Should Creators Be Worried About YouTube Monetization Reviews?

/ Dec 6, 2013

YouTube advertising in summer

Back in late October, AdWeek reported that YouTube was allegedly going to begin stepping in and moderating creator/network relations. The change was said to be a result of the ongoing controversy surrounding how much responsibility a multi-channel network should have over their partners’ use of unlicensed, copyrighted material.

This issue was exemplified by the National Music Publishers Association lawsuit against Fullscreen over illegal use of music copyrights. According to the NMPA, Fullscreen was more or less turning a blind eye to its partners who were monetizing covers of songs that were not licensed by the MCN or the creator.

The entire debacle put YouTube in motion, leading the Google-owned site to require that MCNs place partners into two different categories: “Managed” partners and “Affiliates.” While Managed partners (think your top-tier creators) were trusted enough to solely be the responsibility of their MCN, Affiliates were more or less asked to go through further scrutiny. Now, instead of being the MCN’s problem when an Affiliate gets slapped with a copyright violation, YouTube is stepping in and reviewing almost every non-managed partners’ video for monetization.

As these changes get closer and closer to rolling out, updates about the new system have started to roll out, which, of course, has many creators concerned. In a Maker Studios release, first published by Tubefilter, the MCN writes: “Beginning in early January, newly-uploaded videos will occasionally go through a process called monetization review. This review is performed by YouTube, and will determine if your content is in compliance with YouTube’s current terms of use and copyright standards.”

If you are a creator who has been working within the confines of copyright laws, then you probably don’t have much to worry about. However, as we’ve spoken about before, YouTube’s definition of what is and is not fair use is fairly blurred. For gamers (arguably YouTube’s largest creator demographic), fair useage has been a long and contentious battle.

With each game publisher subscribing to a different definition of what constitutes fair use, the gameplay landscape on YouTube has become a veritable minefield of copyright violations. Earlier this year, creators who were uploading footage from “Saints Row IV” began having their videos flagged by game publisher THQ. Here’s the thing: “Saint Row IV” was developed by Volition Inc. and published by Deep Silver; THQ had nothing to do with the game. In fact, the publishers filed for bankruptcy in 2012.

As you can see, copyright laws on YouTube, as defined by thousands of different publishers and developers, can get muddled. YouTube’s update to the MCN/partner model, however, does present creators with a potentially less complicated system of monetization. With YouTube reviewing affiliate partners’ videos first, issues like the aforementioned THQ confusion would fall by the wayside. As a partner, if YouTube is giving you the OK, then it’s probably safe to say that you won’t be receiving any grief from third-party publishers. Of course, all of that sounds great in theory, we’ll just have to see how it works in practice.

We reached out to YouTube in regards to the upcoming monetization reviews, and they provided the following comment: “Nothing illustrates the incredible growth and evolution of YouTube better than the enterprise class of businesses being built on the platform today. As these networks grow, we’re making product and policy updates that will help them operate at scale. We are also rolling out tools that will provide more transparency for creators and networks alike. This is part of our commitment to ensure that all enterprise partners can continue to thrive and be successful on YouTube.”

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