Monday, July 30, 2007

An Open Letter to My Friends, Subscribers, & YouTube

Today I am doing something a little different. I am writing an open letter of concern and complaint to my friends, subscribers, and YouTube regarding my account recently being banned at YouTube. It is anticipated that this will be read by at least 1,000,000 people who review my writings at The Virtual Pew, MySpace, and Hollywood Jesus. This is in regards to complaint #176056468.

Prior to my departure for Fargo and the Northern Plains I went to check on and edit my account at YouTube only to find out the account had been deleted. This was somewhat saddening because I had placed over 150 videos on YouTube, almost all wrestling related videos I had videoed myself and others of my wife, three in fact of songs she had recorded. There were a few others that fell within fair use copyright laws but no more than 3 or 4 of those were among the 150 plus videos listed.

I have several concerns and actually took the time to send an initial email to YouTube regarding this issue. I had received no notice, and had no indication which video they considered as being the one that justified the banning. Truth is, I had not added but one video in several months to my personal account there, and that video had only been added for a couple of days. The only video I had posted where I have any suspicion was of issue was a video of my wife with the song Amazing Grace. That video had footage that spoke specifically about the history of John Newton, and I used some film clips from The Passion of The Christ, and Amistad that was related the subject of slavery, this video clearly fell under the fair use criteria for copyright. On this video however, it had been flagged by some within the YouTube community and I had a Christian at MySpace who complained to me regarding the fact that the video showed the image of Christ from the movie The Passion of The Christ, and according to them, characterized and made an idolatry image. In the past, YouTube has been less than supportive of any video with religious symbolism, whether that be Islamic, Christian, Atheist or any other particular view. I will note on this concept that does not and should not constitute censorship on their part.

I have written several emails to YouTube and have received no appropriate response other than to state that YouTube will not reinstate the account. I have had no response regarding the videos in question, the reason for the deletion, and as to why no notice was sent me regarding the deletion of the account. YouTube and Google certainly should have a higher responsibility than to blatantly delete accounts without reasoning and notification. In fact, it is scary that any form of censorship could and would occur under the current system of publications regarding videos.

There are several other areas that bother me regarding the actions of those who would flag the Amazing Grace Video and reporting of any other issues that were not directly checked out with me, a member of the YouTube community since its incorporation. I owned several groups at YouTube, the largest of which was The Real Wrestling group, a private group which required membership approval, and approval for the posting of videos. Prior to the deletion of my account, this group was the largest sports related video on YouTube and a group I had personally been interviewed about among numerous publications and web sites which promoted YouTube including The Guardian, one of Europe’s largest newspapers. The truth is, this group, my videos, had brought thousands upon thousands of hits to YouTube and the other truth of it is, all of my videos posted were either videoed by me, or clearly falling under fair use copyright rules. Yet, none of this was taken into consideration, and none of this was followed up on with me regarding this deletion. Currently the group, Real Wrestling still exists at YouTube, but it is a private group, and I was the owner of that group. Now no one else can join, nor can anyone post videos to the group. I am aware that some in the wrestling community want to monopolize the posting of videos, even some making money from their web sites. This group was a totally free group, and hopefully the actions taken by YouTube have nothing to do with competitive web sites or individuals wanting to promote their sites or videos. Again, it is impossible to know because YouTube refuses to identify the complaints or video(s) in question. Of course I think that since I owned all of the videos, made them, and strictly followed copyright law on them is one reason they can’t identify the specific videos in question.

Unfortunately, not all of my videos were backed up and many of those that were posted have been lost. That includes all of my wife’s videos although some have posted Amazing Grace on various other web sites, including YouTube. As the clear cut owner of that video, and the producer of the song, I am grateful that many saw fit to post the video in other formats, on other web sites and as long as no intent to make a profit is made, and credit is given, others can feel free to post and use that video if they find it.

I am making several requests here. I am asking individuals to contact YouTube and request that they respond appropriately to my requests and that they reinstate my personal membership at YouTube. I will be providing contact information for that. I am also asking YouTube to make contact with individuals before banning their account. It seems unreasonable that they would take these types of actions, and that they would use the flagging system as a method of banning, if in fact that is a policy they are using, which by all indication, it appears they are. Anyone can go to YouTube type in, “banned from YouTube” or something similar and see numerous videos that deal with this issue. I assure you, the Mike Furches personal account at YouTube is far from the only complaint in this area of being quick to ban without appropriate cause.

I am also asking my readers, and subscribers to notify me of other services that do this type of thing, posting of videos that specifically allow embedding. I am even open to the development of a web site that allows this, specific to wrestling and other related videos if there is someone who is willing to help.

On a side note, The Virtual Pew still has an account at YouTube and this ministry account still has videos that are up and will continue to be posted. One of the concerns though is YouTubes application of fair use copyright on videos though. For example, if a short video clip from a movie that makes a spiritual point is used, and some explanation of that point is given, fair use applies and should be allowed as long as no profit is being made from that presentation. It is a service that has recently been under consideration for The Virtual Pew and if YouTube is not going to fairly apply the intent of the law then another provider will need to be located that again, allows embedding and posting options.

Lastly, I sure hope that YouTube, and/or Google, is not discriminating based on political or religious grounds on the videos and memberships they have which are deleted. It seems at the very least, when this is an issue and a concern, that they would at least have the decency to respond accordingly to the requests that have been made. So far I have sent in 4 specific requests, of which, no answer to my questions have been given other than to receive a form letter stating that my account was deleted for copyright violations (again hard to believe when the videos are mine). I believe reinstatement is needed, and that this issue, not just with me, but numerous others, needs to seriously be reevaluated by the YouTube and Google staff.

Hopefully, with enough contacts to YouTube from friends, and subscribers, this issue can be reevaluated and reversed.


Mike Furches

Contact information for YouTube as best as I can identify:

DMCA Complaints
YouTube, Inc.
1000 Cherry Ave.
Second Floor
San Bruno, CA 94066
Fax: 650.872.8513

Is this the video that caused the controversy? Cllick to see Amazing Grace on another members website. If the video appears, double click on it, if it don't, then simply click on the following link.

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