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YouTube changes its tune, will now defend select channels against DMCA takedowns

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YouTube has announced a new plan to protect content creators hit by copyright takedown requests that don’t check for fair use. The new plan will compensate channels up to $1 million in legal fees and will keep the video live while court proceedings take place.

This is the first move by the Google-owned video service to make channels feel more comfortable using content from other sources under the Fair Use Act.

In the past, content creators hit with a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown would have to fund their own legal team, and the video would be taken offline until a court issued a favorable ruling. Three DMCA takedown requests result in YouTube blocking the channel — forcing some content creators away from more controversial topics.

YouTube will get in touch with any channel it suspects has been wronged by a DMCA claim, but not all channels will receive legal protection. And the videos will only remain active in the U.S., meaning most of the world will be unable to see the video regardless of the legal outcome.

YouTube will also add all active videos hit with DMCA takedown requests into its ‘Copyright Center,’ where content creators and copyright holders can get an idea about what types of content are permitted on the video service.

“We’re doing this because we recognize that creators can be intimidated by the DMCA’s counter notification process, and the potential for litigation that comes with it,” said YouTube in a blog post.

The move follows a lawsuit against Universal Music Group (UMG) by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Stephanie Lenz. A 29-second video of Lenz’s child dancing to Prince song Let’s Go Crazy in 2007 was caught by UMG’s content ID system, which pressed for the video to be removed from YouTube. The court case was settled earlier this year, with a federal district court confirming that Universal must look into fair use before sending a DMCA takedown.

Plenty of commentators have called for a more robust content ID system on YouTube, and a less restrictive ruleset regarding copyright. While this new legal protection isn’t a rule change, it shows that YouTube will assert itself in some cases to defend the rights of content creators against overzealous organizations.

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