The People Vs Youtube

Micah Curtis gives us a guest editorial on the recent troubles creators on Youtube have had, and he looks forward at the future of the troubled platform.


Update 2/2/2015: Since the pub­lish­ing of this ar­ti­cle, The Fine Bros have apol­o­gized for their trade­mark­ing of “React” and their ac­tions sur­round­ing it, hav­ing Fullscreen re­scind copy­right claims on videos they had marked to be blocked world­wide. We can con­firm that our own video that was blocked is now able to be viewed. They have also tak­en back their trade­mark ap­pli­ca­tions and have de­cid­ed to dis­con­tin­ue React World. You can read more about the Fine Bros de­ci­sion here.

Since I had de­cid­ed to go free­lance in late 2015, I’ve watched my new medi­um of work en­ter a time where there is a much high­er amount of risk in up­load­ing con­tent. For those not in the know, I shift­ed over from writ­ing over at over to do­ing Youtube con­tent ex­clu­sive­ly, still fo­cus­ing on nar­ra­tive dis­cus­sion and the Video Game sub­cul­ture. Thing is, re­cent events that have tran­spired over on Youtube have made new­er con­tent cre­ators with small­er chan­nels more and more ner­vous. Beyond that, those af­fect­ed have also start­ed to voice oth­er is­sues that they have had with Youtube’s poli­cies, and con­cern about where it may end up.

To give a rough time­line, some­time last week a few ran­dom Youtube chan­nels dis­ap­peared. Not closed down, not locked due to copy­right strikes. Gone. The one that seemed to cause the biggest ruckus was the dis­ap­pear­ance of the chan­nel I Hate Everything, where many Youtubers ex­pressed their con­cern in the event go­ing on. When I Hate Everything dis­cussed what hap­pened af­ter the fact, the video that had caused this to hap­pen was rel­a­tive­ly harm­less aside from strong lan­guage. The rea­son that was giv­en to I Hate Everything was that it might be “repet­i­tive” and “of­fen­sive.”

Now, I’d pre­fer for you to have a look at his video on the sub­ject to get all of the de­tails, but what he makes sure to do is to point out the ob­vi­ous hypocrisy of Youtube. To give a more per­son­al ac­count of these sorts of things, I re­cent­ly up­loaded a Vlog talk­ing about for­mer Pantera front­man Phil Anselmo shout­ing the words “white pow­er” while giv­ing a Nazi salute at Dimefest, and Machine Head front­man Robb Flynn call­ing him out on it. In that video, I had two dif­fer­ent peo­ple com­ment who had videos on their chan­nel that were pure racist pro­pa­gan­da. Those are the type of peo­ple who should be re­port­ed ac­cord­ing to the guide­lines, but the guide­lines that Youtube has for its con­tent cre­ators are in­cred­i­bly broad and rarely en­forced to the letter.

What I Hate Everything pro­ceed­ed to do af­ter­wards was put for­ward a video called Youtube is a Joke, where he point­ed out a glar­ing weak­ness in Youtube as a grounds for con­tent cre­ation. When he browsed the front page of Youtube in an incog­ni­to tab in Chrome, what he saw was a bit dis­con­cert­ing from the per­spec­tive of some­one who is still grow­ing his chan­nel. The ma­jor rec­om­men­da­tions were al­most all from ma­jor tele­vi­sion shows, or from ma­jor mu­sic la­bels. This means that any per­son who first signs up for a Youtube ac­count is bom­bard­ed with con­tent that al­ready has an es­tab­lished au­di­ence off of the in­ter­net, stack­ing the deck against con­tent cre­ators work­ing out of their homes and try­ing to es­tab­lish themselves.

Beyond that, he makes an­oth­er good point. Why is there not a “dis­cov­er” tab? Why is there no fea­ture where less­er known cre­ators can be sug­gest­ed to peo­ple based on their in­ter­est? Often times, sug­ges­tions for videos to watch on Youtube aren’t new­er cre­ators, but rather Buzzfeed-esque con­tent or some­one else in the mil­lion sub­scriber club who a) al­ready has an es­tab­lished au­di­ence and b) is only loose­ly based on your pri­or in­ter­ests. To use a per­son­al ex­am­ple, I had to click “not in­ter­est­ed” on Jim Sterling’s chan­nel dozens of times be­fore Youtube’s pro­gram­ming got the mes­sage. The iron­ic part of the tim­ing is that it stopped when I up­loaded a video called “Jim Sterling the Cuck.”

With Google be­ing one of the dom­i­nant forces in the tech world, and with the dig­i­tal medi­um giv­ing voice to many new con­tent cre­ators, there needs to be a ded­i­ca­tion at the high­est lev­els to en­sur­ing that new con­tent cre­ators are be­ing tak­en care of. As some­one with a his­to­ry in busi­ness, the smart mon­ey is nev­er with some­one who only has a five year plan. You don’t do a five year plan for your re­tire­ment, and you don’t do one with rais­ing your chil­dren, so why do one with your busi­ness? You can’t just base your de­ci­sion mak­ing on peo­ple who are mak­ing vids for the next five years. You nev­er know when some­one like PewDiePie may walk away, or if some­one like the Fine Brothers get sued into the ground (hy­po­thet­i­cal­ly speak­ing). To quote Paul Heyman, “you need to be look­ing for who is go­ing to be your next A‑Rod.”

The main con­cern that I’m try­ing to com­mu­ni­cate here is that it doesn’t seem like Youtube is con­sis­tent­ly on the look­out for how Youtube can con­tin­u­al­ly be prof­itable for them in the next twen­ty years while they’re count­ing mon­ey from prank vids and girls danc­ing in thongs. Much as I ap­pre­ci­ate a nice ass, you have to make sure that your meth­ods of pro­tect­ing your in­vest­ment are stacked in the fa­vor of the peo­ple who could be bring­ing in mon­ey and have long ca­reers based on their video con­tent. Needless to say, Youtube as a whole does not have a very good track record of this.

I’d like to take every­one back to Viacom International, Inc. v. YouTube, Inc, which is the court case that changed the land­scape of con­tent cre­ation for a long time. To sum­ma­rize, Viacom made an out­landish claim that there was mas­sive amounts of videos on Youtube that en­gaged in copy­right in­fringe­ment. Despite the fact that Viacom did not win a sin­gle case or ap­peal, the case made Youtube para­noid at the high­est lev­els, and af­ter that case, copy­right strikes be­came the biggest fear for con­tent cre­ators. Often times you would even see copy­right strikes from au­to­mat­ed sys­tems that were com­plete­ly un­found­ed, and videos that were clear­ly pro­tect­ed by Fair Use could still be flagged by an au­to­mat­ed sys­tem. I my­self faced this on a video of mine where I lam­bast­ed the end­ing of Mass Effect 3. EA at­tempt­ed to claim they had a copy­right on my video de­spite the fact that all of the game­play footage was self-captured. They lat­er re­tract­ed the claim, but they didn’t have grounds for it in the first place.

The whole au­to­mat­ed sys­tem felt like big com­pa­nies can play the sys­tem like most peo­ple play the game L.A. Noire. You ac­cuse from the get go, and when some­one asks for proof, you back off once you re­al­ize that the law pro­tects the av­er­age man from be­ing bent over a pin­ball ma­chine and rav­aged by a large com­pa­ny. Over time, once Youtube al­lowed for all peo­ple up­load­ing videos to mon­e­tize them and per­ma­nent­ly ditched the hard to reach “part­ner” mile­stone, these ran­dom strikes be­came less and less, and some con­tent cre­ators sim­ply wouldn’t be able to mon­e­tize their videos in mi­nor cases.

To be frank, the biggest pro­tec­tion doesn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly come from Youtube it­self though. I my­self am part of the net­work TGN, and aside from giv­ing me cer­tain dis­tri­b­u­tion tools for my work, the big ap­peal of be­ing part of a net­work is pro­tec­tion. Basically, if there is any sort of copy­right clash, the griev­ances go to my net­work be­fore they come to me, and the net­work in­ter­cepts and rep­re­sents my in­ter­est as a cre­ator. The catch is that I have to share some of my prof­it from my videos with said net­work. Now, for some cre­ators there may not be much of an ap­peal. For me, due to the na­ture of the con­tent that I up­load it pro­tects me from be­ing ran­dom­ly si­lenced by some­one with a po­lit­i­cal bent or a com­pa­ny not hap­py with what I had to say about them. This same ap­peal might not seem as worth­while to oth­ers though, which leaves only Youtube to de­fend their rights con­sid­er­ing Youtube is giv­ing them the platform.

To Youtube’s cred­it, back in November they an­nounced that they would be work­ing to pro­tect con­tent cre­ators in cas­es of fair use, but they may be at a point where dam­age has been done. In hav­ing spo­ken to some con­tent cre­ators, it seems more like an at­tempt to pro­tect the mil­lion sub­scriber club, con­sid­er­ing Youtube could stand to lose a de­cent amount of mon­ey if Totalbiscuit, or my old boss Angry Joe were to have videos re­moved based on sup­posed copy­right in­fringe­ment. Given all of these re­cent con­tro­ver­sies, skep­ti­cism is understandable.

With all of that said, the fact re­mains that Youtube sim­ply doesn’t have the sta­bil­i­ty that it is go­ing to need go­ing for­ward as a plat­form. Many new cre­ators are fac­ing a long grind when it comes to cre­at­ing new con­tent and grow­ing their au­di­ence. Often times the only real way to have ear­ly suc­cess is to have friends in high places. Youtube needs to in­te­grate the tools to con­tin­ue to broad­en its base of con­tent cre­ators that are con­sis­tent­ly mak­ing them mon­ey.  They need to have a dis­cov­er tab. They need to give sug­ges­tions to peo­ple that are com­bi­na­tions of small­er and larg­er chan­nels to in­crease the pos­si­bil­i­ty of growth. They also need to have a se­ries of videos on Fair Use to make sure that their con­tent cre­ators have the prop­er tools to un­der­stand how to pro­tect their chan­nels in the long run and re­al­ize what the law is in re­gards to this business.

Finally, we’re at a point where the law needs to stick it to the com­pa­nies and peo­ple re­spon­si­ble for try­ing to shut down dis­cus­sion. Recently the Fine Brothers have tried to file copy­right trade­marks (and were ap­proved) on the word “React” sim­ply so they can make buck on any sort of “re­ac­tion” video, which is ad­mit­ted­ly the cur­rent fad in Youtube land. They should be sued for this. I said it to Angry Joe in 2011, and I was just as right then as I am now. Nothing is go­ing to change un­til some­one gets subpoena’d. Something needs to hap­pen in the court of law, and Youtube needs to wise up in re­gards to long term busi­ness plans. Cable is dy­ing, and the in­ter­net doesn’t need to make the same mistakes.


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Micah Curtis

Lover of Metal, Video Games, and naps. Former Writer for Techraptor, Blistered Thumbs. Always a gamer.

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