Blog / 2016 / Defying Goliath

May 25, 2016

In 2014, I did a TEDx talk in Switzerland, working with the lovely people of the TEDxGeneva team to do so. In 2015, YouTube allowed TED—the organization which controls who can do TEDx conferences—to make a bogus copyright claim on my upload of my TEDx talk and place advertising on my YouTube channel. In 2016, just recently, TED finally released its unfounded copyright claim on my upload of my talk.

YouTube wasting my time with its copyright policies
screenshot of an email from YouTube

I won the dispute, but the victory cost me. TED and YouTube had instigated this argument automatically, using software to monitor footage and maybe a couple of humans who hit the “enter” button without actually looking at what was going on. But the argument was more than that for me. Like all freelancers who find themselves in the careless crosshairs of massive corporations, I had to spend a lot of unpaid time and energy fighting back.

And in the end, I doubt the dispute made any impression on the people who work at either of the companies. TED and YouTube will keep on mindlessly churning out bogus claims to waste freelancer time, energy, and money.

Gwenn Seemel TEDx talk
image from my TEDx talk

In my struggle to get back control of my own platform, I put up with a lot from those I thought would be allies. I reached out to people in the press and in tech. The majority of them dismissed me or told me I must be wrong because TED would never make such a mistake. A few of them went so far as to tell me that my argument was idiotic, and that I was too.

It left me wondering how TED inspires so much trust. Do these people really believe that TED will appreciate their loyalty? Do they think TED will even notice? Or do they just think the little person can’t ever be right in a disagreement with an institution?

Happily, not everybody was completely smitten by the brand appeal of TED and YouTube. For example, I met the awesome team of Copy-Me, who had only nice things to say about their TEDx experience but who were still willing to help me try to sort out why TED seemed to be picking on me. I also met Megan Hustad who wrote this excellent article about the TED organization, which earned her plenty of insults from TEDheads.

In other words, even though I’m still too annoyed with TED and YouTube to celebrate the fact that they finally did the right thing, at least now I know I’m not alone. Plus, I did manage to protect my audience from seeing more ads, which is an uncivilized way of making money off of content. Finding like-minded people and caring for those who enjoy my content: in my book, those are two good reasons to fight even if you never really win when you go up against companies.

Maybe this post made you think of something you want to share with me? Or perhaps you have a question about my art? I’d love to hear from you!


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