YouTube has been no strangers to problems with their copyright system. For those that do not know, a YouTuber could lose something as simple as one video or their entire channel if they receive repeat strikes against them for copyright. What should be a simple system in a perfect world is really not that simple when you take a hard look at it. For example; in one of my other articles I discussed Nintendo and their attempts to issue copyright strikes on videos that feature Mario in Minecraft. One can argue that fans are using artistic license to celebrate their enjoyment of Mario. He is indeed a copyrighted figure much like Bugs Bunny but further the gray area problems with the copyright system is reaction videos. A reaction video is a video where people film their reactions while watching a video. The material causing the reaction is often shown in the video so the audience understands why the person is reacting as they are. Unless of course they are watching something from Japan, then you often don’t need to show the footage.
Now comes the debate: big movie companies and music labels have the right to issue copyright strikes when someone uses their footage in a YouTube video without their permission. More recently YouTube has stood firm citing “Fair Use” when someone only shows a small clip of footage and not the entire movie. This is all and good but what happens when you take another’s YouTube video and make a reaction video for that?
The definition of “Fair Use” is as follows: “(in US copyright law) the doctrine that brief excerpts of copyright material may, under certain circumstances, be quoted verbatim for purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, and research, without the need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder.” Simple yes? Well, not when there is a lawsuit concerning this whole mess.
I present you the case of H3H3 productions vs MattHossZone. H3H3 made a reaction video using MattHossZone’s video called “Parkour Girl.” Matt Hosseinzadeh, the owner of MattHossZone, contacted the heads of H3H3, a married couple Ethan and Hila Klein, demanding that they pay him a sum of money for using his video without his permission. This of course is more or less extortion on Matt’s part; while loss of revenue and views to his original video could be cited, a reaction video is often protected under “Fair Use” by YouTube. When H3H3 did not pay him, Matt in turn issued a lawsuit for copyright infringement.
If this case does go to court, it could get very nasty very fast. The U.S. Courts in the past have not been kind when dealing with copyright infringement cases. What the ruling will be has many other YouTubers worried and they have every right to be. Reaction videos have yet to be defined as something considered “Fair Use”. If the courts rule in favor of Matt, then it isn’t a far stretch that any video made on uploaded online will be considered copyright infringement and punishable by law plus a hefty fine that could be set in the high thousands – if any of the old Torrent cases are a basis.
Ethan and Hila Klein have started a GoFundMe to help cover their legal fees. Thanks to the support of the YouTube community the couple has gained over $145,000 in donations. While they are already heroes to stand up to this action, they will hopefully be the ones to help update “Fair Use” laws for the Digital Age.