YouTube Allowed Copyright Strike Against Video That Didn’t Even Exist

At the place I work, we pay a third party to host all of the videos that our employees and customers have created. Occasionally, I’ve had people ask “why don’t we just use YouTube to host videos and save money.” This nonsense is why.

Can you receive a copyright strike on YouTube for content that doesn’t even exist?

You can and I would know because it happened to me.

You see, I host a political podcast, DOOMED with Matt Binder, which I also stream live on YouTube. The left-leaning show covers everything from the far right to tech policy, from internet conspiracy theories to the Democratic primary race. Which brings me to Tuesday, Jan. 14, the night of the CNN Democratic primary debate in Iowa.

Earlier in the evening, I’d scheduled a YouTube livestream, as I always do the night of a debate, in order to discuss the event with progressive activist Jordan Uhl after CNN’s broadcast wrapped up. I’d even labeled it as a “post-Democratic debate” show featuring Uhl’s name directly in the scheduled stream title. These post-debate shows consist entirely of webcam feeds of my guest and myself, split-screen style, breaking down the night’s events.

Shortly after setting up the stream, which wasn’t scheduled to start for hours, I received an email from YouTube:

“[Copyright takedown notice] Your video has been taken down from YouTube.”

It gets worse because this wasn’t some automated bot. Warner Bros. had apparently contracted with someone to pre-emptively take down YouTube streams that it thought might be rebroadcasting the Democratic debate.

To contest a copyright strike, YouTube allows users to submit a counter-claim, giving the claimant 10 days to respond. My first claim was actually denied, effectively saying it was unclear whether I had a valid reason to file a counter notification. So, that’s when I reached out to YouTube to let the company know I was going to do a story on this. 

Apparently, bad PR is all it takes to set the wheels of justice in motion.

According to YouTube, it appeared that Warner Bros.’ representative searched for content involving the debates and manually issued the claim based on the title of the scheduled livestream. YouTube then subsequently removed the copyright claim, the strike, and restored livestreaming abilities to my YouTube channel.

This is outrageous behavior on the part of Warner Bros. and YouTube–outrageous behavior that is enabled and encouraged by the equally outrageous Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

YouTube Metadata Explorer

A GitHub user has created a YT Metadata Explorer project designed to harvest large amounts of metadata from YouTube, including channel names, comments, live chat, and similar metadata.

The author of the tool has also made available a massive 2.1 terabyte CSV file of more than 10 billion comments which was the result of a YouTube crawling effort that ended in November 2019.

Downloading YouTube Videos With YouTube-DL + FFmpeg

YouTube-DL is an open source, command-line program to download videos from YouTube. The GitHub repository contains a downloadable Windows executable.

FFmpeg is an open source “cross-platform solution to record, convert and stream audio and video.” A Windows executable version of FFmpeg can be downloaded from FFmpeg Builds.

I am primarily a Windows user, so I create a /youtube-dl/ subdirectory in my /downloads/ directory.

Then I put the YouTube-DL and FFmpeg executables in that directory.

To download the highest quality version of a YouTube video, I run CMD, navigation to the /downloads/youtube-dl/ directory, and use this:

> youtube-dl -f bestvideo+bestaudio --merge-output-format mkv [YouTube URL]

If the [YouTube URL] is a link to a YouTube playlist, YouTube-dl will helpfully download the entire playlist.