For those concerned about DMCA takedown notifications being abused by media corporations, there is a bit of good news: Google plans to defend some targets of DMCA takedowns that they believe have a clear fair use defense. A post made today on Google's public policy blog lays out some of the details.
We are offering legal support to a handful of videos that we believe represent clear fair uses which have been subject to DMCA takedowns. With approval of the video creators, we’ll keep the videos live on YouTube in the U.S., feature them in the YouTube Copyright Center as strong examples of fair use, and cover the cost of any copyright lawsuits brought against them.
One of the users who will be benefiting from this program is Jim Sterling, who has posted has posted a video on this topic. YouTube recognized that a DMCA claim against one of his videos was nonsense, and has allowed it to remain on the site. However that particular video will only be available in the US, as Google is not willing to fight a legal battle outside the US. He states that Google has pledged up to a million dollars to support a legal defense if he is taken to court over a spurious copyright claim. His video is also being included in a library of videos that Google believes are clear examples of fair use. The purpose is to educate both content creators and copyright holders on what constitutes fair use.
This might sound pretty good at first, until you realize that most people are not going to immediately benefit from this and will still suffer through absurd DMCA takedowns. They are only supporting a handful of videos, and later on in the post it says they won't be able to protect every video that has a strong fair use defense. The reason isn't stated in the post, but we can imagine that the sheer volume of DMCA takedowns is the cause. Even Google's vast resources would be drained trying to protect every video that was falsely claimed to be infringing.
However, even if Google is only protecting some videos, it may still bring benefits to everyone in the long run. Winning cases could set important legal precedents about the abuse of DMCA notifications. A recent ruling by the Ninth Circuit has already set a positive precedent, but it is only binding in part of the country and is far from solving the DMCA mess. Further cases could set more precedents in favor of fair use and against DMCA abuse. Additionally, once companies start losing cases and have to pay out damages they may be more careful in filing DMCA claims. Even if this is doesn't completely solve the inherent problem with the DMCA, it might make it may mitigate it.
Is this a good first step in fighting DMCA abuse on YouTube? Leave your comments below.