Margaret Gould Stewart: How YouTube thinks about copyright

“So, if you’re in the audience today, or maybe you’re watching this talk in some other time or place, you are a participant in the digital rights ecosystem. Whether you’re an artist, a technologist, a lawyer or a fan, the handling of copyright directly impacts your life.” 

Level Goals Themes
Intermediate Reading skills Copyright
Upper-intermediate Critical analysis Ethics
Persuasive language Online business

Margaret Gould Stewart, YouTube’s head of user experience, talks about how the ubiquitous video site works with copyright holders and creators to foster (at the best of times) a creative ecosystem where everybody wins.


  • What is copyright?
  • We all use YouTube a lot. Are you ever concerned about copyright? Why / Why not?
  • Downloading music and movies are both also extremely common. Are copyright concerns different in this context? How so?
  • What do you think is the primary concern of those who are in favour of copyright: Protecting revenue or protecting original content – art, music, film, TV, etc?
  • What do you think is the primary motivation of those against copyright: The freedom of ideas or content, or being able to get content without paying for it?


True or False?

  1. YouTube uses a huge database of information to compare videos to one another and detect copies.
  2. They process 100 hours of video per day.
  3. There is no opportunity within this system for companies to make money, to profit.
  4. Stewart says that YouTube is “empowering choice” and creating a culture of opportunity.
  5. YouTube’s system only works if rights owners participate.


Vocab Definition
1. Mashup A. To get worse
2. Ecosystem B. Income, profit
3. Degrade C. (In advertising) The number people who see your content and of the places they are able to see it. E.g. “The level of __________”
4. Exposure D. (Tech, Internet) When a video, picture or some other media on the internet spreads quickly it is said to “go _______.”
5. Revenue E. To get (x) as a result of something. E.g. “If you get cold and wet you will _________ with the flu.”
6. Viral F. A video that combines clips for several different sources.
7. To end up G. To give power to (x)
8. To empower H. A community of interacting elements within a particular environment.

Other useful vocab:

Crazy (slang)

“And Jill and Kevin, the happy couple, they came back from their honeymoon and found that their video had gone crazy viral.”

  • Used as an adverb of degree for emphasis – synonymous with “really, very, extremely.”



  • Stewart says that this kind of copyright management is beneficial for both customers and business. It “spreads joy.” Do you agree? Why / Why not?
  • Did you find her talk persuasive? Why / Why not?
  • How do you usually try to persuade people of something? What kind of language do you use? Can you give some examples?

Read the transcript and answer the following:

  • What is YouTube’s goal in regard to the rights of content owners?
  • How many hours of video per minute does YouTube’s system analyze? How much video per day?
  • What was the end result of the wedding video going “crazy viral?”
  • Why is copyright and rights identification on YouTube so complicated?
  • What does YouTube do when videos are found to match?

Persuasive language:

Words chosen by the writer or speaker to help convince people that their argument/opinion is correct.

  • What kind of words or phrases do you use when you want to persuade somebody? Can you think of any in English?
  • What kind of tone do you speak or write in?
  • Is it formal or informal? Polite / Impolite?
  • Does it depend on your audience?
  • How so?

Emotive Appeals

An emotive appeal involves choosing language that appeals not only to logic, but strengthens your argument by encouraging people to relate to it emotionally. It uses adjectives/nouns with strong emotional connotations, or claims that affect readers and listeners emotionally.

Some Examples:

“It is immoral to build a theme park for dogs when we have starving homeless people in our city.” “If you care about the children, you will help pay for the new school.”
“If you want to make a difference, you must donate to our charity.” “We are bringing happiness to millions of people, and so the cost is justified.”
  • Do these sentences appeal to logic or emotion, or to both? Which ones are the most persuasive? Why?
  • Do you think that Stewart uses emotional appeal in her talk? Can you give examples?
  • If she does, is it really a bad thing? Does it make her argument worse?

NB: If there is a connection between emotive language and the facts/logic we call it a relevant appeal.

Scan the transcript for the following phrases:

  1. “Make a difference”
  2. “Ecosystem of culture” / “Digital rights ecosystem”
  3. “Joy” as an “Idea worth spreading” (final quote, TED motto)
  4. “Empowering choice”
  5. “Culture of opportunity”
  • Which of these are emotive appeals?
  • What does each mean in context, and how is it relevant to the talk? Are they intended to make the reader or listener feel a certain way?
  • Do they add information or reasoning to the argument, or are they just emotionally persuasive? Or both?
  • Why did Stewart use these kinds of terms? Are there any simpler, easier to understand alternatives?
  • Which of them do you think strengthen her argument? Are they relevant emotive appeals, or do they just appeal to our feelings?

Persuasive Writing (Post-Reading)

Topic: “We should not let things like copyright management limit our opportunities to share music or videos. All media should be available for people to share, change and edit in any way they want.”

  • Write one or two paragraphs explaining your opinion on the topic, and trying to persuade others to agree with you. Try to use the same kinds of phrases that Stewart did in her TED talk. Appeal to your reader emotionally.
  • Remember: Your emotive language can still be relevant. It can still relate to facts, evidence and logic.


  • Were you able to use emotive appeals in your writing? o What do think this says about their value and purpose?
  • Are emotive appeals good or bad?


  • What do you think about copyright? Is it important to protect creative property?
  • What about piracy? Do you download copyrighted movies, TV shows or music? If yes, then why don’t you stop?
  • Do you think that YouTube’s copyright ID system is a good thing? How might it help people?
  • If you were faced with the decision of sharing your work and losing money, or protecting it and making a profit, what would you do?
  • How important is the choice of copyright owners to share or protect content?
  • How do you think TED talks use persuasive language to engage their audience? Is it a problem?
  • Should persuasive language be used or avoided? In what kind of situations?
  • Would it ever be possible to do without any kind of copyright and just share everything?
  • How does copyright impact your life? In what way do you participate in copyright law?
  • Did you find Stewart’s talk compelling? Why / Why not?


  • Copyright law shouldn’t exist. Everybody should be free to share whatever they want, whenever they want regardless of who created it.
  • Copyright is the only way for musicians, artists and filmmakers to protect their integrity. What’s important is not profit, but protecting creative content from unfair use. Copyright should remain an important part of our law.
  • Persuasive language should always be kept to a minimum, in both speaking and writing. It does not allow for the reader/listener to have a clear understanding of the arguments being present.

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