For anyone interested in the discussions about automated content filtering, Christmas came early this week: On Monday YouTube published the first edition of its Copyright Transparency Report. The report that covers copyright enforcement actions on the platform for the period from January to June of this year provides much needed insights into how YouTube’s various copyright management systems function. In publishing this report YouTube is finally bringing some empirical evidence to the discussion about the automated content filtering that is being fuelled by the ongoing implementation of Article 17 of the Copyright in the Digital Single Market (CDSM) directive. In this context it is worth pointing out that the report published on Monday covers a period before the most national implementation of Article 17, which means that the numbers presented in the report reflect the status quo ante and can thus serve as a baseline for assessing the actual impact of Article 17 going forward.
Over-blocking is real
So what can we learn from this first copyright transparency report? The overall take-away is that automated content removal is a big numbers game. In total YouTube processed 729.3 million copyright actions in the first half of 2021 of which the vast majority (99%) were processed via Content ID (as opposed to other tools, such as Copyright Match Tool and the Webform). And while YouTube claims that ContentID is much more accurate and less prone to abuse than its other systems ContentID has still received 3.7 million disputes from uploaders claiming that the actions (these can be blocks/removals but also demonetisation actions) taken against them are unjustified. 60% of these disputes have ultimately been decided in favour of the uploaders, which means that in the first half of 2021 Content ID has generated at least a 2.2 million unjustified copyright actions against its users on behalf of rightholders—The real number is likely to be much higher since research into notice and take down systems suggests that only a small fraction of users whose lawful uploads are removed make use of a complaint procedure that is available to them. In other words, over-enforcement (both unjustified blocking and unjustified demonetisation) is a very real issue that affects the rights of a substantial number of uploaders on a regular basis.Continue reading