Net neutrality proponents have claimed the regulations combat censorship, yet YouTube happily censored a video of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai defending a net neutrality repeal.
The day before the FCC voted to repeal net neutrality regulations, Pai worked with The Daily Caller to releases a humorous video skewering net neutrality regulations. Part of the Dec. 13 video featured Pai swinging a lightsaber and dancing to a 17 second clip of The Harlem Shake, a catchy 2013 song parodied millions of times online.
Harlem Shake creator DJ Baauer complained to The Verge that the audio clip was “used completely without my consent or council,” and as a result YouTube censored the video for seven hours. Nevermind that YouTube lists an astonishing 6.9 million results for “Harlem Shake,” the vast majority of which were also most likely made without Baauer’s “consent or council.”
By removing the video -- even for seven hours -- Youtube became a political pawn, censoring a video based on ideology dressed as a copyright issue. The video was only restored after alleged pressure from The Daily Caller.
Baauer’s complaint against The Daily Caller video made clear his complaint was ultimately motivated by politics. He touted his support for net neutrality regulations and claimed he was “appalled to be associated with its repeal in anyway.” He later tweeted he was filing a lawsuit against the video in an attempt to “stop this loser” Pai. His copyright complaint was less to do with caring about an unauthorized use of his song, and more a political move.
The Daily Caller argued its use of The Harlem Shake fell well within the “fair use” copyright clause which allows individuals and organizations to “comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work” without breaking copyright law. Many of the nearly 7 million Harlem Shake variations that appear on youtube also fall within the fair use clause.
The Huffington Post reported on YouTube removing the video on Dec. 15, but did not question whether Baauer had a legitimate copyright claim or whether YouTube was right to censor the video. NYMag’s tech section, Select All, went even further, siding with Baauer and calling the video “an absolutely awful piece of ‘viral’ propaganda.”
According to The New York Times, Youtube said removing the video was not an “act of arbitrary political censorship,” but rather “was simply the implementation of well-established notice and takedown processes required by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.”