A notice on the station’s YouTube channel reads: “NTV Kenya has been terminated because we received multiple third-party claims of copyright infringement regarding material the user posted.”
Richard Njau, a YouTube Enabler and former G+ Community Evangelist, explains 3rd Party Infringement simply means that NTV was uploading video or audio content that was not owned by NTV.
“YouTube has a feature called Content ID, think of it as a fingerprint. Every piece of content uploaded has a unique fingerprint. Now NTV was uploading other people’s content onto their channel and thus the multiple copyright infringement claims against them,” says Njau.
NTV has built one of the biggest YouTube accounts in the continent with over 50,000 uploaded videos, 200 million videos and 280,000 subscribers accumulated over 10 years since the account was created.
The cancelling of the account comes after three written warnings which YouTube is legally bound to issue to channels that repeatedly use third-party content without the owner’s permission.
The warnings, or ‘strikes’, result from copyright owners submitting a formal infringement notice to YouTube.
Once an account gets a copyright strike, the video in question has to be taken down by YouTube
“Receiving a copyright strike will put your account in bad standing and you will lose access to certain YouTube features. If you receive three copyright strikes, your account will be terminated. All the videos uploaded to your account will be removed. You won’t be able to create new accounts,” explains Njau, who is also the digital director at 4UPDigital.
The action taken by YouTube is based on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that provides a system through which content owners, platforms (like YouTube) and users interact to ensure everyone is protected from copyright infringement.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation notes a proper DMCA takedown notice must meet certain requirements, such as identifying the infringing material clearly and specifically, and stating that the sender has a ‘good faith belief’ that the material actually infringes copyright.
Although the decision to strike or terminate an account is carefully considered, the Act also provides an appeals process which affected parties can follow to ensure their account is reinstated.
Disputing YouTube’s decision to pull down a video or account becomes a legal issue once the affected party sends a DMCA counter notification.
The legal team will basically move to disapprove that the content used does not constitute copyright infringement.
However, a lawyer specializing in intellectual property says the options for NTV may be limited if the station did not contest the previous warnings.
“One can argue that the content used falls under fair use category but they have to prove only a small portion of the material was used and it was in the public interest,” explains the lawyer, who did not want to be named because of the potential conflict of interest.
In addition to losing a critical platform and audience, the station may be losing significant revenue from ads on their YouTube videos.
Njau contends most media organizations are missing out the immense potential of YouTube as a revenue generator primarily because TV content is very different from online content.
“The NTV YouTube channel could easily have been the number one revenue earner ahead of not just TV but also their newspaper. It, however, takes an understanding of how the YouTube platform works, how to cut and upload the content, how to ensure maximum watch time, adaptability from the analytics, how to partner their offline platforms with their online platform,” says Njau.