Kyoto Photos

Kyoto, Japan is one of the most photogenic cities I’ve visited. As the former capital city of Imperial Japan, it has a rich history; and with mountain ranges on three sides and a river bisecting the city, the scenery is also attractive.

Album 1: All Photos

I took nearly four hundred photos during two trips to the city, so I have I have divided the photos into different albums. If you want to see everything, click on the following photo or link.

Kyoto Cats sheltering from the rain outside a temple outside Higashi Hongan-ji

View Album: Kyoto; All Photos (394 photos)

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Intro Themes 17-24: Free Short Instrumentals for Intros, Outros and Credits

This video features the 17th to 24th songs in the Free Short Instrumental Themes series. The songs in the video range in length from 6.5 seconds to 34 seconds and are suitable for use in intros, credits, outros and very short videos. These tracks are mostly synthesizer-based compositions. For each song. two versions are available. For most of the songs, the second version is a little faster and is one semi-tone higher. The tracks are listed below:

  • Intro 17 (synth & beat) 0:34 & 0:32
  • Intro 18 (gentle & melodic) 0:10 & 0:09
  • Intro 19 (bubbly synth) 0:07.5 & 0:07
  • Intro 20 (aggressive: piano, guitar, war drums) 0:13 & 0:12
  • Intro 21a (perky synth & percussion) 0:08
  • Intro 21b (perky synth) 0:08
  • Intro 22 (techno attack) 0:09 & 0:08
  • Intro 23 (evolving sounds) 0:20 & 0:18
  • Intro 24 (synth & drums) 0:17 & 0:16
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Hokkaido Travel Diary: Photos, Video & Free Background Music 41

1. The Music

This video features the 41st song in the Free Background Music Series and is the second video in my Travel Diary series.

As with the other songs in the Background Music series, this instrumental work can be used for free in non-commercial projects and in YouTube monetized videos (that are otherwise non-commercial in nature) as long as credit is provided (‘music by longzijun’). For more information about the terms and conditions for using the music, you can refer to the detailed Terms of Use.

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YouTube: Reused Content and Monetization

Updated January 2021: During the past few months a lot of YouTube channels are have been demonetized recently do to something YouTube calls ‘duplication’ or (more recently) reused content. The main message to be taken from YouTube’s monetization review process is that in order for your channel to enjoy the benefits of monetization (which is a privilege not a right), you need to:

The issue of reused content (and duplication) is mainly related to this last point—whether you are creating enough content of your own.

1. Types of Reused Content

There are several kinds of reused content:

1.1 Reused content not involving copyright issues, but involving third-party content

The important thing to note is all of these cases, you would have the right to use content commercially. However, that right does not mean that YouTube has the the obligation to assist you in making money from those videos by allowing them to be monetized. YouTube states:

In most cases, even if you have licenses to use the content or your videos are protected by copyright laws, such as fair use, if the main purpose of your channel is to monetize other channels’ or sources’ content, then you won’t be eligible for YPP. You still need to be contributing to the value of that content in some way. Note: some of these videos may still be fine to remain up on YouTube! (Partner Program Reviews and Removals (including Duplication)

YouTube has stated that using third party content can be OK, but the key thing is what you do with it—specifically, what value you are adding to it. For example, there is some value in searching for the funniest videos involving falls. However merely finding them and stitching them together into one video would not be ENOUGH added value. You would simply not be bringing enough of your own content to the table.

Channels with the following characteristics may find it very difficult to have their channels approved for monetization:

1.1.1 Videos consisting solely or mainly of public domain work created by other people (e.g., public domain movie channels)

1.1.2 Uploads of copies (or minimally edited versions) of material previously published by other people under a Creative Commons license (this would apply to even the standard CC BY licence). For example, if you use a Creative Commons song from Incompetech (incompetech.com) or a song from YouTube’s music library (www.youtube.com/audiolibrary/) as a small part of a video about something else, it would be no problem. However, if your videos were merely that same song and a still picture, that would be considered duplication,

1.1.3 Videos over-reliant on things like stock photos and stock video (even though the channel owner may have licensed them for commercial use). Slideshow-style videos (a series of still images) are generally not monetizable even when commentary is provided.

1.1.4 Compilations of viewer submissions or compilations of videos used with permission.

1.1.5 Music promotion channels (e.g., channels based on sourcing songs online, getting permission to use them and then using them to create videos, usually with a photo and/or music visualizer for the visuals.). However, there is a recent case of a large music promotion channel—alexrainbirdMusic—getting demonetized for reused content. They mobilized their subscribers to fight for their monetization privileges to be reinstated and were successful. YouTube switched their monetization back on without any explanation. Other channels have not been so fortunate.

1.2 Reused content involving original content

The following may cause problems with monetization:

1.2.1 Different versions of the same video on the same channel (e.g., a ten-minute version and a twelve-minute version).

1.2.2 Many very similar videos on the same channel (e.g., Twenty slightly different videos of the same Finger Family song, a hundred videos of someone drinking water, etc.).

1.2.3 Videos that have been done to death already. A good example of that would be ‘learn color’ and ‘baby shark song’ animations. There are tens of thousands of these videos on YouTube already. They do get a lot of views, but children really need to learn more than what the videos are offering. Channels specializing in these kinds of videos are not getting monetized. The whole genre is now considered spammy. Another problem affecting these kinds of animated kids videos is that they are targeting toddlers while YouTube (and its advertisers) are targeting people 13 and over.

1.2.4 Videos that are simply too basic (e.g., if your videos are basically just text on a still image, the channel is very unlikely to get monetization approved). Slideshow-style videos (a series of still images) are generally not monetizable even when commentary is provided.

1.2.5 Videos generated automatically (e.g., using text-to-speech programmes to convert Wikipedia articles into the audio for a video or using a music visualizer to create the visuals).

1.2.6 Videos created using whiteboard-animation software.

1.2.7 Data visualization videos WITHOUT audio commentary what the data actually means.

1.3 Reused content involving copyright and trademark issues

These are more straightforward as the copyright issues mean the videos should not have been monetized in the first place as the uploader would not have the necessary commercial rights. In this list.

1.3.1 Channels that have copyright claims (the one exemption would be for cover version channels in which the performers supply their own background music)

1.3.2 Uploads of obviously copyright-infringing content that has not been claimed, including videos that attempt to evade YouTube’s Content ID system (e.g., mirroring and videos so that copyright infringement is more difficult to detect)

1.3.3 Mashup videos, DJ mix and music remix videos

1.3.4 Compilations without commentary (or with only minimal commentary) of other people’s videos (even if those videos have not been claimed by the copyright owners)

1.3.5 Gameplay video without commentary. According to YouTube’s policy on Video game and software content, “Videos simply showing a user playing a video game or the use of software for extended periods of time may not be accepted for monetization.” The issue here is for gameplay videos, the game developer typically owns the copyright to the footage, dialogue and sound effects. If you are just uploading straight-up gameplay, you don’t actually own the rights to ANYTHING in the video. If you are doing commentary, however, at least you would own the copyright to that one element of the video.

1.3.6 Reaction videos with minimal commentary

1.3.7 Narration of texts (e.g., stories, articles, news reports) written by other people (this would include an actual person narrating as well as the use of text-to-speech programs)

1.3.8 Live concert footage (and you are not the performer and/or do not own the copyright to the video)

1.3.9 Lyrics videos of other people’s songs (with or without the actual song in the video)

1.3.10 Fan-fiction or children’s videos featuring trademarked and/or copyrighted characters (e.g., Harry Potter, Thomas the Tank Engine).

1.3.11 AMVs

1.4 Possible other categories

Other channels have also reported having ‘re-used content’ issues. These include:

1.4.1 Audio podcasts. The issue is likely that the videos are mainly to be listened to (not watched), so if ads were placed on the video, they would go unnoticed by most viewers. I have heard of many audio podcast channels encountering problems with monetization. I have heard on one such demonetized channel—Southern Cannibal—getting monetization returned.

1.4.2 Channels with a lot of very long ambient content (e.g., a ten-hour fireplace video, an hour-long audio tone). These have the problem mentioned in 4.2 (focusing too much on the audio). In addition, the visuals often have the problem mentioned in 1.3 (an over-reliance on stock assets).

1.4.3 Channels aimed at toddlers. YouTube is intended for people aged 13 and above and the advertisements would reflect this demographic. If you are aiming for a really young audience, your content and YouTube’s advertisers may simply not be compatible. For this one, it seems that if you are aiming to monetize a channel aimed at little kids, you would need highly original, varied, creative and professional-looking content.

1.4.4 Narration of public domain works (e.g., audio books). There are two main issues. One would be that the videos are mainly to be listened to (not watched), so if ads were placed on the video, they would go unnoticed by most viewers. The other issue would be related to point 1.4 (an over-reliance on public domain work).

There may very well be other kinds of channels affected. I will update the list if I notice any more kinds of channels reporting duplication issues. Let me know if you think any other kinds of channels should be added.

1.5 Issues related to Community Guidelines and advertiser-friendly content

YouTube appears to be using ‘reused content’ as a kind of blanket reason for denying monetization, so it is possible the ‘reused content’ notification your receive is entirely unrelated.

1.5.1 Community Guidelines violations.  As mentioned at the beginning of the article, one of the purposes of the review is to check to see if the channel is complying with YouTube’s Terms of Service and Community Guidelines. If a channel is breaking any of YouTube’s many rules (there are a LOT of them ranging from putting tags in the description to requiring people to subscribe to your channel in order to enter a giveaway to showing people how to modify ammunition), that channel  is unlikely to pass the monetization review process. I have a list of possible violations in my article on YouTube suspensions: Was Your YouTube Channel Suspended for No Reason? (A Guide to Community Guidelines-related Suspensions)

1.5.2 Non-advertiser friendly content. If YouTube decides the content is not advertiser friendly, the channel may be denied monetization for ‘reused content’.  Here are YouTube’s advertiser friendly guidelines: support.google.com/youtube/answer/6162278

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2. What about other channels that have the same content but are monetized?

If you are comparing your channel to other channels that seem similar, there are four main things to consider here:

2.1 Starting in November 2020, YouTube has been placing ads on channels that are not monetized. Therefore, if you see ads on a video, that no longer means that the channel is monetized and that the channel owner is earning revenue.

You grant to YouTube the right to monetize your Content on the Service (and such monetization may include displaying ads on or within Content or charging users a fee for access). This Agreement does not entitle you to any payments. Starting November 18, 2020, any payments you may be entitled to receive from YouTube under any other agreement between you and YouTube (including for example payments ​under the YouTube Partner Program, Channel memberships or Super Chat) will be treated as royalties.  If required by law, Google will withhold taxes from such payments.

https://support.google.com/youtube/thread/83733719

2.2 When the new monetization policies were implemented in 2018, older channels that already met the minimum criteria for subscribers (1,000 subscribers) and watch hours (4,000 hours in the previous 12 months) were grandfathered into the new YouTube Partner Program scheme WITHOUT a review. These older channels are slowly getting reviewed, and if they are not in line with the current monetization policies, are getting demonetized. There are many such ‘old channels’ that still enjoying monetization privileges because they still are awaiting review.

2.3 Sometimes YouTube monetization reviewers make mistakes and approve monetization for channels that should be ‘unmonetizable’. Similarly, I have already mentioned a couple of larger channels in this article that appear to have been given preferential treatment. If you have a lot of reused content on your channel, you can apply for monetization hoping for a mistake or preferential treatment, but the chances of the channel actually passing the review are close to zero.

2.4 Quality is also a consideration. I have noticed a lot of top-ten style channels having their monetization applications fail. They are quite similar to the channel WatchMojo in that they have relatively shallow commentary going on throughout the video. The main difference was that the production quality of the videos on those ‘rejected’ channels was not as good as Watchmojo’s. If your channel falls into the ‘maybe monetizable’ category (e.g., reaction videos or top ten lists) and your monetization applications are getting rejected, you can think about if you can improve your videos with:

  • better production quality (e.g., sound, cinematography, lighting, editing, transitions, etc.)
  • more original content (e.g., a more detailed and more original analysis of the ten things in a top ten video)
  • less reliance on reused content
  • more detailed descriptions (in order to give the reviewer more context to work with).

To sum up, you should really only worry about making your own channel as ‘monetizable’ as possible and not focus on comparing it to other channels.

3. What you can do

According to an official YouTube post (Partner Program Reviews and Removals (including Duplication),  you can do the following to improve your chances of getting monetization:

  • Add commentary or show your presence in your videos (voice or on screen)
  • Link back to your YouTube channel from your website
  • Provide more context about your work in your video and channel descriptions
  • Make sure the content on your channel aligns with [YouTube’s] policies. You can review: Community Guidelines, AdSense Policies, and YouTube Partner Program policies.

Here are my suggestions:

3.1 Beef up the video descriptions

The problem that is easiest to fix is when the channel is in line with everything that YouTube is looking for but the video descriptions don’t contain information about the actual production. For example, who shot the video? When? What model of camera was used? Where is the music from? What rights do you have for the music? Who are the other people in the video? If there is any third party content, where is that from and what rights do you have to it? If this information is in the description, the YouTube reviewer than can get a much better idea of what you have created, and what you own, what you have exclusive rights to and what you have some rights to.

3.2 Mobilize your supporters

I know of three channels—Southern Cannibal (audio podcasts of user horror story  submissions), alexrainbirdMusic (user music submissions) and VJ4rawr2 (movie parodies) that launched viewer campaigns to get their channels reinstated—and were successful, while smaller channels with similar kinds of videos remained demonetized. Importantly, in all three cases, the monetization was switched on without any kind of notice coming from YouTube. In the latter two cases (I don’t know about the first one), the channel owners did not have to wait for the 30-day monetization re-application period. Monetization was simply switched back on.  This seems to indicate that some YouTube staff members have the power to help channels out at their own discretion.

3.3 Rethink the content and rebuild the channel

For many channels, the content simply isn’t going to be monetizable because of issues with the content of the video. If you have a channel like that, you need to change the format or accept that the channel is not going to be monetized. For specific kinds of channels, here is some advice:

4.3.1 Fair-use-style channels: You can minimize the use of clips and provide in-depth analysis throughout the videos. Good examples of fair-use-style channels are Vox, Nerdwriter and Wisecrack. it is important to accept that monetizing a video weakens any fair use claim, so there is no guarantee that your fair-use-style videos will be approved.

4. 3.2 Music promotion channels: You can choose to (1) do it for fun and not get monetized, (2) actually become a record label and sign artists, (3) really work on the videos (e.g., invite the artists in for recording sessions like the channel Paste NYC or Wood & Wires or 4.  Do music reviews in which only short snippets of songs are used.

4.3.3 Kids channels: It might be better to use adult actors, be sure to include a lot of variety and make the content educational. You can consider shows like Sesame Street, Barney, Blues Clues or the Wiggles as example of children’s programming. To be monetizable, a kids channel would have to be very professional and original.

Obviously, if there are videos that are causing problems, you will need to get rid of them if you want to get the channel monetized. However, you cannot just delete everything, upload a new video and get monetization approved. You will need to establish a strong track record with the new videos (in terms of number of videos uploaded, the watch hours for those videos the and subscribers gained from those videos). Also bear in mind that if you delete videos, the watch hours of those videos will still show up in analytics and you will still be able to apply for a review, but it is the watch hours of the non-deleted videos that will be examined during the monetization review. Similarly if almost all of your subscribers came from your deleted content, you will need to establish that your new content is also attracting subscribers.

4.4 Start another channel

In a lot of a cases I have seen, channels with a lot of views and subscribers would basically have to delete everything and start from scratch. There is no guarantee that if you delete everything and reload new content that your new content will be successful. You may simply end up sacrificing your popular videos for nothing. It might make more sense to leave that successful channel alone and start a new one. Who knows? Perhaps in future, YouTube will relax its monetization rules and the old channel will be monetizable again.

4.5 Simply forget about monetization

That is one option. You can either forget about money entirely and just work on videos for fun or you can look for sponsors and try to take advantage of crowdfunding (e.g., Patreon).


~ by longzijun

writing

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Free Background Music 38: Somewhere Deep in the Sea by Jessica Yip

Here is the latest addition to the Free Background Music Series. This beautiful piano instrumental is composed and and performed by Jessica Yip. This is a beautiful piano instrumental is a gentle piano song that is suitable for use as a soundtrack for touching, tranquil or nostalgic scenes. As the title suggests, the scene she had in mind when composing the song was a setting deep underwater.

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Free Background Music Series 37: Holly’s Theme

Holly’s Theme, the 37th song in the Free Background Music series, is a piano instrumental. The video for this song features dancers from Georgia (the country), Japan, the US and the Czech Republic. I composed this song as part of the soundtrack for a short film my students were working on (Holly is the name of one of the characters). Kate Kwok performed the music and was responsible for much of the arrangement. There is also a bonus track at the end—a one-minute orchestral version of the slow part of the song. This shorter work is the 17th song in the Free Short Instrumentals series. 

Duration: 2:47

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Free Background Music 36: Buoyant

Buoyant is the 36th song in Free Background Music series. It is a relatively upbeat song that is built around the idea of contrast. For example, sparse textures are set against very busy parts with multiple melodic lines vying for attention.

This video is a collaboration with Juliana Payson, who supplied the original video footage of her swimming, dancing underwater, experimenting with synchronized swimming skills and doing other kinds of workout routines.

Duration: 4:20
Tempo: 120 bpm

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Was Your YouTube Channel Suspended for No Reason? (A Guide to Community Guidelines-related Suspensions)

Update 24 May 2022: YouTube has become much more politicized during the last two years, so people are seeing a lot of channel suspensions for things like ‘medical disinformation’ or for being ‘Russian-affiliated media’. The medical disinformation suspension can even apply to channels that are debunking COVID-19 related disinformation (but that include that wrong information in their debunking videos). Therefore, if you are doing pandemic-related videos, you need to be extra careful. Recently, YouTube has also been taking down videos that contain personal information. This has even affected channels where people uploaded completely innocent things like audition videos. Channels suspended for that have been given the ‘hate speech or harassment’ notification.

Update 20 November 2020: There seem to be a larger number of channels getting suspended (i.e., terminated) these past few weeks. Quite a few channels are getting terminated for ‘hate speech or harassment’ and well as for ‘spam’. Terminations for ‘hate speech’ used to be very rare, so the current increase in suspensions is unusual. I am not sure what is going on here as there has been no official changes in policy, but it seems that YouTube is cracking down on commenting.


Two of the most common questions on YouTube’s help forum are

  • Why did my channel gets suspended for Community Guidelines or Terms of Use violations?
  • How do I get it back?

The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of some of the more common situations that lead to YouTube channel suspensions and terminations, especially those that come as a surprise. Suspensions are not done for ‘no reason’, basically there are three reasons

  • There really was something wrong.
  • There was a misunderstanding and the suspension was incorrect (e.g., YouTube reviewers mistook a list of supplies in the video description for a list of tags).
  • The videos (or other channel content) are in a grey area where a judgement call needed to be made (e.g., Is a thumbnail sexy or obscene? Is this really harassment?) and that decision, rightly or wrongly, went against you.

1. Suspension Basics

This is information about channel suspensions in general.

1.1 Duration of the suspension

Unless YouTube notifies you that the channel will come go back online within a specific period (e.g,. after three months), the suspension is permanent (so it is a ‘termination’ really).

1.2 Effects on other YouTube channels

Not only is that channel terminated, but all other channels associated with a particular user are also permanently suspended. This is one common reason for a channel suspension—once you have one channel suspended any other channel or account you have (or open after) that will be terminated once YouTube establishes that both channels or accounts are owned by the same user. These other accounts may be terminated immediately, after a short time, after long time or (if they are never linked together by YouTube) never. The main point would be that if you have more than one channel, when one channel gets terminated, all the other channels turn into unexploded bombs.  At any moment they could go off.

1.3 Types of Suspension

There are two different kinds of account suspension:

  • Community Guidelines Strikes, Terms of Service Violations and Other Issues (e.g., trademarks, privacy)
  • Repeated Copyright Violations

The rules for these are very different and you need to take different actions in order to recover your channel (for suspensions related to copyright infringement, you would need to get the number of copyright strikes down to less than three, either by contesting the claim and strike via a DMCA counter-notification or by having the claimant retract the claim). This article focus on the first kind of suspension; I will discuss copyright-related violations in another article.

1.4 Private vs Public Videos

It doesn’t matter whether your videos were public, unlisted or private. The same guidelines and restrictions apply.

1.5 Community Guidelines & Terms of Service: Strike System

Unlike copyright-related suspensions, which strictly follow a three strike system, suspensions related to Community Guidelines and Terms of Service violations can occur after three strikes or can be given without warning after a single violation.

Update March 2019: YouTube has revamped its system of Community Guidelines suspensions. These new guidelines came into effect on 25 February 2019. There are two main differences:

  • There is now supposed to be a warning before the first strike is given (However, this is not always true in practice).
  • There are increased restrictions placed on the channel as strikes accumulate.
  • More information is given to the channel owner about the actual alleged violation.

These should be welcome changes. However, channels can still be suspended after a single violation (e.g., for very serious violations) and this is not made clear in the changes.

This video, from YouTube addresses some of the commonly asked question about the new system:

2.  Appealing a Channel Suspension

There are several ways to appeal suspensions related to to community guidelines or terms of services violations.

2.1 Use the Appeal Form

The normal approach is to submit an online appeal: support.google.com/youtube/answer/2802168 (click on the word ‘form’).

The appeal usually takes a few days, but you should receive a response within a week. It can take up to a month in some cases. If the suspension occurred during or after a holiday, the waiting time can be longer.

If the appeal fails, you will get a boilerplate reply. Of course, that is not good news, but you can try appealing again. You will have a much better chance of winning an appeal if you can directly address the problem you are suspected of having. Unfortunately, the notifications either sent to your email or posted on your channel page are usually very vague and could relate to any number of possible suspected problems. That can make it very difficult to guess what you are alleged to have done.

Contrary to what many people believe the decision to suspend a channel for community guidelines violations or terms of use violations is not automated. At some point, YouTube staff approved of the decision to suspend the channel. Therefore, if a channel is suspended, there is either a reason for it or there has been a misunderstanding. If there really was a problem, the appeal will unlikely succeed unless you can persuade YouTube that the problem wasn’t serious enough to warrant a termination. If there was a misunderstanding, if you can figure out what may have caused the misunderstanding and explain that, the appeal will likely be successful. This article also covers possible areas in which misunderstandings may have occurred.

2.2 Backdoor Methods

These methods are additional ways to get your case heard.

  • Several YouTubers have stated that they have gotten their channels reinstated because of interventions on their behalf from YouTube Trusted Flaggers on Reddit or Twitter. These include the Reddit/Twitter users known as TrustedFlagger Ben (now inactive), @Contributors_YT (now inactive) and LightCodeGaming. These people generally prefer to remain anonymous, but seem to have some influence over video strikes and channel terminations. The influencers I mentioned never actually explain how they can affect the review process and it is unknown how much influence they have, but many of them are quite happy to take credit for getting people’s channels restored. It seems they will become inactive after becoming well-known, so I suspect that whatever they are doing is not approved by YouTube. Still, if such backdoor methods exist, you can try to take advantage of them.
  • On the YouTube help forum, Andrew S. specializes in helping people deal with account terminations. He has helped several people get their channels restored. When posting on the forum mention ‘channel suspension’ and Andrew S. in the title.
  • You can try reaching out to YouTube via social media. For example, one YouTuber has claimed she was only able to get her channel reinstated by bringing her suspension up on YouTube’s Twitter account in India. More recently, the TeamYouTube account on Twitter has been quite active in dealing with these kinds of backdoor appeals.
  • If you are partnered with an MCN (multi-channel network), they may be able to contact YouTube on your behalf. As far as I know, however, MCNs won’t provide much assistance unless they consider your channel to be important.
  • If you are partnered with YouTube itself, you can try contacting partner support: support.google.com/youtube/answer/3545535. This would probably only be possible if you have already established a relation with partner support (n which case you could reply to the last email you received from them).

2.3 Scams

If someone asks for your log-in information (or other personal details) or asks you to pay a fee for help in getting your channel reinstated, that would be a scam.

3. The Most Common Reasons for Channel Suspensions

Aside from copyright infringement, channel suspensions mainly involve five areas:

  1. Going too far in attempts to attract views. This is generally related to the metadata (e.g., titles, descriptions, tags, comments, links and thumbnails).
  2. Going too far in attempts to influence metrics such as subscriptions, views, comments and likes. This often involves contests and promotions.
  3. Going too far in attempts to profit from the videos. This is often related to things like unrelated affiliate links, requests for money, trying to sign up YouTube viewers and pyramid schemes)
  4. Encouraging people to violate YouTube’s terms of service (e.g. linking to a YouTube downloader) or the terms of service of other social media platforms (e.g., demonstrating how to hack a Facebook account), software companies (e.g., providing links to cracked versions) or game publishers (e.g., posting videos showing game cheats or exploits) or to commit a crime, terrorist act or dangerous activity.
  5. Going into areas that YouTube wants to keep its site free from (e.g., pornography, fetishism, harrassment, hate speech, pedophila, etc.).

The first three areas are where most problems seem to occur. This is because YouTube encourages uploaders to make their videos search-engine friendly, build up a strong subscriber base and make money via their YouTube videos. When suspensions occur, it is often just a matter of the YouTuber going too far.

4. The Spam, Scams, Misleading Content Suspension

This particular suspension encompasses a lot of possible areas that are discussed at different points in the article. Such a suspension could be related to anything under points 6. 7, 8, 9, 11, 16. 18 and 20 as well as many of the issues under point 10,

5. Your Content

One common misunderstanding is that suspensions are only related to the actual video. However, suspensions may be related to:

  • The video content
  • Metadata (titles, tags, video descriptions)
  • Comments and messages
  • Playlists
  • Video features like captions, annotations and cards
  • Channel descriptions, channel art and profile pictures

The majority of suspensions would be for inappropriate video content or problems with the metadata. Suspensions related to other kinds of content, though not as common, still do occur

You may be wondering how a channel with only a playlist and no videos may have problems. Let’s look at one possible example. If someone assembles a playlist of young girls doing stretching exercises and names it “nubile cuties in leotards”, it is a kind of fetishistic content and can lead to a channel suspension even though the playlist itself is comprised of videos that are uploaded by other people and are perfectly in line with the community guidelines.

6. Attracting Views: Issues with the Metadata (Title, Tags, Descriptions)

YouTube is the 2nd most popular search engine and is owned by Google, which runs the most popular one. Therefore, YouTube is very aggressive in dealing with attempts to unfairly manipulate search results. Most of the problems in this area are referred to by YouTube as ‘spam’ or “deceptive practices” and fall under this policy: support.google.com/youtube/answer/2801973

6.1 Misleading titles

If the video doesn’t contain what the title says it should, that will cause problems. For example, if a video is entitled ‘five steps to happiness’ and it only contains someone saying “to find out the five steps to happiness, visit my website”, that would be considered a misleading title.

6.2 Click-bait titles

Some YouTubers find themselves in a Catch 22 when they use click-bait titles like ‘Free Cracked Gears of War’ or ‘Leaked Sex Tape of Hollywood Star’ . If the video has what the title suggests, it will likely be a community guidelines violation (due to inappropriate content). If the video doesn’t have that and the title is “just a joke”, that is a community guidelines violation, too (because of the misleading metadata.

6.3 Parodies, pranks and joke titles: Titles and description

If you are doing a parody, it should be labeled as such in the title. Similarly if you are doing a kind of prank ‘advice’ video, there should be an indication somewhere in the description or video itself. Channel owners who use joke title often find themselves in a Catch-22 situation. If they post a video with the title ‘My Sex Tape’, for example, if the video is not an actual sex tape, that would result in a channel termination (for misleading metadata) and if the video is a sex tape, that would result in a channel termination (for sexual content). The would be no way to successfully appeal.

6.4. Unrelated or only marginally related tags (new policy: this should no longer lead to suspensions)

The tags should represent what the video is about. Having unrelated tags can result in a strike or channel take down. A more common problem occurs with people using tags that are only tangentially related to the video. If you include ‘Jennifer Lopez’ as a tag, she should be one of the main points of focus of your video, not just someone who was briefly mentioned in one sentence.It doesn’t matter if tags are related to others videos on your channel. Tags should refer only to what is in that specific video. A good rule of thumb is: if someone searching for that tag word or phrase will NOT consider your video to be what they are looking for, the tag is likely inappropriate.

Update: On 15 February 2017, YouTube initiated a new policy at the video level. Now videos with unrelated tags, will be set automatically to private and channel owners will have the opportunity to edit their tags and then appeal to have the videos made public again (without a loss of views). Only one appeal is allowed. If that is unsuccessful, channel owners would have to reupload the video to a new URL. No strikes will be given. Although channel suspensions were not mentioned, it would appear that the use of misleading tags will no longer result in such suspensions. However, this has not been confirmed by YouTube.

6.5 Tags in the description

Stuffing a description with list of tags is simply not allowed.

6.6 Lists in the description: Possible misunderstanding

There is nothing inherently wrong with lists, but sometimes lists of things—e.g., songs in a medley, art supplies needed to create a project—are mistaken for tags; therefore, it is better to avoid long lists. If you think this sort of misunderstanding may have caused a community guidelines strike, you can explain the situation in your appeal.

6.7 Irrelevant descriptions

The description should be related to the video content, channel and/or the production of the video (including information about the participants).

6.8 Same description in multiple videos: Possible misunderstanding

As the video description should describe the video, having the same description in multiple videos can lead YouTube to conclude that you are spammily uploading near identical videos. This sometimes happens when people use the same description for a long series of videos in order to save time.

6.9 No or minimal description: Possible misunderstanding

One of the purposes of the description is to put your video in context–to tell someone reviewing your video what it is about. If the description field is left empty, someone reviewing your video doesn’t have that context. For example, a video of you trying on shoes as part of a haul video could be be reported as a foot fetish video. When the YouTube reviewers take a look, and there is nothing in the description to provide any context, they may decide the report is correct and take the video down.

6.10 Overly-sensational title, descriptions or tags

This problem can occur if you are trying too hard to attract views. For example, if you make an educational video about breastfeeding and include things like “hot moms”, “sexy” and “big t***” in the description and tags, you are clearly presenting the video as a kind of fetish video and not at all as an educational video. As previously mentioned, one purpose of the metadata is to put the video into context for anyone reviewing.

6.11 Unrelated links in the description

Links are fine, provided they relate in some way to the video (and are not referral links or affiliate links).

7. Attracting Views: Thumbnails

There are two common problems (these fall under YouTube’s policy on spam and deceptive content: support.google.com/youtube/answer/2801973

7.1 Unrelated thumbnails

If you are using misleading thumbnails as a kind of clickbait, that can be a violation as it would be viewed as an attempt to unfairly gain views.

7.2 Overly provocative thumbnails

The thumbnail should not only represent what is in the video, but should steer clear of nudity, fetishism and overly sexually provocative thumbnails. I came across a case recently in which the YouTuber had uploaded videos of females interacting with animals but had titled them and used thumbnails in such a way as to suggest the videos were really about bestiality. Clearly that would not be acceptable.

Also, together with titles and descriptions, thumbnails are another way in which you are telling viewers (and in the case of channel suspensions, YouTube reviewers) how they should interpret your video. Therefore, if your video contains sex or violence and you choose the sexiest or most violent shot to represent your video, you are in essence telling the viewer/reviewer what to expect and what your video is about. Therefore, if you video gets flagged for violence or nudity, an overly provocative thumbnail will harm your chances of getting a favorable decision.

8. Invalid Attempts to Influence Metrics

This would refer to schemes to boost thing like views, likes, comments and subscriptions. YouTube wants these metrics to reflect the viewer’s true wants. For example, YouTube wants people to subscribe to your channel because they are interested enough in your content to do so, and so that they can enter a giveaway

8.1 Giveaways and contests

If you force people to subscribe or comment on a video in order to be eligible to win, that would go against the guidelines on contests. A lot of channels do this, but that does not mean it is OK. Similarly, if it is found that you don’t follow any of the other guidelines on YouTube’s Policy on Contests (support.google.com/youtube/answer/1620498), that can also lead to suspensions.

8.2 Buying views, clicks or subscribers

It is against YouTube’s policy for channel owners to buy views (support.google.com/youtube/answer/3470104). This generally doesn’t lead to channel suspensions because it is next to impossible to prove. Usually, the only consequence are that bought views are rolled off, paid subscribers are cut away and monetization privileges are suspended. However, buying views, ad clicks or subscribers may still possibly lead to channel terminations.

8.3 Using viewbots, uploading bots or clickbots

The use of bots against YouTube’s terms of service. Of course, almost all third-party view providers will claim that they use real humans and not bots. However, if you use these services you are placing your trust in people running an unethical enterprise as well as they people they have contracted out to actually view the videos.

9. Money-related Issues

A lot of people look at the top YouTubers, who are able to bring in millions of dollars in every year, and want to use YouTube as major income stream. There is nothing wrong with that, but earning anything substantial from a YouTube channel is actually very rare, so sometimes people try too hard to squeeze whatever they can from their channels. This can lead to the following problems:

9.1 Affiliate links, referral links and ad.fly links in the description

Affiliate links are a grey area and Youtube has no clear official policy. According to YouTube’s terms of service, advertisements, which affiliate links are, are not allowed in YouTube content without permission. However, the general consensus is that one or two links are acceptable if:

  • They are directly related to the content of the video. For example, if you are reviewing a book, an affiliate link to the Amazon page for that book would be “related”. An affiliate link to the Amazon page for the shirt you were wearing in the video or the camera you shot the video with would not.
  • They are identified as affiliate links.
  • They are not shortened.
  • They are not at the very beginning of the description.
  • Adfly links and other kinds of commercial links are not used.

YouTube doesn’t like it if you are profiting by sending people off its site (which is why ad.fly links are frowned upon). If it feels the main reason for your video to exist is to earn money off of the links, your video may be taken down. For this reason, it is better not to start your description with an affiliate link (even if it is related) as it is sending a message to YouTube that this is the main thing you want people to see.

9.2 Links to non-approved fan funding and merchandise sites in the description (or video)

The list of approved sites, such as Patreon, is here: support.google.com/youtube/answer/6083754
If you request funding through some other means (e.g., via a bitcoin account), that can pose problems.

9.3 Cash for call-outs

Don’t ask people to send you money in exchange for a callout in a video. You are free to give call-outs to people who donate to your channel, but you are not allowed to state: give me a dollar and I will give your channel a call-out.

9.4 Videos that serve only as ads

Advertising is permitted on YouTube, but there should be some entertainment or informational value to the ad.

9.5 Videos that promote pyramid schemes and other kinds of scams

You should steer clear of any kind of scammy financial scheme as a video subject.

9.6 Links that send viewers to a sign-up or registration page

If you send viewers to your website, that is fine, but if the first thing the viewer sees is a pop-up window requesting them to sign up and leave their personal information, that may be construed as using YouTube as a means to harvest its users’ personal information.

9.7 Monetization without commercial rights

If you habitually monetize videos you don’t have the right to monetize, this can lead to a suspension of monetization abilities. Usually that is all that will happen, but there is the potential for a channel takedown of YouTube feels you are habitually abusing its monetization policies. Recently I have noticed several takedowns affecting channels with no obvious problems by all with the same profile: recent rapid growth, a large number of copyright infringing videos being uploaded and monetization of these videos.

9.8 Ad campaigns on your own monetized videos

This is kind of like paying YouTube to pay you. If you are going to run a campaign through YouTube to promote your videos, you should demonetize them first.

10. Encouragement to Violate YouTube’s Terms of Service, Violate the Terms of Service of Other Companies, Commit Crimes or Perform Dangerous Acts

10.1 YouTube Downloader links (or encouragement to use a downloader)

It is against YouTube’s terms of service to download videos without authorization. Therefore inviting viewers to download your video from YouTube (in the description, comments or video itself) via a third-party service would be encouraging viewers to violate YouTube’s terms of service. This falls under the policy on encouraging terms of service violations: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/2801981

10.2 Videos showing and links leading to software or game cracks, hacks, mods, cheats or exploits

YouTube does not want its services used to undermine other products. Videos involving cracks, cheats and hacks are never a good idea. Whether a video with mods is OK mainly depends on the policy of the game or software developer.

10.3 Hacking videos

YouTube is especially sensitive to hacking videos. Some people will argue that by posting the videos, they can help a company eliminate vulnerabilities. This is a disingenuous excuse. The best way to do that would be to reach out to the company directly and not disseminate hacking techniques on a worldwide video platform. Similarly, if you are showing people how to protect themselves from being hacked, is it really necessary to show in detail how to do the hack in the first place?

Hacking would generally fall under YouTube’s policy on circumvention of technological measures:support.google.com/youtube/answer/6156383

10.4 Hacking: possible misunderstanding

The word ‘hack’ alone simply being enough to raise a red flag even when used innocuously (e.g., top 10 life hacks) or in an educational context (How to keep your Facebook account safe from hacks). If you had the word ‘hack’ in your title or description in such contexts, you can explain your innocent use of the word in your appeal.

10.5 Dangerous activities: Challenge videos

People like watching dangerous things. In the past, however, TV shows and videos tended to include disclaimers like “These stunts were performed by trained professions. Do not try this at home.“ However, since the ice-bucket challenge proved popular, a lot of things that carry some minor risk are now being presented as a “Yeah, try this at home!” challenge The problem comes with challenge videos that by their nature encourage viewers (some of whom are young children) to do similar stunts. Some things look harmless, but have the potential to do harm, especially if done by young children. These include:

  • Cinnamon challenge (choking, asphyxiation, inflammation and scarring of the lungs)
  • Duct tape challenge could lead to suffocation if done by really young kids, could lead to head injuries if the ‘victim’ falls over (as they have no means to protect themselves from the falls)
  • Fire challenge (burns, obviously)
  • Alcohol challenge (alcohol poisoning)
  • Condom challenge (choking)
  • Cold water challenge (hypothermia and drowning)

Challenge videos are fall under YouTube’s policy on harmful or dangerous content (support.google.com/youtube/answer/2801964), though these guidelines do not specifically mention challenge videos.

10.6 Illegal activities and drug use

If you make a bomb-making video, don’t be surprised if it gets pulled. If you are teaching people how to make meth, that would also not be wise,Of course a lot of things are in a grey area. What about smoking marijuana and getting high on screen? Marijuana is legal in some places but not in others. How would that be handled? Is your video promoting illegal drug use or is simply educating people about the effects of a drug? Or what if the whole thing is an act and you aren’t really high at all? What if is just part of a short drama in which one of the characters gets high?

In any case, if you are shown to be getting high in your video, you may be forcing YouTube to make a judgement call. Scenes of drug use would be more acceptable in dramatic and educational contexts.

10.7 Links to inappropriate sites (e.g., pornography)

If you were to link to a pornography site, that could cause problems

10.8 Links to sites selling federally-regulated goods

It is advisable not to link to things like firearms retailers or websites selling pharmaceuticals, tobaccos or alcohol. Don’t link to sites selling cannabis and/or related paraphernalia.

10.9 Counterfeit and knock-off products

You should not promote counterfeit products. Even videos in which you are educating people about the differences between an authentic product and a counterfeit are risky as the trademark/patent owner of the existing product may not want a worldwide audience being informed that counterfeits of its products are available. The policy regarding counterfeits is here: support.google.com/youtube/answer/6154227

10.10 Dupes and alternative products: Possible misunderstanding

Another problem arises with YouTubers who make videos about legitimate products that can act as cheaper alternative to more expensive products. The problem occurs when the YouTubers themselves use ambiguous language (e.g., Dupes, which is a word derived from duplicate) or incorrect words (e.g., Knock-off, which implies a kind of patent infringement) to describe the products in their video. If you are presenting a cheaper alternative, just call it that.

10.11 Terrorism

Videos supporting and/or inciting terrorism are not allowed. This is covered in the policy on dangerous or graphic content (https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/2802008)

10.12 Firearms and ammunition (certain restrictions apply

YouTube policies regarding firearms and ammunition are here. You are not allowed to upload videos showing things like how to modify and/or manufacture firearms, ammunition or peripheral equipment. You can’t link to sites selling firearms, ammunition or peripheral equipment. The policy page is here: Policies on content featuring firearms

11. Large Amounts of Repetitive, Unsolicited, Untargeted Content

YouTube refers to this as spam and it is under the policy on spam, deceptive practices, and scams (support.google.com/youtube/answer/2801973)

One thing this policy would definitely refer to is copy-pasting comments and shamelessly promoting one’s own channel in comments sections, but this is usually dealt with by issuing a commenting ban.

Some channels simply upload things like photos of a product and an automated voice reading from a promotional brochure. Such a video would not offer any kind of value whatsoever and a channel full of them could be suspended.

Uploading different language versions of the same video would not be a problem. Uploading exactly the same video on another account would also not be a problem. Uploading the exact same video in several accounts, however, could be interpreted as spam.

12. Sexual Content, Nudity and Predatory Behaviour

YouTube’s Guidelines on Nudity and Sexual Content: support.google.com/youtube/answer/2802002

Three is a lot of misunderstanding about this. Of course, being a family-oriented site, YouTube does not allow porn. When reviewing videos flagged for nudity or sexual content YouTube is not only looking at how explicit the video is, but it is also considering the purpose. As the guidelines state: “If a video is intended to be sexually provocative, it is less likely to be acceptable for YouTube.”

There are allowances for nudity and sexual material for artistic and educational purposes, but simply slapping an artistic or educational label on something doesn’t make it so.

12.1 Pornography

Obviously, it is not allowed.

12.2 Nudity

It is allowed to a certain extent depending on the purpose, though the video may be age restricted. For example, it may be allowed for educational or artistic purposes, but if the main reason for the video is sexually provocative for the sake of being sexually provocative, it may be removed and the channel associated with it punished

12.3 Fetish videos

A lot of people have turned to YouTube to explore their own fetishes or to earn money by exploiting the fetishes of others. Fetishes range from foot fetishes to emetophilia (sexual arousement via vomiting) to breastfeeding to beastiality. If the main purpose of the video appears to be to turn people on (sexually), it may violate the community guidelines related to sexual content though no nudity or sexual activity is shown. Some fetish videos are, such as foot fetish videos are not graphic at all, but would still be considered inappropriate.

12.4 Inadvertent fetish videos

These are videos that start off innocently enough, but attract a fetishistic audience. This becomes apparent in the content. For example, a guy may start of doing workout videos wearing only a pair of tight shorts in order to better show off his body. However, if the comments start becoming lewd (e.g. I love your package) and suggestive (e.g., “”Can you wear wet white cotton briefs next time?”), it can turn the video into a fetish video. The channel owner would have a choice: try to cool things off by disabling comments and wearing less provocative clothes or leave things be and and risk losing the channel.

12.5 Sexualization of minors

Children and young teens should not be presented in a sexually suggestive context. This would fall under YouTube’s policy on child endangerment (support.google.com/youtube/answer/2801999)

12.6 Inadvertent sexualization of minors

Similar to the above, a young teen running a channel may begin to pander to suggestive comments and requests not knowing they are sexual or fetishistic in nature and inadvertently create content that appeals to pedophiles.

12.7 Fetishistic playlists and playlists that sexualize minors

As mentioned earlier, it is possible for a channel to suspended based solely on playlists. If a girl uploads a video of her doing gymnastics in a leotard, that is just a gymnastics video.If someone comes along and then makes a playlist of such videos entitled “young girls stretching in leotards”, that is a lot creepier and a lot less innocent.

12.8 Predatory behaviour

This refers to adults trying to strike up relationships with minors online. This would be done via comments or messages. This would fall under YouTube’s policy on child endangerment (support.google.com/youtube/answer/2801999)

13. Violent or Graphic Content

YouTube’s Policy on Violent or Graphic Content: support.google.com/youtube/answer/2802008

This only rarely results in channel suspensions. YouTube has a high tolerance for violence provided there is some kind of context (e.g., you are reporting on people being attacked during a riot), though it is likely violent and graphic videos will be age-restricted and made ineligible for monetization. If the main purpose of the video however, is to shock people that could cause problems unless your video was clearly fictional

14. Hate Speech

YouTube’s Policy on Hate Speech: support.google.com/youtube/answer/2801939

It is actually quite difficult to get a channel suspension for this (Edit 2022: This has changed. Hate speech terminations are now much more common). You have to be actively promoting violence against or hatred for a specific group based on their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, sexual orientation/gender identity.

YouTube’s policy regarding hate speech lies somewhere between the American legal system’s anything-goes free speech laws and the hate speech laws of countries like England. Thus, some American find YouTube too controlling while people in other countries may be surprised at what is allowed.

15. Harassment

YouTube’s Policy on Harassment: support.google.com/youtube/answer/2802268

YouTube is notorious for rude and ill-informed commenting. To a large extent this is allowed. There is a policy intended to protect users from harassment, but the action needs to be quite obvious and serious. If you upload a video of yourself, to a certain extent, you are pushing yourself into the public sphere and are open to the same kind of abusive comments that celebrities get. According you YouTube’s policy harassment MAY include:

  • Revealing someone’s personal information, such as their address, private email addresses, private phone numbers, passport number, or bank account information (Note: This does not include posting widely available public information, such as a public official’s office phone number)
  • Content that is deliberately posted in order to humiliate someone
  • Content that makes hurtful and negative personal comments/videos about another person
  • Content that incites others to harass or threaten individuals on or off YouTube
  • Content featuring non-consensual sex acts or unwanted sexualization
  • Content threatening specific individuals with physical harm or destruction of property
  • Content featuring abusive or threatening behavior directed at a minor
  • Sexualizing or degrading an individual who is engaged or present in an otherwise non-sexual context
  • Content claiming that specific victims of public violent incidents or their next of kin are actors, or that their experiences are false

Some of the points in the above list are meant to deter Doxxing and other forms of online attacks. It is OK to negatively comment on another channel, but if you instruct your own fans to interfere with someone else’s life and/or YouTube channel,that would be going too far.

Another form of harassment would include actual threats (YouTube’s Policy on Threats: support.google.com/youtube/answer/2801947)

Blackmail is another kind of harassing behaviour and is included in YouTube’s policy on scams (support.google.com/youtube/answer/2801973)

16. Impersonation

YouTube’s Policy on Impersonation: support.google.com/youtube/answer/2801947

If you impersonate another channel or user, YouTube may consider this a form of harassment and your channel may be suspended. Individuals can report impersonation to YouTube directly while businesses and organizations would need to submit a legal complaint.

17. Privacy

YouTube’s Policy on Privacy: support.google.com/youtube/answer/2801895

If you receive a privacy complaint, this usually will not lead to an immediate taken down. Usually, you would be given the option to blur the faces of people in your video. For a privacy complaint to be accepted YouTube looks at how identifiable the person is as well as how public they are. For example, if someone uploads a video clip of themselves to YouTube and you use a screenshot of that video, they wouldn’t get very far making a privacy complaint.

Privacy complaints would generally only lead to a takedown if there was malicious intent as well as an invasion of privacy (and this would fall under the policy on harassment (“Maliciously recording someone without their consent.”)

18. Trademarks

Generally speaking, if you are doing a product review, you do have the right to show that product in the video (it is a kind of trademark-related fair use). The two main things to avoid would be:

  • Making your video appear to be an official or officially endorsed release. For example, ‘’Revlon’s New Lipstick Line” is potentially misleading, whereas “My Review of Revlon’s New Lipstick Line” would be a lot clearer. Also, you should avoid using trademarked logos and slogans more than necessary (e.g., don’t use the logo in the thumbnail).
  • Showing the trademarked item or logo in ways that could bring the brand into disrepute.

Trademark infringement problems are generally resolved by removing or asking you to remove problematic videos. If the trademark problem is compounded by problems related to counterfeiting (see Section 9.10), that can lead to channel suspensions.. YouTube’s trademark policy is here: support.google.com/youtube/answer/6154218

19. Abuse of Legal Processes

This kind of termination is becoming more common. It occurs when channels

  • make false copyright claims (i.e., the channel owners don’t actually own the copyright to everything they are claiming)
  • make bad-faith counter-notifications
  • make false trademark complaints
  • include false information when submitting a copyright takedown
  • include false information when submitting a counter-notification

20. TOS Section 4 Part H (outdated)

This is the part of the Terms of Service that deals with bots (used for mass uploading,viewing and/or subscribing) and also with harvesting user data. However, it used to be relatively common for YouTube to send this notification of violations unrelated to anything in that section.

21. Ineligible Channels

As mentioned earlier, channel suspensions are:

  1. given to the user
  2. are permanent
  3. affect all channels managed by that user

Thus, if you don’t resolve a channel suspension and instead keep making new channels, the very existence of the channels would be Community Guidelines/Terms of Service violations and could result in their termination.

22. Buying & Selling Channels

This would violate the terms of service.

23. Mass Flagging

By itself, a mass flagging campaign against your channel, will not work. This is because reports are reviewed before strikes and suspensions are dished out. The problem is that many channels have one or more of the many problems listed above and it only takes a few “correct” reports to bring a channel down.

24. Avoiding Channel Suspensions

Basically you just need to to do two things. The first is to ensure your channel has none of the problems listed on this page and that you closely adhere to YouTube’s terms of service and community guidelines. The second thing to do is to use the titles, description and thumbnails wisely so that if any videos of yours are flagged, the reviewer knows exactly what they are looking at and exactly what you intended.


~by longzijun

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Kate’s Piano Cover of Misty Road from Moonlight Drawn by Clouds

We continue our student music series with Kate performing her own arrangement of Misty Road (안갯길) from the original soundtrack of the hit Korean television series Love in the Moonlight (구르미 그린 달빛, which has the literal translation of ‘Moonlight Drawn By Clouds’) The original version is sung by Ben (벤) and can be viewed here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=NrceHhXYkIA

Note: This song is NOT part of the free background music series as we do not own the copyright to the composition.

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Free Background Music 35: Broken

Here is the 35th song in our Free Background Music series—Broken. It is a gentle and melancholy minimalist piano ballad about the unexpected end of a friendship. For this video, I collaborated with Lee Chan, who choreographed and performed the ballet, and Kate Kwok, who arranged and performed the song.

The mood of the piece is melancholy. The song is influenced by classical minuets and has the ABA structure and 3/4 time signature associated with that form. However, the arrangement is rather sparse and minimalist in style, giving the song a more contemporary feel. This song is about the sudden and unexpected end of a friendship.

Duration: 3:17

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Riptide (Cover) & The Mercury Tale

Here are two new collaborations: an original piano instrumental by Jessica Yip and a cover version of Vance Joy’s Riptide by Daphne Choi. I helped them record the songs and create the videos.

Cover of Riptide by Daphne Choi

Original composition by James Keogh, aka Vance Joy (2013); Vocals, piano and arrangement by Daphne Choi (2015). Note: this is not part of the background music series.

This is a lyrics video of Daphne Choi’s cover of Riptide by Vance Joy. I really love Daphne’s voice. This is the latest song in our series of Original Songs and Covers by Students. She didn’t want to appear in the video itself, so we produced a lyrics video instead. The purpose of this series is to encourage students to develop their talents in music (Daphne is the first school alumni member to participate in the series). Of course, as the composition is copyrighted, we cannot include this recording in the free background music series.  

The Mercury Tale by Jessica Yip

The Mercury Tale by Jessica Yip (www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTCO6OehrrQ)

We continue our free background music series of Short Themes for Intros and Outros with this flowing 53-second piano instrumental by Jessica Yip. She also composed the song Somewhere Deep in the Sea, so if you like The Mercury Tale, do drop by and listen to her other song.    

You can find download links for this song at: Short Piano Instrumentals by Jessica Yip.

Student Music: Original Songs and Covers

This song is also part of a series of music recordings I have done with students at the school where I teach: Student Music: Original Songs and Covers

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Free Background Music 34: I Vow to Thee, My Country

We continue our Featured Guest series with Kate Kwok performing her own arrangement of I Vow to Thee, My Country by Gustav Holst and Sir Cecil Spring Rice (1921). This is a beautiful piano arrangement that evokes a strong feeling of nostalgia.

This song is the 34th song in the Free Background Music series. It is Kate’s own arrangement of a classical work by Gustav Holst. The music originally comes from from the Jupiter movement of Gustav Holsts’s orchestral suite The Planets. Holst adapted his own music, creating this lovely and moving nostalgic song — I Vow to Thee, My Country— in 1921.

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Piano Cover of Howard Shore’s Feast of Starlight (from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug)

We continue our student music series with Kate performing her own arrangement of Feast of Starlight by Howard Shore. The song comes from the soundtrack of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Kate created the arrangement by ear (i.e., nothing is written down), so (unfortunately) sheet music is not available. Note: This song is NOT part of the free background music series as we do not own the copyright to the composition.

This is the tenth song in our music series featuring students at SKH Lam Woo Memorial Secondary School in Hong Kong. The purpose of this series is allow students to share their love of music while helping them develop their talents as performers and songwriters (and arrangers!). To view the whole series. featuring originals and covers in English, Cantonese and Japanese, you can go to: Student Music: Original Songs and Covers.

Piano: Kate Kwok
Piano arrangement by Kate Kwok
Music by Howard Shore

Video Production: CMe Creative Media Studio at SKH Lam Woo Memorial Secondary School (Hong Kong)
Music recording and video editing: longzijun
March 2015

Technical Information

Electric Piano: Yamaha Clavichord
Recording software: Cakewalk Sonar X1 Studio

Please support our students by viewing the video, sharing it, liking it or commenting on it. Every little bit of support helps. You can download an mp3 version the performance here: https://app.box.com/s/c6nl4syx5n0wdxfyu50fs51xly2zdby9

Return to Student Music: Original Songs and Covers 

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An Interpretation of Jimmy Liao’s ‘The Blue Stone’

blue-stone-cover

Jimmy Liao (廖福彬) is a well-known Taiwanese illustrator and writer. His illustrated books, written for adults and teens, are full of the whimsical, colourful drawings you would expect to find in a storybook for children, but his bittersweet stories tend to involve deeper themes like loneliness, longing, fate and hopefulness and are open to very different interpretations.

He goes by the pen name 幾米 a phonetic translation of his English name (Jimmy). He began his career in advertising but after a harsh three-year battle with leukemia, In an interview with Paper Tigers (papertigers.org/gallery/Jimmy_Liao/: offline), he speaks of how this battle helped to shape his artistic vision

“Looking back at that time, I’d say the leukemia did have a huge effect on my creativity. My painting started to show a different sense: slight sadness, a feeling of alienation, and a sense of helplessness revealed through the joyful pictures. Many people told me that I had made a great improvement. I didn’t quite believe it. But now I have gradually come to realize that, in fact, I was able to release some real emotion in each book I drew at that time, and that therefore part of my personal style was established through that experience”

Warning 1. Spoilers EVERYWHERE
Warning 2. I am working with the English translation of the book, which has been simplified. The translator was told by her publisher to “take these Taiwanese books for adults and turn them into English books for children.” (papertigers.org/personalViews/archiveViews/SThomson.html: offline)

1. Introduction

In the story The Blue Stone (藍石), the stone of the title exists peacefully in a forest for thousands of years. One day, however, it is split into two and one part is removed from its devastated forest home, brought into the human world and repeatedly carved to suit the whim of its human owners. In different guises—as a statue, a pendant, a simple rock—it witnesses a series of losses: a lost child, the death of an old woman, the disappearance of a husband at sea, a loss of freedom and the end of a first love. With each loss, with each reminder of the pain of existence, it recalls and longs to return to its own home in the forest. And with each reminder, the stone breaks a little until nothing is left but dust. The dust is then carried by the wind back to the forest where it can again find peace.

blue-stone-breaks

If the story is to be interpreted literally as simply the imagined life of an object, is there much meaning to be found? What would the themes be—objects don’t care much about people, objects desire to return to their natural state, things happen to people?

If the journey of the stone represents, as implied in the full title of the story “The Blue Stone: A Journey Though Life”, something about life, it is a very bleak journey indeed. We are born, pulled unwillingly into the world, experience a series of losses, confront the pain of existence, crumble bit by bit and then die, returning to wherever it is that we came from.

Is this really all there is to life’s journey—we are born, we suffer, we crumble, we die? For the longest time, I couldn’t really come up with a good interpretation of the story. Surely there must be more to life than this. After a conversation with a couple of my students, it finally dawned on me. The story of the blue stone is a cautionary tale. It doesn’t represent how life IS or how it SHOULD BE; it shows how life CAN BE if we obsess over trying to reclaim something we lost, if we obsess over trying to go back to an ideal time—a time of innocence, a time of wholeness, a time when everything was OK. The story shows what can happen if we let ourselves get lost in regret, sadness, longing and heartache and fail to appreciate the beauty around us.

2. The Guises of the Blue Stone and its Failure

The stone goes through several different guises. Each time it breaks a little and the main part is reshaped into something else.

  • It is a stone in a forest. This is its original, whole state.
  • It becomes a statue of an elephant, a symbol of strength, but it is fragile. Simply longing for its home causes it to break.
  • It becomes a statue of a bird, a symbol of flight and freedom, yet weighed down with longing, it is too heavy to fly. It cannot even move.
  • It becomes a statue of a fish, a symbol of abundance, yet whenever it is near an abundance of love, care or joy, it sees only emptiness and absence and feels only loneliness and longing.
  • It becomes a sculpture of the moon, a symbol of dreams and ambition, yet it only looks back, longing to return to its lost home.
  • It becomes a toy cat, a symbol of companionship and care. It was carved into something to be loved and to bring comfort, yet it seems unable to care.
  • It becomes a brick, a symbol of creation and building, but it exists in a wall in a jail that imprisons dreams.
  • It becomes a ball twirling through the air, a symbol of innocent joy, but it remains oblivious to the joy it brings others.
  • It becomes a heart, a symbol of love, but it only feels its own longing and loneliness.

The different guises of the blue stone can represent its potential—to be strong, to be free, to enjoy the abundant beauty of the world, to dream and move forward, to care for and be cared for, to build and create, to bring joy, to love and be loved. There is purpose to its existence. However, throughout its life journey, the blue stone ignores its potential and instead always focuses on what it has lost—its tranquil forest home and its other half. It exists in a state of longing for an irrecoverable past. Its potential remains unfulfilled.

3. The Journey of Life

Let’s look at the different stages in the stone’s journey.

3.1 The Stone in the Forest

We can take the blue stone as representing one’s soul or spirit. At the beginning of the story, the blue stone “lies peacefully in the heart of the forest” for thousands of years. It is discovered by people who split it into two and one half is transported to civilization. In a sense, this represents a kind of birth. At birth, one is unknowingly pulled into the world from the womb and the physical connection to one’s mother—the umbilical cord—is severed. The splitting of the stone can also represent a loss of innocence. When innocent, one’s spirit is pure, whole and natural like the stone resting in the tranquil forest. Both events, birth and loss of innocence can be taken as starting points in life’s journey.

As soon as the stone begins its journey, however, “It longs for its other half. It wants to go home.”

But where is the forest home it is longing for? In the picture showing the stone being split and pulled apart, it is clear that the entire forest had been decimated. The stone is longing for something—a home—that no longer exists.

And what is the other half it is longing for? Every time the stone breaks, it appears that its consciousness remains with the largest part. There is no indication that the other parts are alive in any sense. The stone is not longing for a partner or for something like itself. It is simply longing to be whole again.

When we are born, we cannot return to the womb. And innocence, once lost, cannot be reclaimed. There is no going back. It is sensible to forever long for a time of innocence, for a time when everything was pure and natural, for a time when we were whole?

3.2 The Elephant

After being taken away, the stone is carved by a sculptor into a statue of an elephant that delights all who see it. The stone, however, seems oblivious to the joy it brings. One night, a lost child wanders by and asks the statue, “Can you tell me the way home?” The stone, confronted with this lost child—a symbol of lost innocence—starts to think of its own loss. It recalls the forest and longs to return home—to a place that no longer exists and to a time that has passed. “Its heart breaks a little” and it begins to crumble.

This is a recurring process in the book. The stone in transformed into something with a purpose, usually something that delights others, yet the stone itself remains oblivious to its purpose, ignores what it is capable of and focuses solely on its own sense of loss. Lost in melancholic regret and longing, the stone breaks apart piece by piece.

3.3 The Bird

The remains of the statue are used to create another sculpture—that of a bird. This statue resides in the garden of an old lady who every day “hobbles out to smell the flowers” and talk to the statue. The statue provides her with a kind of companionship, but this relationship does not seem to be acknowledged by the stone.

blue-stone-bird

Years pass and the old lady no longer comes to the garden, presumably because she has passed away.

When we lose our innocence, we tend to lose it little by little. One step in a loss of innocence is when we are first confronted by the death of someone we know—quite often an elderly person like a grandparent. We begin to understand that life is temporary. We begin to understand our own mortality. Nothing lasts forever.

3.4 The Fish

When the statue is found by the old woman’s grandson, it is already broken. The grandson carves the remains of the blue stone into a statue of a fish. Every day in this guise, the stone watches a young man sail out to see and return, welcomed by his sweetheart. One stormy day, the man does not return. He is lost at sea. His girlfriend waits in vain at the dock while waves “smash against the reef and the cold wind blows”. This can represent another step in the loss of innocence. It is one thing to come to understand that all living things will one day grow old and die; it is another thing to understand that fate is capricious. One doesn’t have to be old to die. Death can come at any time.

And quite often there is nothing we can do about it. Though the stone is shaped in the form of the fish, it can’t swim. There is nothing it could have done to save the young man.

blue-stone-sea

Confronted with the girls’ loss of her sweetheart—another reminder of the pain of existence—the stone recalls its forest home and longs to return.

However, once innocence is lost, there is no going back; once you understand the temporary nature of life and its innate fragility of life, you can never undo that knowledge.

blue-stone-sea2

3.5 The Moon

The remnants of the statue of the fish are found by divers who fashion it into something new–a golden statue of the moon. The moon can be considered  a symbol of dreams and aspirations that are beautiful and enchanting, but perhaps just of of reach. In its guise as a statue of the moon, the blue stone warms the hearts of those who see it. It brings joy into the world (much as it did when it was a statue of an elephant), but remains oblivious to the happiness it brings. It senses only its own loss. The stone continues yearning for its former forest home and breaks again.

3.6 The Cat

It is found by a group of orphans who ask a man to carve it into something new, something they can love. It is turned into a statue of a cat and is used to decorate an orphanage. Another stage in the loss of innocence is the understanding that the world is not always fair. Why should one child have a warm and loving family and another have no family at all?

The children and the blue stone together gaze out of the window “longing for a home they cannot see.” The children will likely never be reunited with the birth families, so the home they are longing for is somewhere else, anywhere they can belong. The home the children cannot see belongs to the future, and they will likely find their home one day. The home the blue stone cannot see, in contrast, is one from the past, one that is already gone.

On the pages where everyone is “longing for a home”, eight children are shown in the windows. In the next two pages, the statue of the cat is show alone in a large empty room staring out of the window at the candlelight glowing from each house. It appears that most of the children have moved on to be with new families, but the blue stone remains.

The orphanage will never be empty of children. There will be other children who can gain some small solace from the lovely statue of the cat. The blue stone has a meaningful purpose, but does not seem aware of this. It remains oblivious to the small comfort it can bring and. longing for its lost home, it breaks again.

3.7 The Brick in the Wall

It is then found by prisoners who carry rocks to build their own jail and is used as a brick in the wall of a prison cell. This prison can represent another stage in the loss of innocence: the realization that we are not totally free to do whatever we want. At first, we must meet the demands of our parents, teachers and friends. Later on we need to meet the demands of our employers and families. There are responsibilities and obligations which, if we aren’t careful, can imprison us. In the drawings of the prison, no jailers are depicted and no one is shown telling the prisoners to build the jail. They seem to be doing that of their own free will. To a certain extent, we also give up our own freedoms and dreams willingly. We may put aside “unrealistic” dreams and study hard to get into university to take a suitable programme to get a degree to get a good job to have a good life. In essence, we may end up building the prison that restrains our own dreams.

In the prison, every day a young woman weeps , perhaps due to frustration and regret at losing her freedom. Her grey cell can represent the daily grind of study and work that can consume our dreams. Every night, when she has a little time to herself, her dreams come alive a little and she sings, bringing the walls of her prison alive with color.

The stone, now used as one of the rocks in the prison wall, once again is reminded of loss—this time the loss of freedom, the loss of dreams—and longs for its own lost home. It breaks once again The young woman dreams of “slipping through the bars and flying free on the wind,” but she remains in the prison which she built herself. She does however toss the fragment of the blue stone out of the window as a gesture of her desire to be free.

3.8 The Juggling Ball

The stone is picked up by a clown in travelling circus. Now quite small, the stone is carved into a juggling ball. It is used in a performance that amuses and delights people. Once again, it is able to bring people joy, but once again the stone remains oblivious to the happiness it helps to bring and just feels its own sense of loss. It breaks in mid-air during one performance.

The circus can represent another stage in the loss of innocence—the realization that a certain amount of performance is required to get through life. We cannot always show our true face; we cannot always say what we really think. We learn to entertain and amuse. We learn to dress up and put on a show. We learn to jump through hoops to please people so that we can get what we want. We learn to juggle a dozen tasks at once. We learn to walk the tightrope between who we really are and what everyone wants us to be. We learn to perform. Life is not a stage; it is a circus ring.

When the stone breaks, the clown “carelessly.tosses the broken stone away.” The use of the word ‘carelessly’ is important. Why should one be careful with a broken object? The use of the word carelessly here reveals that although the stone is now but a tiny fragment, it’s essence still exists within that small piece and therefore that fragment is still of value. At his point, it is still not too late for the stone to change.

3.9 The Heart Pendant

The remains of the heart pendant are found by a dog, which brings it to a young boy, who carves and polishes the stone into a heart pendant which he gives to a girl–his first love. “The lonely blue stone lies over a heart warm with love,” but the love the stone witnesses only serves to remind it of its own loneliness, and once again it breaks a little. This is more obvious in the original Chinese passage, which could be literally translated as “The world becomes a beautiful flowery room, and the spring blossoms carpet the whole valley. Blue stone lies close to the young girl’s bosom, like a truly blissful heart. She has everything, but it has nothing.”

blue-stone-love

“And since first love rarely lasts, the girl’s heart breaks as well.” She throws the pendant away and it falls onto the railway tracks, where it is eventually ground into dust by the passing trains,

Falling in love and then losing that love are also stages in the loss of innocence. With first love, often come words such as “I’ll love you forever” or “We be together forever”, but we soon find that ‘forever’ doesn’t last nearly as long as we thought it would. Like life itself, love is also impermanent and fragile.

The girl, heartbroken and focusing on her own loss rather than fondly remembering the love that once existed, throws the pendant onto the railway tracks. The stone remains there and each passing train—like the dull, soul-grinding routine of each passing day—splits the small stone until only a few grains of sand are left

3.10 The Return Home

Now reduced to dust, the stone is carried by the wind back to the forest. The picture of the forest at the end of the story mirrors that at the beginning, but there is one key difference–a blue glow can be seen in one area of the forest at the beginning. At the end, there is just green forest. The energy emanated by the stone is gone. Its journey is over. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust.

4. Conclusion

By losing itself in longing, sadness and regret, the stone ignores its own value and its own potential. The stone itself has a positive effect on almost all who come into contact with it.

It delights visitors and audience members in its guises as an elephant, star and ball.
It provides companionship for the old lady and the children in the orphanage and is loved by them.
It shares in the love between the boy and the girl and between the young lady and the fisherman.

Throughout its journey, the blue stone is surrounded by love, care, warmth and joy, but the stone remains oblivious to all these and gets lost in its own loneliness and longing.

And what about the love, care, warmth and joy that the stone experienced or witnessed? All things come to an end, so none of these experiences can last forever, but that is not the point. The point is that they did exist and the blue stone was a part of them. Yet, the stone only seems to recognize the loss of these things because those losses resonate with its own sense of loss. It experienced so much of life, but the blue stone was unable to truly share in and treasure those wonderful moments of love, care and joy that were all around it. Consequently, it crumbles, its spirit diminished piece by piece until there is nothing left but dust.

It is an easy trap to fall into. When a relationship breaks apart, when someone we love leaves us, when we lose our innocence, isn’t it easier to feel the sharp pangs of heartbreak and loss than it is to treasure the wonderful moments that did exist for that short time? To dwell on those sad moments and to forever long for things long past is to miss the abundance of joy we can find on our own journey of life. The story of the blue stone, therefore, is the story of a life that is rich in experience but which is emotionally unfulfilled and spiritually empty. It is a story of lost potential.

Can we fulfill the potential of our own life? Can we truly appreciate all that life offers us—all the pain and joy, all the loss and love. And can we appreciate all that our life can give to others? Can we truly live?

~by longzijun

January 2015

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