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Welcome to the Youtube Public Domain Resource – Part Two – How to Use This Resource

September 11, 2012

If this is your first time here at the Youtube Public Domain Resource, welcome.

In my previous post, “Welcome to the Youtube Public Domain Resource – Part One – Why This Resource Exists,” I explained both my personal motivations for starting this project and the broader reasons, involving Youtube’s flawed anti-copyright infringement system, that led me to creating this resource.

In this post, I’m going to give a rough explanation of how I hope to run this project, both here at the blog and on the Youtube channel, and how I hope you’ll be able to use the information provided. Much of the information in this post is also covered in the “About” Section of this blog, and I plan to release an introductory video on the Youtube channel that also covers this material.

Once again, before I begin, I’d like to include the disclaimers: This project is not affiliated with Youtube or Google, I’m simply a single independent user of their services, and also, I am not a lawyer and I cannot provide you any legal advice nor should any information on the Youtube Public Domain Resource be interpreted as legal advice. I cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information presented here and my opinions are my own and represent the views of no one I’m affiliated with (not that I’m directly affiliated with anyone anyway, but I’m including this in case I later post contributions from others).

So, here’s how I plan to run this project:

The first step is: I will pick out a public domain work, generally a video or audio recording.

I don’t have any plans for which to include or for any particular order or method to be used in selecting them. I do plan to begin with Kimiko Ishizaka’s “Open Goldberg Variations,” as troubles with using her works, which she released into the public domain thanks to a Creative Commons Zero waiver, are what led me to create the Youtube Public Domain Resource in the first place. I am considering taking requests, if someone wants me to test the waters for them of a public domain work they would like to upload and/or sample on Youtube.

Once I select the public domain work, I will upload it to Youtube.

(I should note here that the Youtube Public Domain Resource is a side-project of just one person and I can’t promise any time-frame for when things will be uploaded or even that it will happen very often.)

Then, I see what happens. And whatever happens, I will report in as much detail as possible in the video description of the upload in question, and I will also publish a report on what happens (updated as necessary) on this blog.

Here are the various things that can happen when uploading a public domain work to Youtube:

Nothing. No false copyright claims. If this is what I have to report, I think we can all be happy, and I think we’ll all hope it stays that way.

If a copyright claim does show up, I will first, time permitting, do a little bit of research to see if the work I used is public domain, if I already have some reasonable doubt. Generally, though, I won’t use a work if I have any serious doubts that it is public domain in the first place (at least as far as U.S. law is concerned).

I will then try to figure out who made the claim. Youtube’s system can be terribly vague. Once I find who made the claim, or who I think made the claim (I will make note in my reports whether I’m fairly certain I have the right person/company or not) I will attempt to contact them and make a polite request that they release their false copyright claim, and my report will include as much contact information on them as I can find.

Then, I will wait for a reply.

If no reply arrives within 24 hours, I will file a claim dispute on Youtube.

Whether the situation gets resolved via polite request or by filing a Youtube claim dispute (or if the situation doesn’t get satisfactorily resolved at all) I will update the report with as much detailed information as possible.

The end result will be that anyone (such as yourself, gentle reader) who wishes to use a public domain work on Youtube reads my report, he or she will have an idea of what he or she is getting him or herself into.

Say, for example, you’ve just spent your life saving making an independent film, and you hope to gain exposure for it by posting it for free viewing on Youtube. Yet you used, say, Kimiko Ishizaka’s Open Goldberg Variations as part of your indie film’s soundtrack.

You’re sure that the Open Goldberg Variations are public domain because Kimiko Ishizaka released them with a Creative Commons Zero waiver, meaning she WANTS them to be public domain. So she’s not going to give you any trouble, and neither is the composer, J.S. Bach, as any legal effort on his part would be difficult for him given his current state of non-living.

So, satisfied, you release the film onto Youtube, hoping to gain an audience who will buy copies of the film, and any merchandise or whatever else you might be selling to make, if not a profit, at least some of your life savings back. Maybe you’ve even monetized the upload (I hope not, even if you’re within your rights to do it I just hate those pop-up on-screen ads!).

Then, as soon as the upload finishes, you get a notice from Youtube via email:

“Your video [Your Existential Independent Film Title Here] may contain content owned by VAGUE MENACING CORPORATION. The content has been identified as:

The Artist Definitely Not Known As Kimiko Ishizaka – Closed Goldberg Variations Aria.

This does not count as a strike against your account, but ads may be placed on your video. You do not need to take any further action.”

So now, this VAGUE MENACING CORPORATION is making money off of your own work (by making money off of the freely-released work of Kimiko Ishizaka). It may not be their fault; after all, there are probably a ton of piano versions of the Goldberg Variations out there that have a similar enough sound that Youtube’s ineffective system can’t tell them apart. Regardless, this company is now making money off of your video, which you worked hard to make, and you are totally cut out of the profits. Not to mention the fact that people can’t even concentrate on your movie due to some annoying ad popping up on the screen, trying to get them to buy useless crap they don’t need or want!

Now you’re facing the daunting prospect of contacting the VAGUE MENACING CORPORATION, and possibly filing a Youtube claim dispute, and possibly getting a copyright infringement strike against your account because nobody’s paying attention to the facts…

Well, if you’re in such a situation, hopefully the Youtube Public Domain Resource can at least give you some sense of your bearings. Simply search for my upload of the Open Goldberg Variations track you used and read the video description to figure out if I was able to resolve the false claims, and if so, how. Alternatively, you can look for my report on the uploading test of that track here on the Youtube Public Domain Resource blog. Perhaps too, in either the Youtube video comments or on the blog comments, others will have shared their experiences and perhaps someone found some contact info I didn’t, or some other method of dealing with the problem.

Another possibility is that you’re aware of such risks beforehand, so before ever uploading your independent film, you check out the Youtube Public Domain Resource in advance. Now, you know before ever uploading your film whether or not you are likely to have a false copyright claim problem. This will give you a chance to re-edit your film to take out the material that could give you a problem.

However, I encourage you not to do this. Kimiko Ishizaka worked hard to bring to the public a valuable resource, one free to obtain and free to reuse. All public domain material should be available to “We the People” without fear of reprisals due to either a faulty copyright infringement detection system (since when has it been a good idea to create and run an automated filter on our means of free speech?) or due to fraudulent efforts by monopolistic and parasitic corporations.

If you do use the resource provided here in advance of uploading a public domain work, I hope you do so not to allow yourself to be wrongfully censored by a flawed system and greedy fraudsters, but to better prepare yourself for what you will face in fighting such irritating and damaging problems.

In fact, I hope that by providing these reports, other Youtube users will surpass my own efforts, find ways that I missed to resolve false copyright claim problems, identify parts of copyright law I missed or misunderstood, and to better the access of all people to public domain materials, the works that we, as a shared culture, ought to have a right to in the first place.

Too many times I’ve read of those who meant to share some obscure piece of cultural ephemera, only to meet a flawed or fraudulent copyright infringement claim and then close their Youtube accounts in frustration.

I hope by providing this resource, Youtube users will realize that they are not alone in dealing with these kinds of problems, that they will be able to use and benefit from the information here in their own struggles with the system, and that more people will feel empowered to speak out against the terrible shrinking of the public domain that these kinds of problems have caused.

Thank you for reading and I hope that this little side-project of mine is a help to you,

Leo Kirke

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