As I type this, my total number of hits on YouTube (nearly sixty-two THOUSAND) is in the process of overtaking my total number of hits on WordPress. But this is not a reason for rejoicing. It merely confirms what I’ve been saying for years – people don’t READ anymore.
I mean, my WordPress efforts consist of three blogs, with around 100 pieces each – plus a book and short story. Oh, and also 38 movie “crits” on IMDb (but they don’t DO hit-counts). And that’s a lot of words. While my YouTube uploads are merely 198 clips.
But what REALLY hurts is that my work on YouTube has only been going for three months while my scribblings have been going for SIXTEEN.
However, that is not what THIS piece is about – it’s about YouTube’s WARNING STRIKES. The big fly in my YouTube ointment is their system of slapping your wrist when you do something they consider WRONG. I now have one on EACH of my three channels.
Now here on WordPress, there are no such problems – or at least, I have never encountered any. The thing is, I refrain from using strong language (I figure even if you are “in my house” – that does not give me the right to offend you) even though some others do.
And as for WHAT I write – well, if you read people’s blogs, you are BOUND to disagree with SOME of what they have to say.
Which, provided I avoid holocaust denying, telling people how to make bombs from household products and inciting racial hatred – is fine.
And if you disagree with anything I say and can offer a reasoned, non-offensive alternate view – I will be more than happy to publish it as a comment. And probably add a comment right back at you! It’s called DEBATE.
But at YouTube, there is NO debate. It seems they don’t have the staff for it. If you piss them off, they just hit you with a “warning strike” – collect three and you’re OUT.
Well actually, it is not quite as simple as that.
They have two, separate, systems for managing their content. The first comes under their “community guidelines”. Since around twenty hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, it would take a staff of around FIVE THOUSAND to monitor the uploads in real-time.
Thus they rely on customers to flag “inappropriate” material. But this system is open to abuse. If someone is JEALOUS of your content, they can go round your channel trying to FIND something that could be classed as inappropriate, then flag it just to SCREW with you.
Plus, people can go around YouTube flagging anything they DON’T LIKE. And while YouTube CLAIM they don’t bump stuff on those grounds, one suspects there are only a handful of people viewing flagged pieces – and they probably bump everything that isn’t obviously benign.
I experienced this myself on one of my channels. Early on, I uploaded a piece that contained DISTANT “comedic” nudity. But before doing so, I checked their guidelines. The problem is, said guidelines are to say the least VAGUE – however, they claimed they would tolerate mild nudity provided it wasn’t SEXUAL.
Therefore, since my piece was in NO way sexual, I decided to put it up and see what happened. And for TWO MONTHS – nothing DID.
Now, there is a system on YouTube for classifying pieces as “adult” which requires you to sign in – as an adult – to view them (a system I have always considered DEEPLY flawed – what’s to stop an eight-year-old saying he’s twenty-eight, to watch hard-core porn?)
And I would have been fine if they had done THAT – in fact, I expected it (although there’s no way to stipulate a piece is adult in nature when you upload – one of MANY shortcomings with YouTube’s systems).
I could even have lived with them BUMPING the piece.
But when they bumped it AND hit me with a warning strike – I felt hard-done-by.
And the annoying thing is – there’s no APPEAL. Sure, you can appeal against your CHANNEL being deleted (apparently, they keep all uploads on their system, even when a piece – or a whole channel – is deleted – either by them or the customer) but they won’t debate individual deletions (again, one assumes they lack the staff).
In fact, getting to TALK to – or even e-mail – a YouTube representative, is pretty much impossible. Instead, they refer you to their “community help” channel – which mostly consists of people moaning to each other about the shortcomings of YouTube. Thus your Problem is Shared – but not in any way SOLVED.
There is ONE good thing. These strikes are like driving endorsements – they only last six months. Which means so long as you don’t acquire more than two in any six months, your account won’t get terminated.
Then there is the BIGGEST bugbear – COPYRIGHT.
Whilst – as previously discussed – much of YouTube’s content is CRAP, there is also a large amount of GOOD stuff there. Movie and TV clips – and MUSIC. Pretty much ALL of which is COPYRIGHT.
And this is where the trouble REALLY starts. If you thought YouTube’s policy on content was confused, wait ’til you see their policy on COPYRIGHT.
The first thing they say is – don’t upload any music, TV or film content that might be copyright. Except that if everyone took them at their word, YouTube would lose HALF of their uploads – and THREE-QUARTERS of their customers.
So what happens if you DO upload copyrighted material?
Well, all sorts of things. Firstly, following an agreement made a couple of years ago, YouTube have software which IDENTIFIES all content owned by the “Big Four” – Sony, Warner, Universal and EMI – (soon to become the Big Three if the merger between Warner and EMI goes ahead).
And whether an upload is mono or stereo, good Q or bad, playing at the correct speed or slightly off – the software will identify it, while the piece is finalising. So then they pull it – right? Well, no.
In fact, most pieces flagged by the software are put UP. Often with adverts from the owner. And while YouTube tells you your piece is copyrighted, they also tell you all is fine (sort of). You do not receive a warning. Your account remains “in good standing”. And yet, they still list all of your infringements AS such. It is REALLY confusing – talk about “mixed messages”.
Meanwhile, most TV companies are fine with you putting up clips from their shows – some do it THEMSELVES. Plus there are THOUSANDS of movie clips. Deep joy. Until a company OBJECTS to a piece of yours – then you get a COPYRIGHT warning strike!
And again, there is no appeal.
Or consistency. Like; I put a piece up and got a strike, when (as I later discovered) someone else had put the SAME piece up – and it had been up for a YEAR. YouTube try to explain this by claiming some companies allow ONE use of their material only. So why give a STRIKE to a subsequent uploader? And there were other pieces on YouTube from the same film.
Then there was the time I put four pieces up from a film and two got bumped immediately – while the other two were permitted and are still THERE. Maybe THEY’LL get bumped in a year’s time and I’ll collect ANOTHER bloody strike.
And with COPYRIGHT strikes, there is also no “six month” rule – your strike remains indefinitely. So how many – over how long – can you acquire, without getting DELETED? CHRIST knows! As with ALL of YouTube’s rules and guidelines – CONFUSION AND CONTRADICTION REIGN.
Altogether, it’s a MESS. Upload one piece of copyrighted material and everything’s fine. Upload another and they get DRACONIAN.
And if they DO pull your channel, you are SCREWED. ALL your work may be LOST. Listen to the horror stories detailed on their “community help” channel. Some have been deleted WITHOUT ANY warning. Others have been censured for pieces they uploaded YEARS before, without any complaint.
So what is the answer, from YouTube’s point of view?
Well, it would be nice if they let ANYTHING onto their service – except that would result in everything from child pornography to snuff movies being on it. With freedom comes responsibility – and unfortunately, there are a lot of irresponsible people about.
And it would be nice if they ignored copyright quibbles – but artists are entitled to reward for their efforts. “Art for art’s sake – money for f**k’s sake.” (See – I told you I don’t use strong language in these columns).
One problem is the laws of copyright. As stated elsewhere in these ramblings, it is time to re-examine the concept of Public Domain. With musical composition, it is one hundred years. With books and plays, fifty. But these laws go back CENTURIES.
For decades, films were owned by the studios that made them – but they’re all GONE now. And their “properties” are passed around from one company to another like gold bricks. The original creatives (if they are even still alive) get NOTHING.
Of course, right-wing arseholes would say FINE – so it should be. But art should NOT be a “commodity”. Sure, a successful band can expect their stuff to re-emerge after fifteen years as “naustalgia” and have every right to profit from that. But after that…?
The thing is, record, tape and disk collectors like me use YouTube to swap hard-to-get classic material. What we DON’T need is YouTube’s inconsistent HARASSMENT.
Okay, PULL items that draw flak from the “community” or copyright holders – but don’t threaten to DESTROY ALL of our work if we happen to get flagged for one or two items.
And as for “inappropriate content” – one person’s inappropriate item is someone else’s LOL. Take that into account before issuing a warning strike.
Finally, before KILLING someone’s account, take a look at the WHOLE thing and spend TIME evaluating it. It may represent HOURS of work.
YouTube needs to address this – even though their service is free, they have a RESPONSIBILITY to their customers. Just because I might offer a free taxi service, does not mean I’m entitled to drive DRUNK.
In any case, YouTube is not a philanthropic enterprise – they make MONEY from their service. And their product is supplied FREE – by US. Therefore, they owe us their RESPECT.