If you remember back on January 2nd we published an article called “Pony YouTube Issues – Hasbro Studio & YouTube ContentID” which explained a recent trend of pony videos being flagged by YouTube as copyright infringement. Our article explained the basics of what was going on, though unfortunately it seems people grew confused about it. Some to the point of basically feeling like the entire situation was a plot from Hasbro to destroy all the videos. As if the company had hired a snake like person with a curly mustache who sits at a computer all day, evilly clicking the DMCA button on your YT video while cackling and twirling his mustache.
Instead the answer is quite simple: The videos are being flagged by an automated system.
The reason why? Well several of the fine folks over on the Ponygoons forums might have found the answer, one which was basically in front of all of us. For you tl;dr people, the full answer is towards the bottom under “WHY”. For anyone else who didn’t understand the ContentID system, well prepare to be re-educated on the subject.
ContentID is an automated copyright protection system that has been built into YouTube. The system works by having companies and individuals sign up to the system who then submit video and or audio they wish to protect on YouTube. ContentID is like an unblinking eye that is constantly searching YouTube for these submissions and operates 24/7. One part of the system is always scanning the vast database of YouTube’s videos for any matching material, while any newly uploaded videos are scanned before being published.
When this was originally reported on some people in the community felt that it was just another case of trolls. Roughly a year ago pony YouTube channels were under attack by trolls who were abusing the DMCA flagging system on YouTube. Any user can hit this flag and when multiple people flag a video, at a certain point YouTube automatically removes the video from the public. From the trolling cases of a year ago most people who had lost their channel, gained it back after filing counter-claims.
The ContentID system runs along the same lines as users an appeal the copyright infringement flag, but it starts to get complicated.
What happens when a video is flagged?
When the ContentID system identifies a piece of copyrighted material from its own archives, the system will flag the video. When this occurs the video is automatically blocked in the country of the copyright holder. So if the holder is located in the United States, people from the US will not be able to view the video, while international users can. What countries are blocked depends on the company and how far their copyrights stretch across the globe. Hasbro as a whole is a very international company.
Who does this affect?
Outside of the general YouTube user the people that will be affected by this are of course those who are uploading full episodes to YouTube, and unfortunately any fan made video that has at least a few seconds worth of stock footage from the show. It is unclear how strict the system is but for the moment it seems that only the more popular fan series like The Mentally Abridged series by FiMFlamFilosophy, and Friendship is Witchcraft by Sherclop Pones are being flagged. Both series are roughly redubbed episodes. Other videos have included episode reviews or “let’s watch” style fan series which all of course play the video aspect of the episodes.
At this time we have not heard of any PMV or the smaller style videos being taken down.
Is there more, or just game over?
Users who have their videos flagged by ContentID can file an appeal to counter the copyright infringement claim. Our previous article on the subject lacked knowledge of who or what judges this first appeal. We have since learned that the first appeal is judged by YouTube on behalf of the copyright holder.
Users who have their first appeal denied can appeal that judgement. Except a second appeal does come at a higher cost. As explained via a video by FiMFlamFilosophy, creator of Rainbow Dash Presents & The Mentally Abridged series, the second appeal involves YouTube sending your personal information to the copyright holder (Hasbro Legal). Hasbro will at some point review the video and judge whether the video is within legal copyrights, or just illegal to post.
If your second appeal is denied, it becomes a check on your Google account record for copyright infringement. If you happen to have multiple videos that are flagged, do not appeal all three. If judgement on all three comes back denied, Google will terminate your account. Not just your YouTube account, but your entire Google account with the company. For some this would include all the tools such as G+, Gdoc, RSS readers, gmail and so on.
At the moment Sherclop Pones of Friendship is Witchcraft has submitted their second appeal on one of their videos. The first appeal was denied. Due to the slow moving speed of Hasbro we do not expect results on this anytime soon.
Many people (including us) had forgotten back on the 18th of December when the official @MyLittlePony made an announcement about the episodes being available on iTunes with the additional news that they would now be available for Google Play. For you iphone types who may have never handled an android, Google Play is the app store for android users to purchase other apps, games, books, and videos. This of course is great for android users who do not (or refuse to) use iTunes for their digital media needs when it comes to ponies.
But videos on Google Play are powered by another branch of Google. YouTube.
What was uncovered by the Ponygoons was this channel on YouTube which goes by the name of “HasbroEpisodes”, though the actual channel address seems to be encrypted. Videos are for sale here with a season pass costing $37.99 and individual episodes at $1.99. And if you check the dates of the videos such as s1e1, most of these videos were posted between December 26th and 28th of 2012.
And what about the parodies?
Unfortunately the fate of parodies or really any video that gets flagged by ContentID is unknown at this time. When it comes to the general law of the land parodies have been upheld in US courts as being used under the policy of fair use, but if you listen to FiMFlamFilosopy (The Mentally Abridged) video about the subject, there has been incidents in other communities where the end results were nothing but bad.
No work is automatically granted fair use status. Ever.
For a derivative work to fall under the fair use doctrine, it must first be brought to court, where judges review it, hear the arguments for and against, and then decide whether the use is, in fact, fair. 2 Live Crew did not win their landmark case just because they claimed their cover of Pretty Woman was a parody, they showed how their lyrics mocked and ridiculed the lyrics of the original song. Every case is judged individually by its own merits on the appropriateness, transformativeness, and amount of copyrighted material used.
It may suck sometimes, and it’s definitely balanced in favor of the big companies with lawyers on retainer, but that’s United States copyright law.
– Stolen from Ponichaeism
Since Hasbro has never directly addressed any issue like this directly to the fandom, the answer will be hard to know. Sherclop Pones (Friendship is Witchcraft) has already appealed one of the episodes twice and we currently awaiting the answer from Hasbro Legal.
I know Sherclop has begun to look for a new home for FiW as they believe their second appeal will be denied. A trip to Blip.TV turned up nothing as videos which appear on the site must be submitted to the staff. Their first application was denied on the grounds that FiW was not a series. They reapplied and their second application was turned down, asking for written permission from Hasbro. It was then noted Hasbro has an official channel on the network. Last I have heard Sherclop was looking into hosting the videos himself.
So at this point there is no conclusion to the article, we are only left with open questions. Will Hasbro consider fan parodies like Friendship is Witchcraft and the Mentally Abridged Series to be fair use under their terms, or banish them all? Only time will tell.
Truthfully I am going to say that Hasbro will probably deny the two parodies from at least being hosted on YouTube or other sites. I’ve seen companies do such things just because they are afraid people might think these parodies are real. You can’t really blame them, beware the Daring Doo book on Amazon…