YouTube Creates Appeals Process & Includes Art Exception in Guidelines

After 37-year old video work from artist Susan Mogul was removed from YouTube, NCAC and the Electronic Frontier Foundation joined together in the following letter requesting once more that YouTube instate a viable appeals process and include an exception for nudity in art in its community guidelines. YouTube has agreed to both requests; you can read about its appeals process and check out its amended community guidelines.

July 27, 2010

Dear Ms. Levine,

We wrote to you a few months ago regarding YouTube’s removal of videos containing nudity by artist Amy Greenfield. Your quick response and the immediate restoration of the videos in recognition of their artistic content indicate YouTube’s commitment to free expression. However, the failure of YouTube to change its community guidelines so as to create a nudity exception for artistic expression, as well as institute an appeals process regarding wrongfully removed work, has led to the proliferation of the problem. Over the last few months, more videos with undisputed artistic merit have been removed from YouTube because they depict nudity. Ironically, among these is Music of the Body, one of the Amy Greenfield videos which prompted our original letter.

Ms. Greenfield received a notice on July 5, 2010, saying that her video violated YouTube’s Community Guidelines for its depiction of nudity. The video is a “darkly magical kaleidoscopic dance of the nude as video art” considered to be “Magical! Unforgettable!” by The New York Times. A video by L.A. artist Susan Mogul, which featured no sexually explicit material, was also recently removed for violating YouTube’s Community Guidelines. In the 1973 video, which was posted by L.A.’s Jancar Gallery, Ms. Mogul sits nude while discussing her frugal buying habits. A pioneer of the art-video medium, Ms. Mogul’s work has been featured at The Getty Museum, the Pompidou in Paris, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

YouTube’s guidelines, as they stand, would present a serious problem in the upcoming groundbreaking collaboration with The Guggenheim Museum, the creative video biennialYouTube Play. The project seeks “to discover works that are innovative, original, and surprising regardless of genre, technique or budget” and “not what’s now, but what’s next.” However, YouTube’s restrictions on a broad range of material would put very narrow and unreasonable constraints on what artists may submit to the biennial.

We urge you, once again, to add “art” to the community guideline exceptions “for educational, documentary and scientific content” where nudity is concerned. That will give YouTube staffers evaluating flagged videos clearer direction. We also urge you to instate a viable appeals process for users such as Susan Mogul and Amy Greenfield, whose work can easily be found to be of value to the YouTube community, but happens to be mistakenly removed. Though you have been so helpful and prompt in restoring Ms. Greenfield’s videos, we can agree that appealing to you on behalf of every similar incident would become cumbersome; an appeals process would be an effective solution.

In the meantime, we hope that Amy Greenfield’s Music of the Body and Susan Mogul’s video Dressing Up will be promptly restored to YouTube so that others may enjoy their film work.

YouTube offers an outstanding platform for communities all over the world to engage with artists, whose work they may otherwise never encounter. I hope you will consider our request in keeping with Google’s spirit of an open and accessible internet.

Best regards,
Svetlana Mintcheva