YouTube Copyright School FAIL!

Last  week, YouTube unveiled its “Copyright School” meant to reform violators of uploaded infringements by educating and  then testing them on YouTube’s copyright policy.

Did you miss the portion about Fair Use and Remix? That’s because, assuming you could get through the annoying music and booming voiceover to the 2:30 mark, fair use was read through like the side effects in an Ask-You-Doctor-About-a-Drug-You-Don’t-Need™ commercial. Even worse, the legal jargon used to define fair use is actually in fine print and repeatedly pushed off the screen, making it a perfect opportunity for viewers to tune out and miss their legal rights as web video creators.

Our friends at Public Knowledge know that there’s got to be a better way to talk about copyright that doesn’t exclude fair use. On Monday they announced the PK Copyright School Challenge: can you make a better video than YouTube that explains both what you can and can’t do with copyrighted content? The contest encourages remixes of the actual YouTube video as well as ‘original’ content. Yours truly is a contest judge along with a co-editor of the PoliticalRemixVideo blog, Jonathan McIntosh.

It’s interesting that fair use should be hidden in such fine print when talking about copyright and users’ rights on YouTube. After all, fair use remixes and mashups have contributed to making YouTube what it’s become. Furthermore, YouTube/Google have relied on fair use numerous times to protect themselves from lawsuits from Viacom, Amazon and Perfect 10. So what’s the deal? Is it a case of fair use for me and not thee?

It looks like it. Copyright School is the result of mounting tensions between copyright holders, Congress and YouTube, who are pressuring the company to illustrate how they are protecting corporations’ rights by discouraging piracy and/or the illegal sharing of copyrighted content on it’s popular sites. Perhaps you’ve heard of them? and As a result, they’ve created a system of standardizing their policies to promote video content with the lowest risk of corporate infringement allegations while simultaneously instilling the fear of God in those who choose to rely on their legal rights under fair use.

It’s  ultimately your responsibility to know whether you possess the rights  for a particular piece of content before uploading it to YouTube. If  you’re at all uncertain of your rights or whether a particular use of  content is legal under your local laws, you should contact a qualified  copyright attorney. Of course, the easiest way to avoid any potential  issues is to create totally original content — perhaps by making the  most of the creative tools available on the site.

– YT Copyright School

YouTube’s brushing off of user’s rights is disturbing from multiple angles, but perhaps the worst is it’s follow up blog post on fair use which seemed to equate celebrity & ridicule with authorized use of copyright content. If you’re Conan making a parody of a ridiculous song sang by a teenage girl, that’s totally fair use. But YouTube will wait until the day after it’s Copyright School drops to let you know that. ‘Cause that’s how corporations roll.

Note: Read the edited version of this post for professional audiences over at


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