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Page last updated at 14:26 GMT, Friday, 21 May 2010 15:26 UK

Is YouTube's three-strike rule fair to users?

Blogger Mark Kobayashi-Hillary
Mark Kobayashi-Hillary said he was not aware his YouTube account was at risk

"Until I lost 900 videos, I never actually considered there was anything unsafe about trusting a company such as Google to protect my data. After all, who keeps photos in a shoebox anymore?"

Blogger Mark Kobayashi-Hillary has had his YouTube account removed after uploading a video from a gig by British comedian Jimmy Carr.

"As we all sat down I thought I'd capture the build up and rising expectations on my mobile phone video camera," he said.

"I posted the video [on YouTube] of the audience and told friends on my blog how funny it was."

Despite the comedian or his work being absent from the video, his management company decided to complain to YouTube's owners Google.

A letter was sent to Mr Kobayashi-Hillary explaining he had breached copyright "multiple" times and his account was being closed.

Google wrote: "When we're notified that a particular video uploaded to our site infringes another's copyright, we remove the material as the law requires."

The company operates a three-strike policy so a user is removed from their site after three complaints by copyright holders.

'It's the law'

The removal of content has upset some popular music blogs in the US, and individual bloggers sometimes find their blogs vanish without trace.

Ollie Rickman from Google said the firm must act on complaints sent to them

Bloggers feel victimised and have complained that firms are automatically assuming guilt and siding with copyright holders.

Ollie Rickman, Google's UK spokesman, defended his company: "It's not true that we automatically side with the complainant."

"Every single time that we receive a complaint we have to take the video down - that's the law. We have no other option," he said.

"Google and YouTube are never going to be in a position to adjudicate on who owns copyright to what and whether a use is authorised or not. We simply don't know," he added.

But Mr Kobayashi-Hillary said he was shocked that all the videos he had uploaded to YouTube over a period of five years were removed.

"My video collection includes blogs, family video, and work-related films. I immediately offered to take down the offending video if they'd let me have the blog back."

Repeat offences

Google declined to re-instate Mr Kobayashi-Hillary's account because he had been warned about their repeated infringement policy.

"Repeat offenders mean that they've done it, they've been warned, the piece of content has been removed, and they've been sent links to our copyright guidelines to learn from them," said Mr Rickman.

"If you think this is a mistake, if you own the copyright to this and it should not have been taken down, you can file what's called a 'counter notice'," he added.

In Mr Kobayashi-Hillary's case, he said he had been encouraged to upload footage from live music concerts by artists seeking a wider audience.

Video of the crowd at a comedy gig
Mr Kobayashi-Hillary lost his videos after repeated copyright breaches

"But record companies took a different view to the artists and complained to Google," he said.

He admitted Google had written to him when complaints were received, but he claims not to have been aware his account was at risk.

"I had no idea that such occasional mistakes could lead to my account being deleted."

However, Google said its policy was clearly displayed when a user signed up and it can be found in the terms and conditions.

Ban or monetise?

Mr Kobayashi-Hillary contacted all the copyright holders and asked them to write to Google and withdraw their complaints.

It was only after each one got in touch with the firm, he managed to persuade Google to reinstate his videos.

"Thanks to the understanding of the people who objected, I've now actually got my YouTube account back," he said.

He believes copyright holders need a system in place to protect their work, but he said users should be given the chance to correct their own mistakes, and not be banished.

According to Google, YouTube's content ID system which matches a copyrighted video to others, already gives users a second chance.

Copyright owners are given the option to monetise on a non-authorised video rather than place a complaint, said Mr Rickman.

"So instead of saying 'I want this taken down' you can say 'Actually they're using my material and people are watching it. But I want to get paid for it. I want to get the revenue from those ads."

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