Nate Anderson at Ars Technica covers what is probably the best cause célèbre I’ve seen for oponents of restrictive copyright enforcement. The article recounts the case of Kevin Lee, a prolific film blogger who used YouTube extensively to publish “video essays” which interspersed his own critical insights with short film clips. Lee’s work demonstrates everything that’s good and noble about the Internet: an unpaid blogger pioneering new avenues of critical discourse, just to share his love of cinema with others. His blog, Shooting Down Pictures, reveals a passionate, intelligent observer documenting his travels through the greatest 1,000 films. Read more about the significance of Lee’s work at The House Next Door.

But all this came to a grinding halt when, after a third DMCA takedown notice was served against Lee, over five hours of his critical commentary was deleted by YouTube and his account closed. I’ve written about what I see as some helpful innovations on YouTube’s part in dealing with copyright, but this “three strikes” rule is absurd on its face. YouTube offers some fair objections to the idea that it should manually review all of these takedown notices, but deleting whole user accounts due to a small ammount of allegedly infringing content is bad for YouTube, bad for free speech, and will ultimately feed the backlash against copyright in general. It’s not even clear that the video that triggered the account deletion was violating copyright; Lee has a strong case that his critical videos fall under fair use protections.

The blame for this doesn’t fall entirely on YouTube, as many of the large rights holders are taking a “shoot first, ask questions later” stance with takedown notices, and of course the DMCA itself encourages this behavior. Any lasting solution will involve a combination of legal reform and consumers creating a shitstorm whenever something like this happens.

[Cross-posted at Scattered Work]