After watching various K-pop content creators and music video (MV) reactors comment on social media that their YouTube channels had been hit with copyright strikes or removal from the video-sharing website, I began a process of gathering information to share with my audience and others. On March 5, I took to my YouTube channel in a live video that addressed facts about YouTube’s policy on copyrighted content and content identification. I expressed my opinions about the relevancy of MV reactors, as it pertains to the rapid growth of Western knowledge–and acknowledgment–of Korean artists’ music.

Conversations have taken place in the comments section of my video. Questions and clarification have been publicly discussed and requested on Twitter, a social media network that I frequently use. Even more so, off screen I was involved in conversations here in South Korea, trying to come to the answers that the community I’m in need.

Then, late in the evening on March 7 KST, I received a direct message from someone providing me information about DIA TV, a multichannel network (MCN) owned by CJ E&M, and the message that they shared with their network’s influencers. Some within circles have suggested that DIA TV was caught off guard somewhat concerning the actions of their parent company. I sat on my hands for hours very, very upset. I waited while the information began to become more widely known on Twitter.

Now that it has, and I am confident that my opinions will not negatively impact anyone except possibly myself, I will now say what I’ve been sitting on for hours: this entire experience has been one of the most public passive-aggressive business moves I’ve ever been involved in or seen. It is ridiculous.

CJ E&M was once involved in a 50 million USD suit filed against them for copyright infringement in the United States, so it is understandable from a corporate standpoint that they would hastily do what must be done to protect the content they own. It is unequivocally their legal right to do so. It is the responsibility of a third-party content creator, aka YouTuber, to be aware that our content is open for review from any entity we have no direct permission from to use their works. I fully understand this. What I do not understand, is the purpose of creating a Google-hosted email account to use for the flurry of manual copyright claims they have issued, versus maintaining the trail to your company boldly and publicly?

What I also do not understand, is the lack of a publicly issued statement from them, one that would inform multitudes of content creators and growing influencers who interact with CJ E&M’s content, that a (possible) cornering of the market is in play? This corporation is the largest content provider in South Korea. As a strategic business, it is implied that they do not utilize kneejerk power moves. They cannot afford to take a risk that has not been thought out in advance. In fact, no corporation of such a great size ever should. Therefore, as I had speculated, these takedowns and strikes were not haphazard.

Content creators put much sweat equity into their channels. From those who are on the website full-time to those who are considered hobbyists, this is a lot of energy to exert for something that can be deleted without ample warning. If an email, such as mine below from October 23, 2017 (from a video published August 15 that year) can take a few weeks or months of analysis before a copyright claim is submitted to a channel owner, surely the process concerning a strike can be revised to allowed a window of time for removal before the strike is applied.

content id claim

This is where YouTube, what with its growing reputation of controversy and disappointment, should continue its path towards reform. This email goes to anyone who has ever received a copyright claim on the video-sharing site. In theory, modifying it to clarify how much time the content creator has to remove said content before a claim is fully processed and/or the channel is jeopardized with a strike would be easy. I assume that most, if not all, content creators are in greater favor of taking down a video than having their channel receive a strike. Afterall, when we receive the aforementioned email, it is giving us the choice THEN to agree to share a portion of (often the greater chunk thereof) monetization with the copyright holder. We make a choice to lose earning potential because the enjoyment of our content with our fanbase often supersedes that financial desire. Some losses are worth taking because we love what we do, period.

I would be naive to believe that some would not seek another place to re-upload the content–I do it occasionally, too–but the ecosystem of YouTube would improve if its creators feel like they have a part in cultivating a non-problematic environment. (Again, these are theories/ideas that would take more manpower than YouTube currently wants to allocate for such change, but it can happen.)

My frustration does not fall solely on the shoulder of CJ E&M, now that more details have been provided. It falls on the shoulders of YouTube as well. The cowardice of a corporation to stand by its actions, keep its MCN responsible for content creators abreast of its decisions; and YouTube being…well, YouTube-like, has ground my gears tremendously. Attempting to carve out a greater stance in this unique-yet-difficult-to-monetize place in the Hallyu Wave is CJ E&M’s corporate right, but this approach destroyed the stability of some channels. Additionally, it created a frenzy of paranoid content removals. It jolted a pop culture community in a way that shows it might be more tone-deaf than it, and we, realized.

Nonetheless, creators will continue to create. Those who don’t want to anymore, won’t. I’m hopeful for new content from my peers, associates, and friends. I am optimistic that those of us who still love this genre of entertainment will find more ways to entertain the masses. It genuinely could be the start of an exciting era!

Whatever the outcome, I will be on my soapbox advocating for changes and being informed…all while my favorite K-pop music plays in the background.

(The Korea Herald, Polygon)

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