Who’s Watching the Watcher You’re, er, Watching?

I remember getting a video pulled from my account by YouTube a while back. It was a video of The Daily Show, and so copyright was admittedly a bit murky: on the one hand, rebroadcasting clips of television shows is generally copyright violation, but since it’s a kind of current events show (some people actually learn more about the news from TDS than from their network news, big surprise) and since I’m a blogger who does the pseudo-journalistic thing, an argument could be made for “fair use.”

But as YouTube has become – along with many other social video services – a standard of presenting media on the Internet, more and more content has gotten pulled by YouTube for more and more questionable rationales. Free speech covers things like fair use, parody and other uses of otherwise copyrighted material. But with thousands of videos getting posted per day, the need to regulate copyright and the need to protect free speech in a large volume, rapid fire environment are highly competitive necessities.

Enter YouTomb, the MIT student project dedicated to cataloging YouTube video removals, their owners, their viewers and what reasons the vids get pulled for:

YouTomb Keeps an Eye on YouTube’s Graveyard | The Underwire from

Jansen says the site’s opaque policies spurred the YouTomb project.”We aren’t trying to be antagonistic at all,” said Jansen. “We understand YouTube has a business to run. But at the same time, we’re not sure where it ends.”

Alongside a screenshot of each clip deemed in violation, YouTomb lets users see who posted the offending video, how many views it got before being pulled, when it was removed and by whom (for instance at the request of the user, a media company or third-party).

By Tommy Belknap

Owner, developer, editor of DragonFlyEye.Net, Tom Belknap is also a freelance journalist for The 585 lifestyle magazine. He lives in the Rochester area with his wife and son.