YouTube Demonetization and Vlogging Woes

In the age of technology, it is not such a far flung idea that people can make a living by filming themselves speaking about whatever comes to mind, posting that video on a website, and waiting for the money to roll in. The most prolific of these host sites is YouTube, which traffics an estimated 1,000,000,000 unique monthly visitors.1 But how do the content creators profit from their videos through YouTube, and what say does YouTube have in which videos are eligible to earn revenue?

YouTube content creators, or ‘vloggers’, can make their money a number of different ways, one of which is to allow advertisements to be displayed prior to their videos.23 YouTube has recently come under fire from content creators after they began flagging multiple videos a day as being unable to earn money through advertising.4 YouTube’s current guidelines for being ‘advertiser-friendly’ mean that a video cannot show things including, but not limited to, “[s]exually suggestive content […], violence, […] promotion of drugs and regulated substances, […] or controversial or sensitive subjects and events, including subjects related to war, political conflicts, natural disasters and tragedies, even if graphic imagery is not shown.”5 YouTube has assured its users that their content is not facing stricter guidelines, but their method of alerting creators of the demonetization of their videos has been modified.6 However, just because YouTube hasn’t further restricted their ‘advertiser-friendly’ guidelines doesn’t mean that creators are accepting of what many deem to be censorship according to vague guidelines that are enforced using a simple algorithm, capable of making errors.7 It will be important to see what recourse a creator will have against YouTube in the event that a video is incorrectly demonetized, causing them to lose advertising revenue. A creator can earn an estimated $18.00 per 1,000 views of a video.8 If a video is demonetized for a full 24 hours, the loss in revenue can be hundreds, even thousands of dollars. This problem may be further exacerbated by YouTube’s new YouTube Heroes initiative, “a global community of volunteer contributors who help create the best possible YouTube experience for everyone.”9 This crowdsourced censorship allows volunteer YouTube viewers to report inappropriate videos to earn points.10 Much like Twitter bashing, this platform may open up an avenue for individuals to over-report videos they do not agree with, leading to additional inaccurately demonetized videos. Whichever method causes videos to be incorrectly deemed not advertiser friendly, YouTube will have to deal with content creators who demand to be compensated for a loss in advertising revenue, leading to litigation with thousands of individuals who have the support of the internet masses behind them.

  1. Top 15 Most Popular Video Websites | September 2016, eBizMBA (Sept. 1, 2016), http://www.ebizmba.com/articles/video-websites.
  2. Definition of Vlogger, Collins Dictionary (2016), http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/vlogger.
  3. Isabel Thottam, How YouTube is Using Censorship to Choose Advertisers Over Content Creators, Paste (Sept. 13, 2016, 9:00 AM), https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2016/09/how-youtube-is-using-censorship-to-choose-advertis.html.
  4. Phillip DeFranco, YouTube is Shutting Down My Channel and I’m Not Sure What to Do, YouTube (Aug. 31, 2016), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gbph5or0NuM.
  5. Advertiser-friendly Content Guidelines, YouTube Help (2016), https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/6162278.
  6. Patricia Hernandez, YouTubers Are Freaking Out About Money and ‘Censorship’, Kotaku (Sept. 1, 2016), http://kotaku.com/why-youtubers-are-freaking-out-about-money-and-censorsh-1786032317.
  7. Thottam supra note 3.
  8. ason Alleger, How Much do YouTubers Make?, Penna Powers (Mar. 19, 2015), http://www.pennapowers.com/how-much-do-youtubers-make/.
  9. YouTube Help, Getting Started with YouTube Heroes, YouTube (Sept. 20, 2016), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wh_1966vaIA.
  10. Id.

Author: Rebecca Schaefer

Rebecca Schaefer graduated in 2011 from Goucher College with a B.A. in Political Science. After a year spent perfecting the art of the macchiato, she became a paralegal at a small law firm - a job she held until she enrolled at Rutgers Law in 2015. As a 1L, Rebecca was active in the Intellectual Property Law Society and the Volunteer Lawyers for Justice Pro Bono Bankruptcy Intake Project. When Rebecca is not at school or studying, she plays softball, is a volleyball referee, and trains to become a member of S.H.E.I.L.D.