Et Tu, YouTube?

Less than a month ago, I wrote about fellow blogger Eric Turkewitz at the New York Personal Injury Law Blog  being sued by Dr. Michael Katz for having accurately written about the doc’s getting butt-smacked by Queens Supreme Court Justice Duane Hart.  The crux of the case was a video taken of Katz’s medical exam on behalf of the insurance company that didn’t want to pay.

The video was evidence used in the case before Justice Hart, and this piece of evidence in a New York courtroom was uploaded to YouTube, and embedded in my post.  As of yesterday, poof, it was gone.  No notice. No letter. No email. No, questions asked before it was gone.  YouTube disappeared it.

When I was alerted to this fact, I went to YouTube to see what happened. Hackers, perhaps? A brute force attack by anarcho-syndicalists bent on ridding the web of images of doctors?  Nope, the message on the vid was clear: YouTube removed it for violating “community standards.”

There’s a number to call about such things, so I called it.  You get a message from a pleasant young woman saying nothing and then hanging up. That didn’t seem useful, so I sent the following email under the heading “Media Query on Takedown.”  I know, media, right?  Well, get over it. I am.

Hi. I’m an attorney and legal blogger at Simple Justice.  A Youtube video was embedded in this post: Turkewitz Sued By “Liar” Doctor, Michael Katz | Simple Justice, and now appears to be removed from Youtube.

The video was a court exhibit in the underlying case in New York Supreme Court, Queens County.  The Youtube URL for the video is www.youtube.com/embed/g7D4X1HSM9M.

It appears that the video has been removed for TOS violation.  I plan to follow up with this story about its removal, and would like to either speak with someone from youtube on the basis for the takedown or get a copy of the DMCA notice, as I assume the basis for the takedown is a copyright claim, which is problematic given that this was a court exhibit.

I can be reached at 212-227-8585.  Thank you for your assistance.

Regards,
Scott Greenfield

Nice. Unthreatening. Benign, really.  Just asking a question. No reason to react poorly.  Now there’s a guy named Fred Von Lohmann, who serves as YouTube’s chief copyright counsel.  He had some prior involvement with EFF, so I thought to myself, he can’t be too stiff even though he doesn’t have a cool Google-title like Jolly Good Fellow.  Really, wouldn’t some elf in the bowels of YouTube’s boiler room think to themselves, this email from this lawyer/blogger is worth a look-see by someone who doesn’t answer all questions from a playbook?

The response came swiftly.  Swiftly is good, but that was all the good to be had.

Hello,

The YouTube Community has flagged one or more of your videos as inappropriate. Once a video is flagged, it is reviewed by the YouTube Team against our Community Guidelines. Upon review, we have determined that one or more of your videos contain content in violation of these guidelines. Videos that are in violation of our Community Guidelines are removed from YouTube. Accounts that are responsible for multiple or severe violations of our Community Guidelines may be terminated.

Please take some time to learn about YouTube’s Community Guidelines and how they are enforced.

If you believe a Community Guidelines strike was applied to your account in error, you may appeal it.

Regards,

The YouTube Copyright Team

I sincerely appreciated the detailed, personal attention reflected by this email.  After shaking my head, banging it against my keyboard a few times, I decided to try the appeal button to see what would happen, except there was no such button.  At my channel settings, there was no strike and nothing to appeal. Dead end.

It struck me as a good question for the Copyright Team (which is still not as cool a name as Google’s Jolly Good Fellow) as to why a court exhibit would be removed, but there was no one to ask.

So I ask Fred, copyright lawyer in charge of protecting YouTube from looking like a censorious asshat on the interwebz, why a public exhibit would be removed from YouTube?  Why would it be removed without notice? Why would it be removed unilaterally?  Why, Fred?  Why?

And is this idiotic email response the best you can do, YouTube?  Your business model is based on uploaded videos, a great deal since you make money for your Google Overlords (another cool Google name) off others without having to lift a finger, and can’t be bothered having a highly trained monkey actually read and provide a quasi-meaningful response to a query?

Fail, YouTube.  And Fred, you are no Jolly Good Fellow.

13 comments on “Et Tu, YouTube?

  1. bkg

    Read your own rules for comments, and substitute “video” for “comment” – it works out to be about the same as what YouTube does. This is your home – YouTube is their home. Sauce/goose/gander.

    1. Aelfric

      bkg–I think you win the internet for today! That is the most spectacularly incoherent comment I have ever seen. Mr. Greenfield is not questioning YouTube’s right to remove the video, but rather the fact that it is so easily influenced by obviously spurious third-party copyright claims, and the fact that its response to inquiries is a not even well-tailored form e-mail. Though I have never been a Forrest Gump fan, I must say: Stupid/is/stupid/does.

    2. SHG Post author

      I was going to very nicely explain that this was a poor and inapt analogy, but in a very kind and thoughtful way. But instead, I’ll defer to Aeflric.

  2. Wheeze The People™

    Here are the YouTube Guidelines:

    “Don’t Cross the Line

    Here are some common-sense rules that will help you steer clear of trouble:

    1) YouTube is not for pornography or sexually explicit content. If this describes your video, even if it’s a video of yourself, don’t post it on YouTube. Also, be advised that we work closely with law enforcement and we report child exploitation. Please read our Safety Center and stay safe on YouTube.

    2) Don’t post videos showing bad stuff like animal abuse, drug abuse, under-age drinking and smoking, or bomb making.

    3) Graphic or gratuitous violence is not allowed. If your video shows someone being physically hurt, attacked, or humiliated, don’t post it.

    4) YouTube is not a shock site. Don’t post gross-out videos of accidents, dead bodies or similar things intended to shock or disgust.

    5) Respect copyright. Only upload videos that you made or that you are authorized to use. This means don’t upload videos you didn’t make, or use content in your videos that someone else owns the copyright to, such as music tracks, snippets of copyrighted programs, or videos made by other users, without necessary authorizations. Read our Copyright Tips for more information.

    6) We encourage free speech and defend everyone’s right to express unpopular points of view. But we don’t permit hate speech (speech which attacks or demeans a group based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, and sexual orientation/gender identity).

    7) Things like predatory behavior, stalking, threats, harassment, intimidation, invading privacy, revealing other people’s personal information, and inciting others to commit violent acts or to violate the Terms of Use are taken very seriously. Anyone caught doing these things may be permanently banned from YouTube.

    8) Everyone hates spam. Don’t create misleading descriptions, tags, titles or thumbnails in order to increase views. It’s not okay to post large amounts of untargeted, unwanted or repetitive content, including comments and private messages.”

    Fact-based Wheeze Findings:

    Was the video in question showing:
    1) Porno?? NO
    2) Bad stuff like animal abuse, drug abuse, under-age drinking and smoking, or bomb making?? NO
    3) Violence?? NO
    4) Gross-out things like accidents, dead bodies or similar things intended to shock or disgust?? NO
    5) A copyright violation?? NO
    6) Things like like predatory behavior, stalking, threats, harassment, intimidation, invading privacy, revealing other people’s personal information, and inciting others to commit violent acts?? NO (Note that there can be no invasion of privacy if the video in question is part of the public record and is not under seal)
    7) Spam?? NO

    Ultimate Finding: Google suckles taint . . . and t’aint that the truth . . .

    The People *cough*, *cough*, *wheeze* have spoken . . .

      1. Wheeze the People

        You like?? I learned those mad copy & paste skillz using WordStar, in 1983. Some skillz withstand the test of time better than others . . .

        Obviously, your YouTube skillz are less than mad . . .

  3. Brett Middleton

    Sounds like a winning strategy for YouTube. I imagine they don’t really want to put their protections to the test and discover that those protections are more fragile in practice than we all hope. The potential expense for standing up for a user’s content is likely a bit off-putting as well. So it probably pays for them to scramble to do a takedown at the drop of a hat while setting up a playbook of obstacles for the user. Most of the time the user is probably infringing and knows it, so they will not fight. Of the rest, few will have the determination, patience, and knowledge needed to jump through all the hoops necessary to protest the action, so they will shrug and let it go while muttering in their beards about YouTube’s unrighteousness.

    So, how far are you going to push this, Mr Justice? Do you imagine that you can win a broader victory for future videos that have been made public through the courts, or is it more likely that YouTube will restore this video (if they do) without making any fundamental changes to the way they evaluate takedown requests? How much of your time and energy are you willing to put into overcoming the barriers to restore one video of not-very-earth-shattering consequence? Or will you just move on, muttering into your beard about fellows who are not so jolly good?

  4. Tony

    You think the YouTube form letter was bad, just wait till you hear from some attorney who sends out similarly canned letters about how you defamed that poor innocent person and that you now need to pay out $15,000.00 or face a gazillion dollar lawsuit. Send that payment within the next 30 minutes via Western Union to some country nobody ever heard of.

    Then you will shake in your boots.

    1. SHG Post author

      Yeah, those letters don’t work too well with lawyers. But we do get a kick out of posting them to humiliate the asshole who sent it.

  5. Paul The Cab Driver

    That’s the great thing about the web. If you don’t like the websites available, you can always make your own. or use a different one. There is Vimeo, Shutterfly, DailyMotion…. lots of them. If enough people stop using a website, guess what? It will fail. Ain’t that right, Pets.com?

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