I recently received an email from YouTube notifying me that one of my videos was removed due to a copyright violation. The video was a trailer for a Pluralsight course. My channel has about 30 of these trailers, one per full length course. Their purpose is to summarize the content within the course and generate interest. The trailers are marketing/advertising products, created by myself, but Pluralsight holds the copyright. Authors are licensed to freely distributes trailers because it is mutually beneficial both to Plurasight and authors. Anyone can watch the trailers on Pluralsight's website without logging into a paid account for the same reason. Authors are encouraged to post them on YouTube, Vimeo, and other similar channels to further increase awareness.

Here's the original email:

Due to a copyright takedown notice that we received, we had to take down your video from YouTube:

Video title: Pluralsight Course - Cisco Meraki Fundamentals
Video url: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dQsQonLXl8
Takedown issued by: PluralSight LLC

This means that your video can no longer be played on YouTube

You now have 1 copyright strike. If you get multiple copyright strikes, we'll have to disable your account. To prevent that from happening, please don't upload videos containing copyrighted content that you aren't allowed to use.

If you believe you're not at fault in one or more of the instances above, you can appeal this takedown by submitting a counter notification. Keep in mind that there may be severe legal consequences for submitting a counter notification with false information. You can also contact the party that

Logging into YouTube studio, I was pleased to discover that I had a third option in addition to the two just described by YouTube. I could also watch a 5-minute cartoon video titled "Copyright University" which explains how copyrights work on digital content. Of course, as a content producer for more than 7 years, I knew all of this already, but if you watch the video and take a short multiple-choice exam, it allows your copyright strike to expire after 90 days. In this way, even if YouTube or the claimant finds a way to reject my legitimate demand to rescind the takedown claim, the copyright strike will not persist against my account indefinitely. I watched the video, took the test, and passed. I suggest that everyone who receives a copyright strike do exactly this, regardless of whether the strike is valid or not.

Next, I reached out to several Pluralsight employees, many of whom I have known for several years. After explaining the situation, all of them were certain that this was a mistake due to their either their internal piracy division, an outside vendor they employ to hunt pirates, or a random individual completely unassociated with Pluralsight. It is easy for PluralSight to manage the first two organizations, but YouTube's copyright strike policy allows anyone to submit a copyright complaint, regardless of whether they own the work or not. In my dashboard, YouTube reveals the email address of the claimant and I noticed it was a Gmail address. Either this was a Pluralsight employee or their vendor logged into their personal account when they submitted the claim, or it is an aggressive individual entirely unaffiliated with Pluralsight.

Armed with some verbal reinforcement from Pluralsight, I submitted a counter claim using YouTube's automated tooling. Here's the first exchange.

I am an author for Pluralsight. I work as a subcontractor for them and have been doing so for several years. Every time I publish a new course through them, they deliver a trailer which is designed for advertising purposes. These trailers are about two minutes long and do not contain technical content. It is similar to a movie trailer whereby the movie producer does not limit the trailer's distribution, but rather, encourages it. I have spoken to three different individuals in Pluralsight, including a senior director in their content division. They all believe that this takedown is a mistake. The person who submitted it does not appear to work for Pluralsight and may not understand the purpose of this video.

YouTube responded within 24 hours:

Thank you for your counter notification. Unfortunately, it's unclear to us whether you have a valid reason for filing a counter notification. Counter notifications should be submitted only when content is removed due to a mistake or misidentification. Here are some questions that you may want to consider:

Why do you believe your use of someone else's copyrighted work is protected by copyright exceptions? Such exceptions might include fair use, fair dealing, or uses for the purposes of quotation, criticism, review, caricature, parody, or pastiche. Provide a detailed answer, including any relevant laws and/or regulations.

Is the video your own original content and do you own all the rights to it?

If you've used someone else's work with their permission, can you provide evidence of their permission to use their content, such as a license?

Is the content in the public domain?

This is a frustrating response, but I completely fair one. There was nothing factually false about my email, but I did not present any evidence. I decided to focus on answering some of YouTube's suggested questions, rather than simply describing the situation as a mistake. The next day, following exchange took place. Note that the dates listed remain unmodified, but I've used fake names to protect my Pluralsight contacts.

I will now present two pieces of evidence. First, on September 20 2022, John Smith sent me the video in question via email attachment. At the time, he was a video content producer at Pluralsight and was responsible for publishing this course. Here is the end of the email conversation.

Me: Please send me the m1 trailer video and thumbnail image when complete so i can advertise on youtube. Thanks!

John: Here you go Nick! (video and thumbnail attached)

He deliberately sent me the video knowing full well what I intended to do with it. This serves as written permission to post the content. We are business partners; part of my job is to advertise the courses we jointly produce, and Pluralsight knows that.

Second, my current business contact at Pluralsight, Jane Doe, sent me this email just moments ago on May 19 2023: "Legal emailed our vendor who we work with on piracy cases and asked them to cease action (if it is indeed them)."

My contacts at Pluralsight are actively working to undo this mistaken copyright take down request. It is unclear to me, and to them, as to why this video was taken down.

YouTube responded, again within 24 hours:

Thank you for your counter notification. It has now been forwarded to the claimant that submitted the copyright removal request.

Now that the counter notification has been sent to the claimant, they have 10 US business days from this date to respond. The claimant must respond with evidence that they've taken legal action against you to keep the content at issue from being reinstated to YouTube. You can learn more about what legal action the claimant must take in our Help Center.

After 10 US business days, if we don't get a response from the claimant, your content will be reinstated to YouTube. Also, the associated penalties on your channel will be cleared.

After about two calendar weeks of silence, I received the following email from YouTube.

In accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we've completed processing your counter notification.

The following videos have been restored unless you have deleted them: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dQsQonLXl8

I won. My content has been reinstated and the YouTube-imposed copyright strike against me has been rescinded. Unsurprisingly, the original claimant (still anonymous to me) acted individually in rogue-like fashion, having no legitimate reason to report my content as being a violation of Pluralsight's copyright. This is likely why the claimant did not attempt to respond to my irrefutable evidence. My advice: protect yourself in advance by flagging important emails or chat messages with your business partners that give you explicit permission to post copyrighted content you don't own. Even better, get a pre-written paragraph from your customer's legal team that you can post in your video's description to avoid the issue entirely.

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