Close encounter with copyright

Recently I had a close encounter with a copyright issue that involved a song, a video clip and YouTube. 

Inspired by Petula Clark’s song, ‘I know a place’, my school created a walkthrough video. The lead – our most talented Drama teacher, Holly – mimed the lyrics whilst taking the camera through a tour of our school community. It was a beautifully crafted piece of work.

 However, flags were raised by the IT department when we began to distribute the video via the school’s YouTube channel. The claim was made that, by publishing the video, the school would be in breach of copyright law. I argued (regrettably, in hindsight) that this was not a breach. If YouTube published the video, then it is up to them to remove the content if they deem it unsuitable and the worst that would happen would be that it was removed from the site.

Ummm….. Then I decided to check out if I was correct. Apparently not!.

As the world’s largest online video site, YouTube enables users to view and share video content on a grand scale. Google acquired YouTube and stated that they wanted to reconcile the rights of content owners with its mission to ‘organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’. They were both criticised and applauded. YouTube has been in an interesting position for a number of years now in terms of copyright, with a vested interest in both protecting the rights of content owners and also making the content widely available to the public.

So how do they achieve this balancing act? 

The answer is Content ID. Essentially, YouTube has a database of over 3 million audio and video reference files, from Mozart to the latest Game of Thrones episode. YouTube then checks the contents of a video when it is uploaded against their database to see if there are any infringements. If a match is found, the content owner has already set in place what it wants YouTube to do. This includes options such as blocking the whole video, muting music in the video or monetizing the video by running ads against it. My school included an attribution to the owner of the song and are now planning on publishing the video. So it worked out as a win for everyone.

My question now is ‘How do we pass this knowledge on to students to help them legally configure their digital footprint?’ Enter, Creative Commons … but that is a blog for another day.