disputes in many countries. For example in Estonia, where a businessman Vjatšeslav Leedo was successful in suing news portal Delfi over inappropriate comments regarding him, written by an anonymous Delfi user. The dispute has moved to European Court of Human Rights.

Very different cases of violation

Wikipedia has listed some other cases of infringement:

- On October 2006, the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers finalized its copyright complaints regarding Japanese media on YouTube. Thousands of media from popular Japanese artists were removed.

- A TV journalist filed the first lawsuit against the company in the summer of 2006, alleging copyright infringement for hosting a number of famous news clips without permission.

- On November 2006, An American comedian and actor said that his lawyers were in talks with YouTube, after Lange learned that his entire DVD was available for free on the website. He added that he will either demand money from YouTube, or will sue.

- Viacom and BBC have ordered the take-down of more than 200,000 videos. Viacom announced it was suing YouTube, and its owner Google for more than $1 billion, since YouTube posted over 160,000 of its videos on the website without Viacom's permission.

- In May 2007, the English Premiere League announced that it was suing YouTube for alleged copyright infringement, claiming that the website had "knowingly misappropriated" its intellectual property by encouraging Premier League soccer matches to be viewed on its site.

What's the problem?

It seems to be obvious that popular user-generated media sites fail to have 100% control over their content, because they lack resources for this. Since YouTube is extremely popular – 20 hours of video is uploaded every minute (!) - it would take an army of moderators to view all this.

Unfortunately the take-down notice system seems not to satisfy all the copyright holders. Viacom, but also for example English Premier football league have filed lawsuits against the site, claiming that it is not doing enough to prevent infringements. As a reply, YouTube has introduced a Video ID system that compares uploaded videos with a database of copyrighted content.

Although US courts are establishing a legal framework regarding this controversial problem, illegal pirate material is continuously being uploaded to YouTube.

YouTube's influence on polity

Some analysts claim that in worst case scenario YouTube could even follow the downfall of Napster – scandalous music file sharing service that operated three years and was closed down in 2001 due to violations of copyright. Difference here is that when Napster didn’t really care about all the negative buzz, then YouTube is trying to establish a better-working system.

Last but not least – some authoritarian leaders have claimed that YouTube has influence over polity of their country. So the site has been blocked for example in China, Pakistan, Iran, Morocco, Thailand and even Turkey. This, however, seems to be fight with windmills in a long run.

Another concern over YouTube is privacy. US court decided last year that YouTube should hand over information regarding our video-watching histories, IP-addresses, usernames etc when Viacom, the media giant, wants to prove the breaching of copyright laws.

Although YouTube was generally OK with that, others took it as a dangerous precedent that could harm internet privacy. Viacom can now basically see what everyone is watching from YouTube, but non of us likes being tailed like that.