YouTomb: Monitoring the Limits of Participatory Culture

While we have been focusing lately on issues of remix culture, it seems an opportune moment to give a shout out to a very worthy project of the MIT Free Culture organization. Known as YouTomb, the project seeks to monitor which videos get taken down from YouTube and why. As the FAQ for the site explains:

When a user-submitted video is suspected to infringe copyright, the rights holder is contacted and given the option to take down the video in question. In addition, rights holders can submit DMCA takedown notifications at any time that cause YouTube to immediately remove alleged infringing content.

MIT Free Culture became especially interested in the issue after YouTube announced that it would begin using filtering technology to scan users’ video and audio for near-matches with copyrighted material. While automating the takedown process may make enforcement easier, it also means that content falling under fair-use exceptions and even totally innocuous videos may receive some of the collateral damage.

As YouTube is not very transparent with the details surrounding this process and the software used, YouTomb was conceived to shed light on YouTube’s practices, to educate the general public on the relevant copyright issues, and to provide helpful resources to users who have had their videos wrongfully taken down.

The data being collected by this team of student researchers should prove extremely useful in future legal battles over whether currently filtering technologies violate fair use provisions and thus constitute a form of unjustifiable censorship of participatory culture.

Keep up the good fight!