What is perhaps underappreciated, or not understood at all, by those with only a passing knowledge of the online video economy is that many creators are reliant upon the ad dollars that come in from monetization on YouTube (Or perhaps other platforms). Thus a loss of the ability to feature ads or profit from them is akin to, if not losing a job, working at that same job for no pay. It’s admittedly a foreign idea for those over a certain age to wrap their heads around; until a few years ago, jobs were done in offices or factories or out in the workaday world, not in front of a computer. Nevertheless, it’s a viable way for many to earn a living, even if all but a few aren’t making much more than that.
So when you see a story about a creator being demonetized, you’re likely not seeing the loss of a supplemental revenue stream but likely a major source of money that person is relying upon, and when it’s at the mercy of an indiscriminate automated program doing as much harm as good, you’re left to wonder what it might be like to try and make your livelihood in such a fraught environment.
The latest name in the list of the unfairly demonetized is Dan Salvato, a video game creator who is facing takedown notifications for music he created. The particulars of the case are familiar to those who pay attention to such cases: Salvato shared the music on his YouTube page, and the music was subsequently flagged as being copyrighted material, even though the owner of said copyright was the one posting it.
Beyond the loss of revenue, the misplaced zeal of the algorithm (if zeal can be ascribed to the inanimate) highlights ongoing questions about such automated content protection systems. How doe sit know what is legitimate, and what isn’t? One might assume that a company with the resources of a YouTube would have the best systems and technology in place, but these kinds of mistakes suggest that they aren’t as good as we think, or that even the best make more mistakes than we should be comfortable with. It may only be a small percentage of people affected by misapplied takedowns, but given YouTube’s size that’s thousands of people losing out on income they’re earning per the terms the platforms sets out. It’s not enough to say that YouTube’s copyright protection needs to improve, but short of a clear answer, it’s all many can say.