Back in September 2013, I shot a music video for one of the songs from my ‘Seeing Stars’ E.P. I decided to base the video around my very close friend Steve, and his recovery from emergency heart surgery back when he was 22. Steve’s struggle, strength and determination matched the message behind the song perfectly so I was so grateful that he agreed to do it.
I remember having a conversation with Steve a few days before posting the video on YouTube and he was pretty nervous about what the response was going to be like. We had a viewing with his family the week before and they thought it was great so I just reminded him that the reaction online didn’t matter as much as being proud of the work, and that we both were/are!
On the 16th of November I uploaded the video and published it on YouTube. The immediate reaction was amazing. It seemed to be getting shared a lot and the feedback we were getting was very encouraging. After 36 hours the video had passed 7,000 views. But then, for no clear reason it just froze and for 4 days the play count literally stood still, until one week after originally posting it, the video was no longer available.
As you can see, the notification says “This video has been removed because its content violated YouTube’s Terms of service” Not only is that completely untrue, but it is also quite damaging to my reputation given that the video had been receiving so many views and had been sent to numerous Heart foundations and charities, who would all be seeing this notice. Totally shocked and confused I quickly logged into my YouTube account and checked the video manager page where I saw this… The video had been “Rejected” and copied, which meant that the 7,374 views, 148 Likes and 10 very kind and supportive comments had been wiped! With absolutely zero explanation or warning!
As you can imagine, this was all pretty confusing given the polar opposite feelings we were experiencing the week before. I attempted to contact YouTube via several different avenues requesting that the video be reinstated and asking for an explanation… but nothing. Not even a response. So after some researching and digging around I found out that I wasn’t the only person who’s video had been treated like this, it seemed that there are other unsigned artists who are experiencing the same frustrating and damaging effects from being censored by YouTube and a lot of them were being accused of paying for plays. Days worth of scouring the internet and YouTube’s labyrinth of contact pages, we had found nothing to directly deal with the issue so we contacted a company who seemed like they could help in this matter. New Media Rights who were very helpful and sent me an appeal form to fill in and send off to YouTube.
Below are links the the New Media Rights website and to the appeal form.
Below is my actual appeal form. Questions are in bold and answers in italic.
web_audience: I am an RnB singer/songwriter and receive views from all over
the world. The main countries that my hits originate from are The UK, USA,
and Australia, but there are many more countries that I receive regular
users_location: Europe, USA, Australasia, Indonesia, Africa, South America,
Asia, Middle East
users_access: My content is often shared via social media platforms like
Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud etc. Quite often when one of my videos is
posted on YouTube hundreds of Facebook users share the video.
promote: I promote my content via social media networks, then my fans and
followers share and promote via their own social media profiles.
whom_purchased: I have never purchased traffic.
describe_traffic: I have never purchased traffic, traffic is the flow of
user to your content.
amount_of_traffic: I have never purchased traffic. My video had 7000+ hits,
the majority of those hits to my understanding came from external links
such as facebook & twitter. That is where I shared the video link and that
is where the traffic seems to have come from.
traffic_incentivized: I have never incentivized traffic.
third_party_organization: I do not use third party marketing organisations.
I purely share my music/videos via other social media networks.
explain_marketing: My marketing strategy is to share my music/videos with
my followers. My followers do the rest as I am an independent artist and
not affiliated with any record labels. My followers share my content. That
what_incentives: I have never incentivized any users to click.
other_possible_incentives: I do not know. I have never used this tactic,
neither have I heard of it.
third_party_incentives: No. My music is produced, recorded, and completely
owned by me. I shot my own video for ‘Faith In You’ too so I am the sole
owner of all content of the video. Nobody stands to gain anything from my
contents increased visibility.
how_deter_invalid_activities: I do not know what potentially invalid
activity means. I cannot control other users of the internet. I make my
music and videos and then share them. That is it. Usually I move on to the
next project but I am unable to at the moment as my video has been unjustly
how_violated_tos: It did not. Inside the ‘Video manager’ section of my
account my video appears as ‘rejected, content copied’ which is a complete
mystery to me. I was not informed that this was going to happen, neither
was I provided with a reason. This has damaged my reputation as there were
highly regarded charities looking at the video as it deals with recovery
from heart surgery. Now all anybody sees is a notice saying that my
content “violates YouTubes terms of service” which is completely incorrect.
who_has_access: Me. Full capacity.
how_often_update: Every time I upload a video I update my account.
Sometimes I update my information in between videos.
how_stopped_invalid: I have never detected invalid activity.
any_relevant_information: I would like my video reinstated as it has not
violated any of YouTubes terms of service, the notification saying so is
damaging my professional integrity and paints me in a dishonest light. This
is neither fair or acceptable. I would be willing to show any proof
necessary that i have never inflated traffic, nor would i as it would serve
absolutely no purpose to myself, my career or my business. If you could
contact me as soon as possible i would greatly appreciate it. “
To my amazement, a few days later I received a reply from YouTube. But it wasn’t good news. Below again…
The decision to remove your video(s) has been upheld. Removed videos can be reuploaded.
For your reference, TOU #4 Section H states:
You agree not to use or launch any automated system, including without limitation, “robots,” “spiders,” or “offline readers,” that accesses the Service in a manner that sends more request messages to the YouTube servers in a given period of time than a human can reasonably produce in the same period by using a conventional on-line web browser. Notwithstanding the foregoing, YouTube grants the operators of public search engines permission to use spiders to copy materials from the site for the sole purpose of and solely to the extent necessary for creating publicly available searchable indices of the materials, but not caches or archives of such materials. YouTube reserves the right to revoke these exceptions either generally or in specific cases. You agree not to collect or harvest any personally identifiable information, including account names, from the Service, nor to use the communication systems provided by the Service (e.g., comments, email) for any commercial solicitation purposes. You agree not to solicit, for commercial purposes, any users of the Service with respect to their Content.
Services that attempt to gain views through automated means or that force or trick viewers into watching videos are not ok. This could be through a variety of means, including, among other things, deceptive layouts on third party websites that trick viewers into playing a video when they click unrelated elements on the page. It might also be serving up embedded videos instead of intended content, serving pop-unders, re-directing and/or a variety of other methods people use to try to inflate viewership.
If you are going to contract someone to help promote your content, it should be someone you absolutely trust, as you may be putting the fate of your channel (and your business on YouTube) in their hands. If they are using methods that aren’t within our terms, you will be the one to pay the price, as it will be your videos and your channel that get taken down. And don’t just take their word for it – ask the tough questions, find out how they promote your content and do your due diligence. Ultimately, you are responsible for knowing and abiding by our terms – this means understanding the nature of the traffic on your channel and making sure you are in compliance with our terms. Ignorance of bad traffic or other actions taken on your behalf may lead to your account being removed from YouTube.
The YouTube Team”
So that is that. No proof needed. It seems YouTube are the judge, jury and executioner on the career of anybody they choose, whenever they feel like it. I have never and would never pay for plays as it is completely pointless. I spend days and weeks developing my songs and videos, let alone the days of recording and days of editing, all in the hope of sharing them with the world.
YouTube’s slogan “Broadcast Yourself” is pretty hilarious after reading this isn’t it?! The fact I was threatened that my account could be “suspended without the possibility for appeal” if this happens again, when I clearly have no control, influence or real understanding of what actually happened in the first place, makes it clear to me that YouTube has become a completely different creature than it would lead you to believe.
To end on a positive note, here is the video for Faith In You. The really frustrating thing about this whole situation is that the video was designed to inspire people who have been through a hard time and to remind them that “What don’t kill you makes you stronger” quite ironic given the article above.
I hope you enjoy.