The DMCA on 7 Video Sites (YouTube Beats Viacom)

For the next segment in our “DMCA Seven” feature, we will take a look at the “Darlings of the DMCA” as I’ve come to know them, the video sharing sites.

These sites, many of which have been sued or are operating under the constant threat of being sued, have their very livelihood centered around whether or not they qualify for DMCA safe harbor protection. They have more motivation than any other kind of host to ensure that their DMCA/copyright policies are up to code as even a minor slip up could become a mortal wound in the hands of an aggressive corporate lawyer.

So how do they hold up? Well, let’s take a look at seven of the top sites and find out.

youtube.png

Format: Email
Email Address: copyright at youtube dot com
Location of Policy: Copyright Notices Page
Registered with USCO: Yes
Comments: Though purchased by Google some time ago, YouTube has operated as its own company and has maintained a separate policy when it comes to DMCA Notices. Overall, their copyright policy is a model for other sites like it. Not only do they provide the link to their policy on every page, but it is a well-written policy with detailed instructions for filing a notice and a link to instructions for filing a counter-notice. They also have a Content Verification Program, which is clearly targeted at large companies, that expedites the sending of multiple notices by giving rightsholders access to an online tool that can remove infringing works. Though such a tool might be ripe for abuse, and has been on some occasions, it is practically a necessity when dealing with large media companies, such as Viacom (see below).
Grade: A-

google_video.png

Format: Email
Email Address: amac at google dot com
Location of Policy: Google’s DMCA Policy
Registered with USCO: No (registered as Google)
Comments: Google’s other video site, Google Video, is definitely a part of the traditional Google structure, including their flawed and excessively difficult DMCA policy. Unfortunately, there is not much that I can say about Google’s policy that has not been said before. As with their other services, their requirement of a handwritten signature not only goes against the intent of the ESIGN Act, but throws up unnecessary and frustrating roadblocks to individuals seeking to file DMCA notices with Google. This may be one of the reasons why infringing material seems to stay up significantly longer on Google Video than other video sharing sites.
Grade: D

metacafe.png

Format: Email
Email Address: CR-agent at metacafe dot com
Location of Policy: Copyright Policy
Registered with USCO: Yes
Comments: Metacafe keeps it simple. Their policy is clean, simple and covers all of the bases. It offers all of the needed information, save details on filing a counter-notice, and is offered as a link at the footer of every single page. The only thing that is exceptional about their policy is that you are directed to send notices to the VP of Content and Marketing, Daniel Sevitt, rather than to either the counsel or their abuse team. Perhaps they do not get as many notices as other video sharing sites. Regardless though, their policy seems to be in order and hits all of the right notes. There is very little not to like about it.
Grade: B+

break2.jpg

Format: Email
Email Address: support at break-inc dot com
Location of Policy: Item Seventeen, Terms of Use
Registered with USCO: Yes (outdated)
Comments: Inconsistency is a major problem with Break. Their USCO registration has users email their notices to jeff at jsuto dot com where their terms of service, the most up to date information, has it going to the address above. They’ve also buried their policy deep within their terms of use, literally making it one of the last items covered. Other than the odd location, the policy is complete, providing good instructions on filing a notice and, though it lacks any information on a counter-notice, it seems to follow the letter of the law.
Grade: C

DailyMotion

Format: Email
Email Address: US-notification at dailymotion dot com
Location of Policy: Copyright Notification Policy
Registered with USCO: Yes
Comments: As a French site, Dailymotion is not necessarily bound by the DMCA. That is why it is so interesting that they do so and do it very closely, putting their policy proudly at the footer of every page. Their copyright policy is straight to the point, covering all of the basics, though omitting information about a counter-notice, and offering an easy email address to send in complaints too. Strangely missing from the Web version of their policy is any physical address, however, a glance at the USCO registration shows why, their physical address is in Paris and their fax number is also international. All in all, they took what could have been a difficult copyright situation and made it very simple. However, with the rules for notice and takedown the in EU being so relaxed, one might say that Dailymotion is actually setting the bar too high. However, I would argue they strike a good balance, using a system that should already be familiar with most American rightsholders while protecting their users from frivolous complaints.
Grade: B

ifilm.png

Format: Email
Email Address: copyrightnotice at ifilm dot com
Location of Policy: Copyright Compliance Policy
Registered with USCO: Yes
Comments: Having already looked at YouTube’s DMCA policy, we now get to look at how this Viacom-owned video sharing site follows the law itself. The policy itself is robust to a fault. Clearly written by attorneys it is the lengthiest of the DMCA policies in this section and can best be described as wordy. However, it is very complete, containing detailed information on filing a notice, counter notice and a lengthy policy for dealing with repeat infringers. Though weak in organization and hard to read, it more than gets the job done. Viacom is also generous enough to place the link to the policy on every page in the footer, and offer all of the major forms of contact to reach the host, email, fax and postal mail. However, not much in this policy goes above and beyond what is required by the law itself. It gets the job done, but other than its convenient location, does not do a great deal to help copyright holders out.
Grade: B-

revver-logo.gif

Format: Email/Form
Email Address: steven at revver dot com
Location of Policy: Copyright Information
Registered with USCO: Yes
Comments: Revver’s DMCA policy is so short that, on first read, you think you missed it. It’s a few short sentences about how Revver supports copyright all followed by an invitation and address to postal mail your DMCA complaint in. There is no instruction on filing a notice, no email address, no fax, no counter-notice information, just a lengthy explanation about Creative Commons Licensing, fair use and remix culture. Important information, to be certain, but not helpful to someone seeking to stop non-transformative use of their work. With a little more digging, you find you can use their contact form to send a DMCA notice, but it is not a form designed for the purpose, instead, it is just a regular email form, the same used to send help requests and feedback. To find more practical information, you have to look at their USCO filing, which has their email address and fax number. Does this policy follow the law? Probably. But it seems openly hostile toward copyright notices and gives me an overall uncooperative feeling.
Grade: C-

Conclusions

Compared to the social news sites, the video sharing sites are a breath of fresh air. It is clear that the difficult legal climate they operate in has, for the most part, pushed them to follow the DMCA very closely and encouraged them to work with copyright holders in good faith.

Of the seven reviewed, none failed, Google was the only “D” and the others were varying degrees of acceptable.

One interesting twist in this evaluation was that Youtube’s DMCA policy is much more forward-thinking than the policy on Viacom’s iFilm site. Though Viacom’s policy is more than complete, its complexity and lack of rightsholder-friendly tools put it far behind YouTube. As a rightsholder, I would much rather work with YouTube.

Though YouTube as well as sites like it might have their DMCA safe harbor protections called into question for other reasons, there is little doubt on most of these sites, save Google Video, comply with the intent of the law and have good, ethical practices for working with copyright holders.

After seeing how poorly other sites perform in this area, any problems or complaints I have about their policies is mere nitpicks.

What the Ratings Mean

A – A complete policy that goes well above and beyond what is required. Often shows real innovation.
B – A solid policy that is well-thought out and is very complete. Shows consideration for submitters and users.
C – An average policy, follows the law to the letter but doesn’t go out of its way to help those submitting a notice or its users.
D – A policy that, while mostly complete, still raises severe ethical and/or legal questions.
F – An incomplete policy that fails to follow the DMCA or local laws in a severe way.

Pluses or minuses are used to indicate how the where a host fits in relationship to other hosts in that that tier.

Up Next: Blog Hosting Companies (Note: I know that the blog hosting article was scheduled to run this week, it will be running next week instead. I am sorry for the confusion but I am working to compile more information for the blog hosting article.)

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