If you’re posting videos on YouTube, you could have that video taken down with absolutely no warning. That’s because there are copyright and trademark trolls trying to trademark language, even generic words and phrases, and stop people from using them. But it could get worse, if you’re not careful.
“We had no idea why it had been removed. We owned 100 percent of the video content, we had release forms for the people in it and the locations. The music that we featured in it was by Boyce Avenue, who has an amazing YouTube Channel that we have always wanted to collaboration with, and they had given us full permission to use the song with the video on YouTube, with ads. Since we had full permission on every front, we had no idea where this was coming from… ” – Devin Graham
The problem came to light when videographer Devin “SuperTramp” Graham, who had an action sports video channel with nearly 750,000 subscribers. Annually, Devin posts a year-end show reel entitled, “People Are Awesome,” showing all the adventures and content his channel had produced for the calendar year. Suddenly, with no warning, YouTube removed not only his show reel, but every single video used to create that particular video. What the heck happened to fair use?
Graham had to do some digging and he discovered a trademark troll had managed to trademark the phrase “People are Awesome,” and had filed a trademark violation complaint, which prompted YouTube to take his entire channel down. Graham was aghast that they could force YouTube to take such unilateral action without notifying him or giving him any redress or appeal.
Even worse, according to the complaint, the company even reserved the right to demand a takedown on the content title contained ANY of the words in the phrase, even if the offending words aren’t even similar to their trademark.
“Phrases being trademarked is lame…ha. Not sure how you can trademark a phrase used so often by so many people.”
Graham attempted to contact the company and seek a compromise settlement to get the videos back on the air, but the trolls said that his videos directly and negatively impacted their “brand,” and they demanded he re-edit the videos and retitle them. Graham did that and it’s now called “My Life Sucks! Best of DevinSuperTramp 2015.”
I’m not really sure how that kind of video could have a negative impact on anyone, except a trademark troll looking to cash in on content without paying for it. Graham said this is a disturbing trend of trademarking generic words and phrases that could have a direct impact on any content provider online. He cited a recent story on how Sony Entertainment tried to trademark the phrase, “Let’s Play,” so that they could force gamers to use the PlayStation Live platform for broadcast their live gaming sessions.
“They tried to trademark the phrase, which would mean anyone who put a video with that as a title, they could take down and claim it as their own,” Graham said. Kinda sounds familiar doesn’t it? Remember when Sony took down the video of a musician they had licensed the rights to one of his songs, and then tried to claim it as their own? Same vibe, only worse, since they’re attempting to trademark words and language.
Although Sony was denied the trademark, word is that they are appealing the decision, and that could have severe impact on how people publish their videos. Content creators will have no idea if they’ve violated someone’s phrase trademark, because there’s no way to vet it.
“There needs to be a website that says every phrase that is trademarked,” Graham suggests, “so we are not surprised later that you can’t have something as a title.”
It actually goes deeper than just trademarking words and phrases. I have a son who is in a high school marching band, and being the proud parent, I record all his performances and post them on YouTube for family and friends all around the country can keep up on what he’s doing. I had to take them all down this week because of a recent lawsuit against a high school color guard association that had to pay a license troll company $500,000 for posting videos without the appropriate license.
Once they nailed the big fish, they are going after local band programs and even the parents, all with forcing a cash settlement for intellectual property violations on YouTube. Not because they’re being sold, not because they have Google AdSense or anything like that. Just because they shared it. This is their business model. And its a nasty one. It’s getting to the point where you have to have a lawyer on speed dial for the most inconsequential of things, especially when you’re online.
Hat Tip – DIY Photography