As 2020 draws to a close (thank gawd), I have recently been noticing numerous copyright strikes on my Instagram account. This is nothing new for me, or I imagine for most dancers, as I do post a lot of dance videos on my account to popular songs. However, this is definitely something that has become a bit more of a phenomenon in recent months. Ironic, considering that due to the pandemic of 2020 that many events and shows have had to move into a digital format.
Times have changed with copyright strikes, now I sometimes notice that a video will be blocked within seconds of uploading with a copyright strike. This is likely due to the rise of the "copyright bots". These copyright bots are automated programs that analyze audio and video clips uploaded to a platform and then compare those clips against a database of content provided by copyright owners to identify the matches.
Of course, as someone who works in digital - software isn't perfect. Recognition software relies heavily on algorithms to compare music fingerprints, which can complicate things when there could be a sample that is used across two audio clips... but the copyright owner of the song being tracked in the bot database may not even have the rights to authorize a copyright strike.
Additionally, these bots will usually favor copyright owners; this is also including even if the copyrighted content was used in fair use. For example, when I was dancing for the Badass Babes (go check them out by the way!), every time I would post a weekly dance video- it would immediately be taken down by Instagram in a copyright strike. I would then have to dispute the video by signing off that I had "permission" to use the music that in the video. But of course I did... wasn't this considered fair use?
Fair use is basically defined as any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and "transformative" purpose. According to what I found on copyright law online, the language used is vague on purpose - this way it can be open to context as to how each piece of content is used. So based on this, it would seem that just posting on social media (such as Instagram or Facebook) would come with it the assumption that it would be fair use. From the position of YouTube, any copyrighted music was basically demonetized... which I suppose makes sense from the perspective of you profiting off of someone else's creative work.
This does make things unfortunate for dancers, because ultimately the choreography to a dance can be considered a net new creative work - because it is framed within a piece of music that is copyrighted; it now also falls under that same copyright strike? Or is this fair use? The same can be said of DJs that sample songs in mixes, or video game streamers, or movie critics.
The true tragedy of this all is that I think that all of the above uses of copyrighted material can be argued that this falls under fair use. But unfortunately this cannot be programmed into an algorithm, the AI cannot recognize the difference between fair use and not fair use. It only knows that there is a strike to your account as a result of using copyrighted material.
It is up to the human afterwards to fight back and push back and claim fair use. In many cases, for many of my workout videos I have opted to use SoundCloud and leverage copyright free music. And as for dance, this is also why I like TikTok - because there doesn't seem to be a big push to remove copyrighted songs. It could also be because the piece of music used is under a certain amount of time (30s and under) and so is not long enough for it to leave a "fingerprint".
I also do wonder the effect of having a large amount of copyright strikes on the standing of your social media accounts. Any ideas on how this could potentially be affected?
Finally, I would to leave on a note that creativity should breed more creativity. Not to say that people should effectively steal others work and claim it as their own; but rather to use the creativity output of others in order to grow from that and create something inspired and new and something within that work that shines within us on a personal level. And that personal expression could never be under any copyright.