One week after being challenged by the government for not doing enough to combat content piracy on the Web, Google's YouTube video-sharing unit has formed a "copyright school" for users who upload copyrighted content.
That's right. YouTube Copyright School is a sort of an online finishing school for would-be pirates. YouTube users who receive a copyright notification for one of their videos must attend the "school."
Far from a brick-and-mortar institution with municipal accreditation, YouTube Copyright School simply involves watching a 4-minute, 39-second copyright tutorial cartoon and passing a quiz with four questions before uploading more content to YouTube. The cartoon and quiz are more educational than punitive.
"Because copyright law can be complicated, education is critical to ensure that our users understand the rules and continue to play by them," said YouTube spokesman Justin Green in a blog post.
True or false quiz choices include:
""It is okay to upload an entire cartoon episode without the authorization of the copyright owner as long as I'm just sharing it with my friends, family and fans.""Sometimes a copyright owner will authorize use of specific content on YouTube.""
YouTube also issued a redesigned copyright help center and loosened up its "three-strike" copyright process. Previously, YouTube would suspend users who received three uncontested copyright notifications.
Now, suppose a long-time YouTube user who received two copyright notifications four years ago but who has since uploaded thousands of legitimate videos without a further copyright notification receives a third notification.
Under YouTube's existing system, the four-year-old notifications would have stayed with the user forever despite four prior years of good behavior. That means users would be suspended based on the previous transgressions. In other words, there was no statute of limitations.
"We don't think that's reasonable," Green noted. "So, today, we'll begin removing copyright strikes from user's accounts in certain limited circumstances, contingent upon the successful completion of YouTube Copyright School, as well as a solid demonstrated record of good behavior over time.
YouTube's disclaimer is that the expiration of strikes is not guaranteed, and the company may terminate an account at any time for violating the terms of service.
The changes come after Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the U.S. House Judiciary subcommittee that is investigating Websites accused of pirating intellectual property, asked Google in a hearing April 6 what it has left to do to quash content piracy.
YouTubers upload 35 hours of content per minute, making it a hotbed for pirated music videos, movie clips and other short pieces of content. YouTube in 2007 created a Content ID system to identify pirated, copyrighted content and rip it down in a day or so.
Content piracy triggered Viacom to sue Google for copyright infringement, a case Google has won to this point. Viacom has appealed the court's ruling.