In a move that has begun to draw criticism from the opensource community, the Blender Foundation has revealed that YouTube has removed their account from the service without warning, but not before blocking the company’s ability to demonetise their channel’s content to allow for ad-free viewing. In a series of blog posts on blender.org, the Blender Foundation explains the bizarre circumstances which led YouTube’s systems to automatically remove their channel. The same appears to have happened to the MIT Courseware YouTube channel, run by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which also had their videos removed. This may affect many more channels in the coming weeks as Google rolls out YouTube Music and YouTube Premium to new countries.
According to Blender Foundation chairman Ton Roosendal, the Blender channel had been given a new account called “Content Manager”, which is automatically added to any channel that has several sub-channels underneath it. The Content Manager account supercedes any other accounts in terms of the ability to both manage content and account preferences, and can set options globally. As it turns out, with the recent expansion of YouTube Music and Premium into twelve new countries this week, this also meant that there were new terms of service for channels to accept for the content managers of large channels.
Roosendal said that YouTube had enabled monetisation on their channel by default, and without notice. A screenshot included in the blog showed that monetisation was enabled for the channel, but in the advanced settings for the channel manager the setting to allow adverts to be shown in videos was unticked. This followed an issue that the Blender Foundation was already pursuing with YouTube for a video uploaded to their channel that was removed from US regions, which support staff said needed to have adverts enabled to enable the video to be viewed in the US.
In an update to the blog today, Roosendal revealed that the Content Manager account was supposed to accept the new terms of service agreement that YouTube had drawn up for content that was monetised and would be viewed in twelve new countries getting new YouTube subscription services. When the agreement wasn’t accepted, the channel was blocked off from the service. Roosendal wrote that he accepted the agreement, and the channel and its videos were eventually available for viewing again. The question still remains on why and how the channel was automatically flagged for monetisation to be enabled, but without the consent of the content owners.
In a statement to VentureBeat about the issue, YouTube representatives told the site that “videos on a limited number of sites have been blocked as we updated our partner agreements. We are working with MITOpenCourseWare and Blender Foundation to get their videos back online.”
YouTube’s new rules for channels
In a January 2018 update to the service, YouTube tightened restrictions and requirements over which channels can have their videos monetised. To apply for monetisation, channel owners needed to have at least 1,000 subscribers and at least 4,000 hours of total watch time on their videos. Channels that do not meet either of these criteria cannot have their content monetised. YouTube at the time said that this was necessary to “disqualify bad actors” in the service that did not meet the requirements to enable adverts on their videos.
It is possible that larger channels that meet this criteria may have their channel automatically approved for monetisation, and do not need to apply to YouTube support to enable it once they meet the criteria. The ability to display adverts on videos is always off by default, so it is likely that YouTube’s changes to their monetisation terms needed to be made before rolling out their new subscription services to more countries.