Xtube Comments on Suspension of Webmaster Uploads

TORONTO — Xtube.com announced this week that it has suspended indefinitely webmaster uploads to the site, in what one company representative described as “the first of several steps to eliminate copyrighted content” from the site.

In an announcement posted Thursday on GoFuckYourself.com, the company stated that it had reached the decision following “months of deliberation.”

“Due to several circumstances that have come to our attention, all webmaster uploads have been put on an indefinate [sic] hold,” stated the message, posted by Xtube support representative Justin “JDawg” Arlian.

Xtube is still allowing end users to upload legitimate amateur content, according to the company, while suspending webmaster uploads until further notice.

Xtube’s Kurtis Potec told XBIZ that the decision was motivated in part by a desire “to improve our name, and not be known as ‘the people who steal content.’”

“No one with a tube site is really taking steps to stop pirated content from being uploaded,” Potec said. “This is the first of several steps to eliminate copyrighted content from the site.”

Potec said that to his knowledge, Xtube is the first of the adult tube sites to take such steps, which will include having the site’s users do a “comb-through” of existing links to patrol for copyrighted content.

“After we have this solution done, maybe we’ll open it back up for webmasters to upload,” said Potec, adding that future webmaster uploads would likely be allowed only for “approved affiliates.”

One of the challenges for tube sites is to walk the fine line between being responsible about uploaded content while not crossing the line into exerting the sort of editorial control that would cause the site to lose the immunity they arguably have under “safe harbor” provisions offered under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Attorney Larry Walters told XBIZ that it is an open question whether vetting content submitters (as opposed to the submitted content itself) would cause tube sites to lose immunity under the DMCA safe harbor provisions.

“The legal impact of selecting categories of users from whom content will be accepted has not been addressed by the courts, as of yet,” Walters said. “Of particular concern is any potential effect on the immunities provided by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, or the safe harbor afforded by the DMCA. The DMCA’s qualification for who gets the safe harbor protection is narrower than the CDA’s grant of immunity, but the courts have read both fairly broadly. Ultimately, any act that the website operator takes to narrow or define the type of content accepted for posting by users could impact the site’s status, and thus its legal protections.”

Walters added that the DMCA was not the only potential source of legal concern for tube sites that chose to ‘screen’ their content submitters.

“2257 compliance is potentially affected by these decisions,” Walters said. “To the extent that excluding certain types of content providers means that the operator is selecting, managing or arranging the type of content displayed by the site, the operator will be less successful in claiming a 2257 exemption — so all these concepts are interrelated, to some extent. That means the specific policies followed by each user generated content site could significantly impact their liability for both civil and criminal claims.”

Whatever the legal ramifications, Potec said that Xtube made its decision knowing that it would not go over well with the webmasters who had been using the site to make money.

“We’re going to take a big loss in traffic because of this — we realize that — but it had to be done,” Potec said. “Lots of people are going to be very unhappy with this because webmasters had been able to make money off of [uploading content]. They will probably continue to be upset for quite some time.”

Ultimately, Potec said, the decision was made that it was time to do something proactive to address the problem of stolen content being uploaded to the site, and Xtube was growing weary of “being the bad guy.”

“This way if anybody says ‘they’re not doing anything about the problem,’ I can slap them around a bit,” Potec said.