Youtube’s Inability To Split Ad Revenue Between Audio & Video Copyright Holders

If you post media to Youtube as many millions of others do, you may have experienced this: You post your new video, whether it’s an original narrative, a piece of documentary style footage, or just a video of you goofing around with your friends.  Then, you look at your video manager page and see an alert that copyrighted content has been detected in your video, which means that youtube has now placed ads on your video, and that someone else is going to collect all ad revenue from your video being played. By corollary, this also means that you cannot monetize your own video, because Youtube has already done this and directed the revenue to somebody else.

“Yes, Mikal, but, what’s the problem?”

When Youtube’s auto-detection software flags a video as containing copyrighted content, it could be something as big as a fully copied video, movie, etc., or it could be something as small as a few seconds of audio in the background of an otherwise completely original video. For example, if you’re filming yourself in a public place, and someone has music playing off in the background, that could be enough to get your video flagged, and all of your potential ad revenue redirected to whoever owns that 5 seconds of music that was accidentally captured in the background.

Recently, I’ve been uploading video clips from my Halloween event, The Masquerade Of The Red Death. One of the performers in the clips had a cover version of the song “Black Hole Sun” playing in the background during their performance. Because of this, the youtube content ID system automatically tagged the video as containing copyrighted material, and automatically placed ads on the video with 100% of ad revenue going to the copyright holder of the song “Black Hole Sun”.

Despite someone else owning the copyright to the song “Black Hole Sun”, that same copyright holder does not hold the copyright to my event’s original content, my event’s original video, my event’s original audio, or the performer’s original performance. So, now, the copyright holder of the song “Black Hole Sun” is receiving ad revenue for someone else’s video, someone else’s audio, and someone else’s performance.

If Youtube were to do even as little as simply acknowledging the issue, they might be able to get away with the slightly-less-lazy way out and simply allow 50/50 split to copyright holders – half for video, half for audio. But, this would still leave us unable to split shares between multiple owners of audio or video content. The best solution would be to allow creators to assign copyright split percentages between all creators of audio and video in a creation. This would solve the problem of Youtube sending ad revenue from a video to someone other than the proper copyright holders.

If Bob created 100% of the video and 90% of the audio, while Sal created audio that appears in 10% of the background, Bob should receive 100% of the revenue from the video, and 90% of the revenue from the audio, while Sal receives 10% of the revenue from the audio. And if there’s a performer in the video that performs an act that they hold copyright over, they should get their percentage as well. Why shouldn’t you be able to assign 33% to Bob, 33% to Sal, and 33 (or 34)% to Jane the trapeze artist?

“All your moneyz are belong to us… or at least somebody else.” – Yootoob

Above: Photo that I took of my Bell & Howell Super 8 camera. I get 50% of ad revenue for taking the photo, Bell & Howell get 50% for making the camera that appears in the photo.


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