Developing copyright law tends to go in one direction and with most social media platforms today showing less willingness to fight, some types of user-generated content may be in for a more restricted ride.
On Wednesday, NASCAR fanatic and popular YouTuber Brock Beard sounded dejected in a post published on X. Two screenshots, featuring copyright claims against a long list of his older videos, were headed by, “I’m getting too old for this.”
By the end of the day, he probably felt 21 again.
“NASCAR Community in Shock”
An article on Essentially Sports reporting on the complaints begins by stressing the importance of the NASCAR community. Whether at the track itself or discussing the sport online, fans are an integral part of the experience. When they’re happy, everyone is happy, and when Brock Beard suffers hard times, his fans are right there with him.
So what was Brock Beard too old for exactly, and why were his fans in shock?
According to the report, the YouTube copyright claims threaten Beard’s social media presence. While Beard is also the founder and editor of NASCAR fan-site Lastcar.info, a social media exodus could damage his ability to stay close to his fans while doing what he loves; putting out popular videos, one of which reportedly attracted a million views.
Popular Content vs. Copyright Claims
Copyright claims come in all shapes and sizes but in general terms, genuine claims and blatantly bogus claims can often be verified in a few seconds, at least to the standard required by the DMCA. That should provide fairly clear guidance on whether content should’ve been taken down or left online.
The broad space between these two extremes is an entirely different matter and on YouTube, things can become even more complicated. Content ID, for example, can allow infringing content to stay online, when previously a claim would’ve seen the content taken down. As reproduced in the image below, all claims posted to Twitter show that the allegedly infringing videos were considered unsuitable for monetization.
At least as far as the truncated titles are useful, the videos for which monetization isn’t allowed were not taken down from YouTube. Why Sears Point Is Awesome, Johnny and The Fast White Car, and Darrell Waltrip’s Victory Tour 2000, are among those most easily identified. All three were uploaded over three years ago and judging by Beard’s reaction, the monetization ban was probably something new.
Nature of the Videos
With running times of 45 to 56 minutes, these videos are essentially fan-made documentaries that clearly involved significant effort, not to mention expert knowledge. Importantly, NASCAR fans find them engaging and entertaining; they actually enhance their enjoyment of the sport.
The videos feature original NASCAR race footage, obtained from official broadcasts or recordings of those broadcasts, accompanied by a running commentary, presumably provided by Brock Beard himself. In the descriptions of the videos are detailed credits, with some linking to spreadsheets crediting dozens of sources on YouTube from where the clips used in the documentaries were obtained.
Why the documentaries were left alone for three years is typically a matter for the copyright owner. However, a thread on Twitter suggests that NASCAR’s copyright claims are affecting others too, with one user suggesting that the claims may be linked to NASCAR Productions’ new state-of-the-art facility which is dedicated to content creation.
Ultimately, the reasons for the claims are unimportant; copyright owners have the right to take action against unauthorized use of their content whenever they like, albeit with a few exceptions.
What About Fair Use?
Whether the use of the NASCAR copyrighted content enjoys protection under the doctrine of fair use is a matter for a court to decide and for hardcore gamblers to speculate on.
Google’s copying of 11,500 lines of Oracle’s code ultimately concluded in favor of the former while Donald Trump has managed to stretch out his fair use defense, concerning 40 seconds of the song Electric Avenue, for more than three years.
That being said, the first factor of fair use – the purpose and character of the use – balances various facts, including whether there was a commercial component to the use. While not conclusive in its own right, a commercial component tends to weigh against a finding of fair use.
Could’ve Been So Much Worse
So to sum up, the copyright claims filed against the numerous videos didn’t cost Brock Beard his YouTube account, they simply notified him that the videos wouldn’t generate revenue moving forward. While that wasn’t well-received, the all-important videos are alive and well.
From the perspective of a regular fan simply passing by on YouTube, nothing has been lost. If there are concerns about revenue being denied moving forward, that raises questions of whether commercial use of content requires an official license, or whether gambling on a fair use defense is a reliable option when things go wrong.
In light of some other rightsholders deleting videos resulting in immediate strikes, and entire accounts being shut down as a result, things could’ve been so much worse. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, things could hardly get much better.
Such a positive outcome will be welcomed by fans of the sport and if NASCAR is happy too, what’s not to like?
Errors, potentially. But everyone makes those.