Did The Guardian Use YouTube Copyright To Censor a Critic?

It looks like Britain’s famously left leaning and perpetually PC periodical the Guardian might the latest victim of the Streisand Effect, by which the act of trying to keep something off the internet only makes it more visible. The venerable publication has allegedly issued a series of copyright claims against conservative vlogger and satirist Sargon of Akkad, for using clips of Guardian videos in a series of parody sketches. Sargon, a conservative video blogger, believes the copyright claims are meant to discourage him from producing more content critical of the Guardian’s politics. If that’s the case, they wouldn’t be the first media company to use YouTube copyright rules for backdoor censorship.


  Using copyrighted material to create new content is a cornerstone of YouTube. From song covers to video game Let’s Plays, much of the YouTube ecosystem depends on creators being allowed to repurpose content that they don’t technically own. One way that YouTube has made this massive grey area possible is by giving rights holders a quick and easy way to claim their content. The thinking is that as long as the owners of copyrighted content feel confident, that they can easily shut down unauthorized uses on a case-by-case basis, they won’t be motivated to topple the whole system. So far it’s working pretty well — as long as you’re not a creator who uses copyrighted content for criticism. The Guardian has denied any attempt to censor Sargon of Akkad. In a statement, the paper has asserted that it’s only concern is with the amount of Guardian footage being used, an issue that was apparently brought to their attention by YouTube’s automated content ID system. Upon being notified that significant parts of their video had been uploaded elsewhere, they issued a copyright claim in order to monetize the video themselves. The Guardian told right wing spin site Breitbart.com “We hope to come to an agreement with Sargon of Akkad and have offered advice on how to engage with Guardian content without breaching copyright.”

At present the copyright claim has been rescinded and the video is once again available for viewing


Sargon’s claims haven’t been substantiated, but they definitely sound like something we’ve heard before. Game publisher Konami was recently accused of using copyright claims to suppress a video that was critical of their personnel practices. Similar accusations were recently leveled against indie game maker Digipex after they filed copyright claims on videos critical of their skating game on Steam. Even Shane Dawson apparently fell victim when his Taylor Swift parody received a copyright claim from Sony that appeared to target Dawson for the videos’ graphic content rather than the use of Taylor’s song. Gamers, activists, and even entertainers have all reported receiving copyright strikes that seemed to target them for their critical opinions rather than their use of specific content.

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