The Copyrobeast is the personification of overzealous copyright enforcement on the Internet that borders on fraud.
The term, coined by
eighty5cacao as a portmanteau of "copyright" and "Robeast", includes the overuse of takedown requests under the U.S. Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act and foreign counterparts, of the court system in general, and of content-identification tools on websites such as YouTube.
Such practices have a stifling effect on fair use.
Of course, the legislative system has been abused too. You can see how "E-PARASITE" was quite an apt name for SOPA, the U.S. House version of the Senate's PROTECT IP bill that led to widespread protests in January 2012. CISPA can't possibly be good for us either.
Who is safe?
No one is safe from the Copyrobeast.
Consider Magibon, who simply stares at the camera in most of her YouTube videos.
The idea of staring at a webcam doing nothing is too simple to be copyrightable under U.S. law. In an interview[dead link], Magibon says she decided not to put music in her videos because she was aware of the Copyrobeast. That may not be enough to keep her out of trouble; future lawyers, and future versions of Content ID, might disagree whether Brain Age in this video satisfies de minimis.
Or consider Maru the cat. Suppose that some company hungry for a quick buck starts to confuse copyright and trademark. Might we see a Content ID match for a logo on a cardboard box?
The Copyrobeast is growing ever more powerful over time. As more rights holders sign up for Content ID to make automated claims or the Content Verification Program to make manual mass claims, false positives and other intrusions upon fair use will increase.
Magibon and Maru are the canaries in the coal mine; if they get banned, then we're all doomed.
What to do
As an uploader:
- Don't boycott YouTube, but make sure you understand and obey your country's copyright laws. If the Copyrobeast nevertheless attacks you, complain as loudly as possible.
- Do consider alternative video hosts such as Dailymotion. As of 2013, the copymafia doesn't patrol Dailymotion quite as much as YouTube, but keep in mind that they aren't completely free of Copyrobeasts either.
- If you have a web site, do consider encoding your videos to WebM or MPEG-4 and displaying them on your own web site using HTML5 video or Flowplayer. The Free Software Foundation's Giving Guide recommends MediaGoblin.
- If you don't have a web site, start one. IndieWeb's article about YouTube issues is largely about the Copyrobeast, and the alternative it recommends is to buy a domain and hosting, publish to your own site, and syndicate elsewhere (POSSE).
- Do spread the word about the Copyrobeast. Much of the entertainment industry's power comes from ignorance and apathy among the public. Exploit whatever social networks you happen to be in, and this doesn't just mean Facebook.
- Do write to your legislator. Even if a single letter can't outweigh the movie industry's sway over Congress, the SOPA protest showed that numbers can bring change.
As a publisher that uses Content ID or similar tools provided by video hosts to enforce your copyrights:
- Do strip out material you don't own from the reference material that you upload. This includes material licensed from third parties, material in the public domain, or material used pursuant to a statutory limit on copyright, such as fair use. Your agreement with the video host probably requires this; see "Qualifying for Content ID". This helps avoid false matches.
- Do set a policy that routes claims that affect a small portion of a video for manual review. This helps avoid bad PR associated with chilling of criticism and comment.
Alternative video hosts
Some people have suggested Vimeo as an alternative to YouTube. But Vimeo may not be for everyone. From the Vimeo Guidelines:
- "Upload only videos you created yourself." This means at least one of the authors of a video has to be a Vimeo user with an Internet connection. Videos created by a minor child may not qualify, as the parent who uploads it might not be an author. Nor may videos created by someone who lives in an area where home Internet connections are harshly capped, as the author can't sneakernet the video to a non-author to upload to Vimeo.
- "If you are a business or wish to upload commercial content, you must use Vimeo PRO. [...] Exception! If you’re an independent production company, artist, or non-profit, you may use any account type (Basic, Plus, or PRO) to showcase your creative work." But it's hard to tell what makes a production company "independent", nor where "showcas[ing] your creative work" ends and "commercial content" begins.
Some past rules have left a bad taste in users' mouths:
- "No screen-captures of video games or gameplay videos, even if edited." People who review video games must use a service other than Vimeo. It's fine to suggest Vimeo so long as you suggest something else for video game reviewers. This rule was in effect from July 2008 through October 2014, though the requirement for a $200 per year Vimeo PRO subscription in order to clear up "commercial content" confusion remains.
- "Content Verification Program - YouTube Help". Accessed 2017-06-02.
- Mike Masnick. "An Explanation For Why UMG May Be Right That It Can Pull Down MegaUpload's Video". Techdirt, 2011-12-16. Accessed 2013-05-21.
- Blake Whitman. "New upload rules". The Vimeo Blog, 2008-07-21. Accessed 2016-05-10.
- Krystian Majewski. "How Vimeo Lost Me". Game Design Scrapbook, 2011-10-13. Accessed 2016-05-10.
- Copyright Shotgun on Uncyclopedia – a satirical look at the Copyrobeast
- YouTube Copyfraud Hostage Crisis – reactions by YTMND user community to the Copyrobeast
- Pin Eight: 2009 News Archive – examples of Copyrobeast attacks
- Copyright kings are judge, jury and executioner on YouTube by Andy Baio