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Romney’s Obama ads return to YouTube after DMCA spat

Three days after being removed for concerns that they had violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a web ad produced on behalf of the Mitt Romney presidential campaign have been restored on YouTube, with the company siding with the Romney campaign on the question of whether or not the ads were infringing copyright.

The 30 second ad, entitled “Political Payoffs and Middle Class Layoffs,” went live on Monday on YouTube on Monday, but was removed a day later when BMG Rights Management filed a complaint on behalf of Al Green, a portion of whose song “Let’s Stay Together” was used in the commercial (The clip uses the much-viewed clip of President Obama singing part of the song during an appearance in New York’s Apollo Theater in January of this year, after noting that Green was in the audience at the time). The complaint cited the DMCA, which meant that YouTube was obliged to remove the video immediately and then had a ten day period in which to adjudicate whether or not it believed that the offending video did, in fact, infringe on existing copyright.

That the decision came in a far shorter period not only speaks to the high-profile nature of the video’s removal, but also the ease of the decision for YouTube; something that it underscored in its statement on the matter. “When we’re notified that a particular video uploaded to our site infringes another’s copyright, we remove the material in accordance with the law,” the company explained in an official statement. “We have a counter notification process in place if a user believes a content owner has misidentified their video, and we reinstate content if a user prevails in that process. We also reinstate videos in cases where we are confident that the material is not infringing, or where there is abuse of our copyright tools.”

The Romney ad may have been the most high-profile of the removed videos, but it was not the only one removed during this cull; reports from the Apollo Theater appearance from January from the Associated Press and ABC News that included Obama’s singing were also removed, and have also since been reinstated.

In this case, the Romney campaign had complained about the removal by Wednesday, citing the ad as Fair Use instead of copyright violation, leading to the video’s return just a day later. In the meantime, it went ahead with its campaign on other services, uploading the same ad without much notice to Vimeo on Tuesday afternoon; Interestingly enough, Politico notes that the Vimeo version of the ad had only been viewed 750 times in two days, against the YouTube version being viewed more than 125,000 since Monday despite it having been offline between Tuesday and Thursday.

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