DMCA takedown requests by the long-running indie/punk label SST Records has resulted in a bit of collateral damage at YouTube. It turns out that bands never signed to SST Records had their videos deleted after SST Records requested YouTube remove its videos from the service.
After SST notified YouTube of unauthorized videos using its music, clips by the likes of the Lower Class Brats, Man Is the Bastard and the Adolescents were reportedly removed as well.
It's the type of story that attracts conspiracy theorists and critics. A September post at the Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-derrick/youtube-copyright-takedow_b_986362.html posited that YouTube's Content ID system, which identifies sound recordings used in videos uploaded to the service, had incorrectly targeted some songs and that SST had wrongly claimed ownership of songs not in its catalog. There's even a YouTube channel titled "Fuck SST Records (Copyright Nazis)" that faults SST for the removal of several users' YouTube accounts.
The real story turns out to be quite simple and straightforward, however. As the LA Weekly explained on Friday, individual bad behavior is to blame in this case. It turns out that non-SST videos affected by the takedown notices had fallen prey to YouTube's "three strikes" policy for repeat infringers. When some YouTube user accounts were removed, all the videos uploaded to the account were removed.
This controversy goes to show the value of good DMCA takedown procedures. The LA Weekly's explanation coincided with the House Judiciary Committee's markup sessions on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a controversial piece of legislation aimed at foreign-operated websites that profit from pirated material. SST was able to successfully secure the takedown of infringing videos only because YouTube has systems in place to comply with the takedown requirements of the DMCA.
Critics - and there are many - might point to problems in YouTube's takedown system. They might bemoan the fact that other artists got caught up in SST's dragnet. But a few instances of collateral damages at YouTube are a far cry from the problems many content owners face from infringement at rogue websites that fall outside the jurisdiction of the DMCA.
Besides, other users can upload the content that was lost from users' third strikes. Indeed, the LA Weekly reports that other users have already begun to upload some of the missing videos. One song mentioned in the September Huffington Post piece, "Democracy" by The Adolescents, is not only available but has been for 14 months.