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Getting Your YouTube Account Back After Copyright Infringement

January 20, 2010

YouTube recently suspended a channel operated by fans of Justin Bieber.  The channel, Bieberzone, apparently featured videos of the singer uploaded by fans.

 YouTube probably took the account down because of copyright violations [especially given that some of the videos may have been cover songs].  Even though Justin Bieber supports the fans, the account remains suspended [though they’ve started a second account, and a twitter campaign (@Bieberzone) to try to get the account back online].

 So, what does one do if his or her account is suspended from YouTube for copyright violations?

DISCLAIMER:  I am not your lawyer.  This is not legal advice.  If you think you have infringed on someone else’s copyright, call a lawyer.  If you know you have the owner’s permission, or don’t need it, read on.

 Part of the reason that videos can be taken down, even if the poster had the consent of the copyright holder, is the system used to identify copyright infringement.  YouTube uses an automated system to identify and take down content that infringes on copyrights.

This process has come under some criticism because takedowns occur without regard to permissions or fair use.  Even the 2008 presidential campaign of Sen. McCain asked YouTube to reconsider certain takedowns.

 The YouTube response  to the campaign is instructive.  It states, in part, that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act allows:

 “uploaders to file a counter-notification in response to a takedown notice they believe to have been made in error.  Once the uploader files a counter-notification, the statute allows the service provider [YouTube] to reinstate the content after a waiting period of 10 business days… provided that the rights owner does not file a copyright infringement lawsuit against the content uploader during that waiting period.”

So what does that mean to you?  It means, that under the DMCA, you can respond to the person who complained to YouTube and got your content taken down.  Then, if they don’t sue you, YouTube will put your content back up.

In order to file a counter-notification, you’ll have to give the complainer some personal information.  YouTube (Google) has provided a guide  for filing counter-notifications, it says the notice must include:

  1. Identification of the specific URLs of material that YouTube has removed or to which YouTube has disabled access.
  2. Your full name, address, telephone number, and email address, and the username of your YouTube account.
  3. The statement: “I consent to the jurisdiction of the Federal District Court for the district in which my address is located, or if my address is outside of the United States, the judicial district in which YouTube is located, and will accept service of process from the claimant.”
  4. The statement: “I swear, under penalty of perjury, that I have a good faith belief that the material was removed or disabled as a result of a mistake or misidentification of the material to be removed or disabled.”
  5. Signature. A scanned physical signature or a valid electronic signature will be accepted.

The most important part of the guide comes later, though.  It says:

“Please understand that filing a counter-notification may lead to legal proceedings between you and the complaining party to determine ownership. Be aware that there may be adverse legal consequences in your country if you make a false or bad faith allegation by using this process. Please also be advised that we enforce a policy that provides for the termination in appropriate circumstances of subscribers who are repeat infringers. So, if you are not sure whether certain material infringes the copyrights of others, we suggest that you first contact a lawyer.” [Emphasis Added]

You can get into a lot of trouble for copyright infringement, so it’s best to be sure.

UPDATE via Twitter:

  • @Bieberzone: guys if it werent for all of you and @justinbieber we wouldnt have had our account back :) about 4 hours ago from web
  • @Bieberzone: @justinbieber WERE BACK ON YOUTUBE!!!! YOU HELPED, YOURE AWESOME!!! about 4 hours ago from web
  • Thanks to my copyright professor, Edward Lee, who sent this out to his seminar students.   Prof. Lee has written a lot of good material on user-generated content that the legally-minded may want to check out.

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