In late March, the official YouTube account posted a new video. "YouTube Copyright School." For what amounts to a PSA, the video became fairly popular: some 42,000 views inside of a month.
But that didn't mean it was well liked. As of this morning, the video has 1,184 dislikes, in fact, to 320 likes, an almost four-to-one ratio of hatred.
Matt McGee over at SearchEnglineLand, who drew our attention to this disparity, poses an intriguing research problem.
"There’s no way to tell if they’re rejecting the entire notion of Copyright School, or just the childish and silly video that YouTube made to explain it. “Russell” and “Lumpy”? “Happy Tree Friends”? .... (YouTube wisely turned off comments on that video; the Internet might’ve imploded if they hadn’t.)"
Never inclined to shy away from a challenge, here we would like to dispute that there's "no way to tell" what exactly users are reacting so negatively to. We can at least rule a few hypotheses out.
Hypothesis 1: YouTube users hate any video featuring Russell, Lumpy, and the Happy Tree Friends.
This first hypothesis is easily disproven. The Happy Tree Friends weren't invented specifically for the YouTube video; they're characters in an ongoing cult animation series, with many videos on YouTube. The videos tend to feature adorable cuddly creatures who suffer gruesome, bloody, protracted deaths. (Far too violent to embed here, but have a click if you're curious.) And most of these videos have overwhelmingly high like-to-dislike ratios.
Hypothesis 2: YouTube users hate any video having to do with copyright.
Again, false. If that were the case, then why would this dry two-hour introduction to copyright law have a more favorable like-to-dislike ratio?
Hypothesis 3: YouTuber users hate any video combining copyright instruction with animation.
Nope. Look, here's an animated video with a rap about copyright which, if not exactly beloved, still gets 42 likes against 18 dislikes.
And here's another one, a classic from Professor Eric Faden of Bucknell University (though uploaded, fittingly, by someone else). It tells the story of copyright entirely through clips ripped straight from Disney, the most savage copyright enforcer of them all. Widely and duly liked (5,402 to 683), it's called "A Fair(y) Use Tale":
Hypothesis 4: YouTube users only hate this one particular video.
With so many "likes" passed around, is it possilbe that YouTube struck such a particular chord with this video, a once-in-a-lifetime perfect storm of irritation?
While Fast Company hopes this investigation contributes towards an understanding of "likes" and "dislikes" on YouTube, as well as YouTubers' feelings on copyright and animation, we ultimately must decline to render a definitive conclusion. The Copyright School video defies the final analysis. It may be that the mixture of pedagogy, irritating music, and buzz-killery all combine into a video intolerable to YouTubers. It may be that the fuzzy animated creature didn't die violently enough at the end. It may be an audience problem; while cult viewers tend to love Happy Tree Friends, those who watch YouTube's official account may not intersect that cult group.
It may be any number of things. Further study is needed.