How I Fought a YouTube Takedown and (Eventually) Won

February 2, 2011

On January 10th, 2011 I realized that one of my YouTube videos “Too Many Dicks: Video Games Remix” was suddenly unavailable.  I was a little shocked since I hadn’t even received an email letting me know the remix had been removed and for what reason. I still don’t know how long the video had been gone before I happened to see it was missing. I was also baffled since the video had been up for almost a year.

When I checked the video’s page I was confronted with YouTube’s red frowny face of doom which only told me my video had been removed and provided no other information. I immediately feared it could be a copyright issue, I know of other remixers who have had their work taken down for “copyright violation”.

So I went to my videos page and saw that it wasn’t in fact a copyright violation, it was a Terms of Service violation.  At this point I was doubly confused. How is a fair use remix video made up of short clips from various popular video game trailers, all available on YouTube, a violation of their terms of service!? I decided to try and contact YouTube via their website, which it turns out, is totally impossible.

As someone who often relies on fair use in my videoblogs, I felt pretty confident that I knew how the content-ID-third-party-copyright-take-down-and-restoration process works (or doesn’t work).  Only, this didn’t seem to be a copyright issue (as far as I could tell).  The only thing that YouTube shared with me was a link that said “REJECTED: (Inappropriate Content)” which took me to a page with a brief statement that only said my video somehow violated YouTube’s Terms of Service and that I was welcome to go read their Terms of Service document if I’d like.  YA THANKS, but which term of which service had I allegedly violated? Not only was YouTube’s “help page” unhelpful but it also taunted me with their little “Was this information helpful: YES or NO” questionnaire at the end. NO it was not.

What’s a woman to do with an unfair video take down and no idea where or how to file a grievance? Ironically, I turned to Google for possible solutions. A few forums suggested filling out YouTube’s Terms of Service Violation Form.  I did that.  Then I got a computer generated generic email reply. I filled the form out again.  Same reply.

This is the Terms of Use Violation Form I Filled out:

Please provide any additional details about why your account or video was removed in error:

“I have no idea why my video has been removed from Youtube as it does not violate the terms of service.  I made a fair use remix critiquing the violence in video game from a feminist perspective and this video doesn’t violate the YouTube terms of service, in fact it has been online for almost a year now.  Since I receive threatening messages and comments from youtube users on a regular basis I feel that this was flagged inappropriately by a user who is hostile to feminism.  Additionally, there are hundreds of thousands of video game trailers on youtube with identical content. I would like to understand why my video was taken down and to have it restored. Thank you.”

This is YouTube’s Automated Email Response:

This is My Email Response to YouTube’s Response:

Luckily, Mera Szendro Bok who works at New Media Rights noticed me tweeting about my video’s removal and suggested her organization might be able to help.  Mera asked me to fill out this form detailing the issue.  Shortly thereafter, public interest attorney Art Neill contacted me and we discussed how YouTube did not provide any notification, explanation or process for me to dispute my video’s removal.  Over the next 2 1/2 weeks he petitioned YouTube with my grievances, communicated with their illusive legal department and advocated for my video to be reinstated.  On January 28th, 2011, I got an email from Art notifying me that he was successful in having my video restored.

Art was incredibly helpful, supportive and understanding, if it wasn’t for his advocacy work I might still be caught in YouTube’s autoresponding feedback loop.  New Media Rights is an amazing organization that offers quality one-to-one free legal assistance on copyright and online publishing, how-to and legal guides on new media and blogs about the latest media and internet laws.  If you have a problem similar to mine or any others with your videos being taken down off of video hosting websites you can contact New Media Rights for pro bono legal advice and assistance.

It appears the “inappropriate content” was YouTube deciding my video was spam.  I’m still not clear on if it was flagged as spam by my friendly neighbourhood internet trolls or by some sort of content ID bot or if it was just an error by YouTube’s master control.  YouTube needs a process (a transparent one even) informing us if our videos have been removed, why they have been removed and how we can file a dispute.  It is absurd that I had to find a lawyer who had to contact YouTube’s lawyers just to get my 1 min video, which was wrongfully removed in the first place, back on YouTube.

So now after all that, you can watch the video again!

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13 Responses to “How I Fought a YouTube Takedown and (Eventually) Won”

  1. I’m so glad you got it back! Your persistence is truly admirable!

  2. GOOD!

  3. Wow, that’s strange. I had a video taken down for using part of a copyrighted song. I filed a dispute through the same process that you used and they simply restored the video rather than giving me the run-around. Good job on pursuing it further!

  4. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Melanie Klein, Ryanne Hodson, JamesTurnbull, New Media Rights, Feminist Frequency and others. Feminist Frequency said: Latest post: How I Fought a #YouTube #Takedown & (Eventually) Won, with an extra big thanks to @NewMediaRights http://bit.ly/fN9nN9 [...]

  5. [...] Guest blogger Anita Sarkeesian is a feminist videoblogger. This piece is cross-posted from her blog, Feminist Frequency. [...]

  6. Forgive me, but that automated response made me laugh hysterically. I expect automated messages to be useless, but that really takes the cake and eats it too!

    I’m glad things worked out for you. You put a lot of work into your videos, so they’d better have a damn good reason for even thinking about taking any of them down.

  7. [...] How I fought against a Youtube takedown and eventually won. The creator of a political remix vid criticising the under-representation of women in video games tells how her video was removed as “inappropriate content”, and how she fought back with the help of the New Media Rights group. (Via Laura Shapiro.) YouTube needs a process (a transparent one even) informing us if our videos have been removed, why they have been removed and how we can file a dispute. It is absurd that I had to find a lawyer who had to contact YouTube’s lawyers just to get my 1 min video, which was wrongfully removed in the first place, back on YouTube. [...]

  8. Go you!

    I hate companies that don’t actually have a customer service department, i.e. YouTube & Facebook.

  9. Thank you for having tenacity to not be censored. I’m not sure I understand why they took it down. Was it because of the reference to male genitalia? Im sick off all the youtube tits in my face. Mainstream media might have more cock cleavage if it weren’t apparently all owned by limpdicks who never weaned from momma. Oh I digress. Keep up the good work!

  10. [...] contact YouTube via their feministfrequency.com [...]

  11. [...] This experience will be familiar to Youtube users who encounter arbitrary automated takedowns with scarce support from Youtube for defending their rights. Vidders are unwelcome on [...]

  12. [...] because Youtube has repeatedly demonstrated that it doesn’t care very much when individual users get targeted by those who are willing to abuse the system, several dishonest bottomfeeders have clued in to an obvious way to make a money off the Content ID [...]

  13. Youtube is disgusting when it comes to crap like this. I’ve been targeted and harassed countless times, and every time I report it the e-mail I receive tells me that the comments are not violating the rules. Even though one guy ranted at me about how much of a stupid ass cunt I am and that I deserve to be beaten and killed. Honestly, how is that not breaking any rules?