Under the moniker The Nostalgia Critic, internet entertainer Doug Walker has been offering up his snarky, often sarcastic thoughts on movies through YouTube reviews for eight years, becoming a true fixture of the site with millions of views to his credit. Like many other content creators, Walker has monetized his videos and thus makes his living from his movie reviews. But, in order to review and discuss films properly, Walker occasionally needs to show brief excerpts from them. Under the doctrine of fair use, that should not be an issue. Creators have the legal right to use excerpts from copyrighted works without permission for the purposes of review, satire, parody, and education. Or, at least, that’s how it should work. But as Walker points out in a new video posted to the Channel Awesome account, certain Hollywood studios and copyright holders are unfairly targeting YouTubers, making false copyright claims and getting videos taken down and accounts deleted. YouTube parodists and critics can appeal these claims, but they often find themselves hopelessly lost in a maze of bureaucracy with little to no legal recourse.
Walker makes it clear that what he and other YouTubers like him do is distinct from piracy. Taking a full-length copyrighted movie, posting it to YouTube, and then making money from the video is theft. But using clips from, say, The Cat In The Hat in the context of a review is something else altogether. That’s just one of the movies that has caused legal headaches for Walker. The real problem, the video attests, is that YouTube stacks the deck against those creators who invoke fair use. There is no limit to the number of claims that can be filed against an account, for instance, but the account holder can only make three appeals at a time. Worse yet, there is absolutely no penalty for filing false claims against an account, even though the content creator may be losing revenue while a video is temporarily suspended. Walker brings in other popular YouTube reviewers to illustrate that the problem is far from limited to The Nostalgia Critic. Of particular interest is the ordeal faced by Alex of the I Hate Everything web series when he chose to review the ultra low-budget 2015 film Cool Cat Saves The Kids and found himself in a nightmarish and stupid battle with the film’s director, Derek Savage.