Although it actually owns the company, Google has said it will help fund up to $1 million (£650,000) in legal fees for content creators who fall foul of YouTube copyright takedown notices.
Google will make the move in cases where it feels material has been used under circumstances considered to be fair use.
This could be big news for advertisers and marketers whose content is produced by third parties or who deliberately focus campaigns on parodies.
Google admits, however, that only a handful of cases have been selected to benefit from the new support. Fred von Lohmann, Google’s copyright legal director, wrote in a company blog post: “We are offering legal support to a handful of videos that we believe represent clear fair uses which have been subject to DMCA takedowns.”
Digital Millennium Copyright Act
Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), copyright holders can contact companies such as Google and ask for content to be taken down if they think it infringes their ownership rights.
Some exceptions to the law mean that copyrighted material can be used in some cases where it is for the purposes of commentary and parody, although the details vary around the world. Examples include in news reporting or for teaching purposes in the US.
With more than 400 hours of video being uploaded to YouTube every minute, the amount of copyrighted material in the form of music, film or TV clips being used is huge.
However, a significant proportion is altered or transformed in some way, as in the case of audio of visual “mashups” as popularised by UK artists such as the Freelance Hellraiser, IDC and Cassetteboy.
The idea behind a “fair use” policy is to allow discussion and creativity across different mediums to flourish without the fear of action based on copyright infringement.
Potential for litigation
Explaining the thinking behind Google’s new move, von Lohmann wrote: “We’re doing this because we recognise that creators can be intimidated by the DMCA’s counter-notification process and the potential for litigation that comes with it.
“While we can’t offer legal protection to every video creator – or even every video that has a strong fair use defence – we’ll continue to resist legally unsupported DMCA takedowns as part of our normal processes.”