YouTube's Content ID program finally provides for ad revenue during disputes

The free ride stops here, sort of.

Ah, copyright—the thorniest thorn in the side of the Internet. And YouTube, despite paying out so much ad revenue it acts as certain people’s jobs, has become a focal point of the push-pull between “Fair Use” and “Hands Off My Stuff” in recent years.

YouTube’s automated Content ID program is the crux of the issue, and on Thursday the system received some long-overdue fixes. But in order to explain what happened, we’ll need to talk about the rampant Content ID abuse that’s been happening over the last few years.

In a perfect world, this is how Content ID is supposed to work: Companies scour YouTube for videos using their intellectual property, examine whether this usage falls under Fair Use, and if not they file a claim. A claim isn’t a takedown notice—in other words, it doesn’t mean the video has to be removed—but all ad money now goes to the claimant.

That is, unless the original uploader disputes the claim. Once disputed, ads are then removed from the video entirely. Nobody makes money.

Understatement of understatements, YouTube puts it as such: “[This] is an especially frustrating experience for creators if that claim ends up being incorrect while a video racks up views in its first few days.” We’re talking potentially hundreds of dollars lost.

On Thursday the company finally took one single step to rectify Content ID’s problems, though:

“We’re developing a new solution that will allow videos to earn revenue while a Content ID claim is being disputed. Here’s how it will work: when both a creator and someone making a claim choose to monetize a video, we will continue to run ads on that video and hold the resulting revenue separately. Once the Content ID claim or dispute is resolved, we’ll pay out that revenue to the appropriate party.”

Seems like it should’ve worked this way all along, eh?

The new system isn’t in place yet but is set to roll out “in the coming months,” YouTube promised. It’s not a full solution to Content ID’s woes, as it does very little to prevent spurious claims or punish users who consistently abuse the system—to say nothing of the tangled web that is Fair Use law. But it’s at least a bit of protection for the bigger channels, who at this point are under siege daily from Content ID claims.

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Hayden Dingman

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