YouTube’s new ‘Checks’ tool should reduce creator’s copyright woes

By preemptively flagging problems in videos, YouTube can reduce disputes and creators can maximize their earnings.

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YouTube is subject to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and is supposed to — at least in theory — help content creators follow the DMCA’s fair use guidelines so that they don't infringe on other creators' work. In practice, however, YouTube’s copyright system is disjointed, sometimes arbitrary, and frequently accused of being unfair and ripe for exploitation.

Now the Google-owned company wants to alleviate the problem by introducing a tool called "Checks." Proactivity is what makes Checks reliable, according to YouTubeTeam’s member Sarah. The tool will tell YouTube content creators in advance if the content in their video violates any guidelines around copyrighted work. It also tells them whether their video abides by YouTube's advertising rules.


Checks will take about three minutes to analyze a video, depending on its length, and is expected to help content creators avoid seeing their videos demonetized on YouTube. If there is a copyright problem in a video, Checks will point the user to exactly where the problem is, down to the timecode. They can then address the problem, whether that means removing the problematic portion or disputing it with YouTube.

Checks is long overdue — YouTube's copyright system is far from perfect and tends to err on the side of excessive caution. YouTube doesn’t hesitate to penalize channels if it receives copyright infringement claims — even if those claims are dubious. And its three-strikes approach means creators are fearful of running afoul of the policy. However, before Checks, creators might only find out a video infringed once it was uploaded.

Despite the company’s good intentions, it didn't take long for YouTube users to exploit the copyright system by making false and repeated claims against other creators even when no policies had been violated. Countless videos have been flagged and removed on baseless grounds. In some particularly notorious cases, feuds between channels have resulted in one or both getting kicked off the platform and these incidents have been turned into DMCA horror lore.

Savage hate — For example, the bitter fight between Derek Savage and I Hate Everything. The latter’s criticism-heavy review of Savage’s “Cool Cat Saves The Kids” film in 2015 is one of those nasty fights. I Hate Everything was taken off the platform, which caused many YouTubers to criticize the company for what they say as the unfair targeting of the content creator, who had a legitimate right to review Savage’s work.

The company also notes that Checks "does not protect your videos from other potential issues after publishing" such as "future manual claims, copyright strikes, and/or restrictions as a result of edits to your video settings.” While it won’t cure YouTube's copyright kerfuffles completely, it could help creators from ending up on the wrong side of YouTube’s policies and losing revenue in the process.