Automated Copyright Enforcement Online: From Blocking to Monetization of User-Generated Content
June 11, 2020
PIJIP will be hosting a works-in-progress workshop to give feedback to User Rights Network member Professor Henning Grosse Ruse-Khan and his co-author Professor Maurice Chiodo, University of Cambridge, King's College on their new working paper.
Global platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok live on users 'freely' sharing content, in exchange for the data generated in the process. Many of these digital actors nowadays employ automated copyright enforcement tools, allowing those who claim ownership to identify matching content uploaded by users. While most debates on state-sanctioned platform liability and automated private ordering by platforms have focused on the implications of user-generated content being blocked, this paper places a spotlight on monetization. Using YouTube's Content ID as the principal example, I show how monetizing user content is by far the norm, and blocking the rare exception. This is not surprising since both platforms and copyright owners significantly profit from monetization. However, contrasting complex automated enforcement tools such as Content ID against basic principles of copyright law, this paper shows how users lose out when their content is exploited. As aggravating actors, the paper points to far-reaching powers that platforms as 'functional sovereigns' wield within their respective domains; and to the fundamentally distinct nature of norms set by these sovereigns. The platform's application and enforcement of its own rules are hard-coded, immediate, and automated: embedded in its infrastructure and code, implemented through automation, and adjudicated in its own courts, platform rules constitute brute facts, directly shaping our reality - hence transforming the nature of law as institutional (that is, socially constructed) facts. The paper concludes by critically reviewing mechanisms to protect users, including those set out in Article 17 of the EU's Digital Single Market Directive.