If A Video is Uploaded to YouTube and No One’s Around to See It Does it Violate Copyright?

My goal in this project was to get around YouTube’s Content ID System. I wanted to post some form of video material that was in blatant violation of copyright, but in a way that would not attract the attention of YouTube’s Content ID System. I wanted to post a film that I knew had been taken down before by the Content ID Tool and which couldn’t be found in large quantities already online, so I decided to use “Young Frankenstein.” If you search for this movie on YouTube you’ll maybe find ten minutes worth of footage, and that’s being generous.  In fact, “Young Frankenstein” is the only movie atleast in my experience that I had to physically purchase because of the amount of frustration I had experienced trying to locate it online, so posting this video was something of a personal matter for me aswell.

I knew that in attempting this experiment that trial and error wasn’t really an option; once a user gets noticed by YouTube its very difficult to get “unnoticed.” Fortunately, my time traversing that vast digital ocean known to us as YouTube, has given me access to a lot of teachers who have managed to more skillfully evade YouTube’s copyright bloodhounds than I could ever hope to. The two most basic tactics that I noticed these individuals employed was munipulating the speed and image of the video. These weren’t major munipulations either, a simple change of wireframe was enough of a distortion to trick the system in some cases and in many of the videos I watched the speed had only been upped from 100% to 100.15%. Both of these alterations are fairly easy to accomplish on any basic piece of video editing software.

I also changed the name of the video when I posted it and did not mention anything remotely relating to the production in either the video description or the video tags, save one praising comment directed towards that paragon of acting that is Gene Wilder. Changing the video name has no impact on whether or not the content ID tool picks up infringing material, however before jumping into the pool of copyright infringing videos I wanted to make sure that I made as small a splash as possible. Not making the Content ID Tool’s Job any easier was the fact that I hadn’t uploaded a direct digital copy of the movie found on the disk and instead ended up resorting to old school bootlegging tactics. This was not my original plan and I am deeply sorry for the severe drop in video quality that was the end result of these tactics.

So how did this experiment go. Ulimately I managed to post about 1 Hour and 9 Minutes worth of a 1 hour and 46 minute film. Parts 3 and 7 of the film didn’t upload, this wasn’t because of any copyright violation on my part but rather because for some reason neither of those videos were able to process correctly.

Still, I am somewhat proud to say that the account I set up for this purpose boasts the single largest concentration of “Young Frankenstein Footage” on YouTube and it is almost unbearable to watch because of how poor the quality is. You can still make out what’s going on and the audio is great so you can hear all of Wilder’s comedic glory, but the changes I had to make to avoid the content ID system ended up perverting this film into a visual mess.

Regardless of visual quality the video is still in violation of copyright and I did succeed in my goal of remaining anonymous on YouTube. The problem is the video is too anonymous. At this point in time all five of my “Young Frankenstein” videos have a total of about 16 views between them. I have a message but no audience to listen to, but if I took the steps necessary to get an audience then the message would be destroyed.

All Young Frankenstein videos can be found at:


I also tried posting a video that wouldn’t be a violation of copyright, but would be the target of YouTube’s content ID system. For this video, I filmed myself making a mock book review of Dave Eggers “The Circle,” and then had Diamante play a Kanye West song in the background on my computer to make it seem as if someone else had just happened to walk by playing this particular piece of copyrighted music. The song can barely be heard in the background, however I wanted to see if YouTube would remove a video that clearly falls under fair use for containing an unintended 20 seconds of Kanye, while allowing a blatant 1 hour and nine minutes worth of copyrighted Gene Wilder material to remain on the site. I was pleasantly surprised that this second video has yet to be removed from the site.

This unscripted mock book review can be watched at:

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