“We are concerned that copyright holders with smaller catalogs of works cannot utilize Content ID, making it more difficult or impossible for them to effectively protect their copyrighted works.”
Eight members of Congress have sent a letter to Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai requesting that the company participate in “a roundtable with Congressional offices and members of the creative community” to discuss its responses to a series of questions relating to Google-owned YouTube’s Content ID tool. The tool is meant to prevent copyright infringing material from appearing on YouTube but has come under scrutiny for its failings in recent years.
During a hearing in July of this year, for example, Representative Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA) told Adam Cohen, Director of Economic Policy at Google, that she has heard concerns about copyright theft on YouTube and asked whether YouTube really has any incentive to combat widespread copyright theft. She said that pirated versions of YouTube-created content don’t show up in search results, while pirated versions of other shows seem to proliferate. Cohen denied any evidence of such a discrepancy and pointed to the Content ID tool as evidence of the internet giant’s good faith efforts to help curb infringement.
In the letter sent September 3, the Congress members—who included Senate IP Subcommittee Chair Thom Tillis (R-NC); Senators Chris Coons (D-DE); Marsha Blackburn (R-TN); Dianne Feinstein (D-CA); House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY); and Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA); Doug Collins (R-GA); and Martha Roby (R-AL)—questioned whether the tool was effective for all users. “We have heard from copyright holders who have been denied access to Content ID tools, and as a result, are at a significant disadvantage to prevent the repeated uploading of content that they have previously identified as infringing,” said the letter. “They are left with the choice of spending hours each week seeking out and sending notices about the same copyrighted works, or allowing their intellectual property to be misappropriated.”
In the six questions posed, the Congress members focused on how the Content ID tool works and whether Google has any plans to expand or improve access to more rights holders in the future.
The Content ID tool is only available to users who meet certain criteria. Specifically:
YouTube only grants Content ID to copyright owners who meet specific criteria. To be approved, you must own exclusive rights to a substantial body of original material that is frequently uploaded by the YouTube user community.
YouTube also sets explicit guidelines on how to use Content ID. We monitor Content ID use and disputes on an ongoing basis to ensure these guidelines are followed. (https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/3244015?hl=en)
Google also offers other copyright management tools, such as the copyright complaint webform, the Content Verification Program (CVP), and the Copyright Match Tool.
The September 3 letter questioned the meaning of the phrases “substantial body of original material” and “frequently uploaded” in particular. “We are concerned that copyright holders with smaller catalogs of works cannot utilize Content ID, making it more difficult or impossible for them to effectively protect their copyrighted works from infringement and, ultimately, impacting their livelihoods,” wrote the Congress members.
The Senators and Representatives asked that Google respond by October 30 with a proposed date for the roundtable, which will be held no later than the end of 2019.
According to the letter, U.S. copyright industries provide over $5.7 million jobs and generate $1.3 trillion toward U.S. gross domestic product, which accounts for 6.85% of the U.S. economy.
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