San Francisco –YouTube is supposed to be a vibrant space for new creativity, but in practice creators are sharply hampered by the site’s “Content ID” system. A new whitepaper from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) takes a deep dive into the confusing process of getting a video past YouTube’s copyright filters, and what the system means for free speech and creativity on the Internet.

“YouTube dominates the online video market, and Content ID dominates video makers’ experiences there,” said EFF’s Katharine Trendacosta, associate director of policy and activism. “Instead of making the best video they can, they have to make the best video that will pass through Content ID—a system that does a clumsy job of finding actual copyright infringement, but does a great job of ensnaring videos that don’t infringe at all.”

Unfiltered” describes the byzantine process that professional video creators and others must go through to ensure that their video is posted and recommended by YouTube’s algorithm, including dealing with mistaken matches to copyrighted content, arbitrary judgements on how long content clips can be, loss of revenue, and multiple copyright claims of the same piece of music or video. Creators can appeal a Content ID match, but missteps during that appeal process can lead to a formal legal claim through the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). That creates more headaches, including the potential loss of an entire YouTube channel.

In addition to a step-by-step description of how Content ID works, “Unfiltered” also includes case studies from popular YouTubers “hbomberguy,” Todd in the Shadows, and Lindsay Ellis—all who express their frustration with Content ID.

“The whole system is so confusing that when copyright experts at NYU tried to post a video about copyright to YouTube, they got caught in Content ID too. And they weren’t sure what to do in order to save their channel from a ‘strike’ that could put all of their videos in jeopardy,” said Trendacosta. “But these restrictions aren’t just annoying for creators, they harm culture as a whole. Content ID is a prime example of why automated filtering systems hurt free speech and expression.”

For “Unfiltered: How YouTube’s Content ID Discourages Fair Use and Dictates What We See Online”:

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