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As YouTube creators continue to be confused—and angry—about what they feel is a copyright claim system gone wrong, one YouTuber is defending herself for saying some videos that feature her image and words are within her rights to take down.
Pokimane, who has nearly 2.7 million Twitch followers and 3.1 million YouTube subscribers, was recently called out in a PewDiePie vlog for copyright-striking a video by Bowblax that used her video to comment on her recent drama with YouTuber Keemstar. As PewDiePie said, that video went viral because the YouTube algorithm “pushed it everywhere.”
“In a way, I can understand why you want to take down this video,” PewDiePie said in a recent vlog. “This selected thing blows up and becomes even bigger thanks to YouTube’s system being kind of stupid. … The problem here … is that you’re just drawing more attention to it. … The more you try to hide something, the more people are going to find out about it.
But Pokimane, whose real name is Imane Anys, said in her own video that Bowblax hadn’t made a transformative change to her content—which would have given him fair use to make a video about her beef with Keemstar. Instead, she said, Bowblax basically just re-uploaded her content for his gain.
“Bowblax strung together all the tweets and videos from Twitter and just re-uploaded to YouTube with no editing or commentary or voiceover,” Pokimane said. “That video was getting a lot of traction at the time, and being completely honest, I kind of wanted to be over with all the petty drama.”
She also said PewDiePie was right in saying that her takedown was a bad idea if she wanted to hide the drama, and she’d been speaking with Bowblax in private messages and that they’d come to an understanding. But she didn’t back down from the idea that Bowblax didn’t make a transformative change to her work, meaning she was well within her rights to take down his video.
Pokimane also said she would continue taking down videos if they’re simply re-uploads of her Twitch stream or if there’s “a gross or misleading title” that references her.
YouTube’s copyright claim system has been the source of plenty of controversy. Here’s how the system works: A person or company can flag a YouTuber’s video if that person or company feels the YouTuber is using their work for the YouTuber’s gain. If a claim is made, the revenue for that video goes to the flagger instead of the YouTuber but the video remains live. If a person or company copyright-strikes a video—like what Anys did to Bowblax—that video is then taken down from the site.
The YouTuber can appeal the copyright claim, but that appeal does not go to YouTube, which recently told the Daily Dot it doesn’t want to be the arbiter between these two parties to determine who holds the copyright.
Instead, the appeal goes to the original flagger, who can then deny the claim. If the YouTuber continues to push the issue, they can receive a strike on their channel, leading to a further loss of revenue.
It’s a system that’s potentially ripe for abuse—a recent private stream that wasn’t for public consumption made by YouTuber SmellyOctopus was claimed because, as he said, “Apparently, [the flagger] owns the right to my voice.” Making YouTubers even more exasperated is that it’s difficult to successfully appeal the claim.
“The problem here is that YouTube sways so insanely heavily toward the one making the claim,” PewDiePie said. Or as TheFatRat recently told the Daily Dot, “YouTube assumes that the claimant is right. And that’s what can make it frustrating.”
YouTube recently told the Daily Dot that it’s purged hundreds of flaggers who were abusing the copyright claim system.
Josh Katzowitz is a staff writer at the Daily Dot specializing in YouTube and boxing. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. A longtime sports writer, he's covered the NFL for CBSSports.com and boxing for Forbes. His work has been noted twice in the Best American Sports Writing book series.