YouTube Removes Bill & Desiree Trailer for TOS Violation

Yesterday we put up a trailer for Bill and Desiree on our YouTube account. Today YouTube deleted the video for a TOS violation. Here’s the trailer, off our own server:


Here’s a College Humor clip from YouTube.com that’s received over 4,000,000 views:

This is what YouTube has to say about sexuality and nudity:

YouTube is not for pornography or sexually explicit content. If this describes your video, even if it’s a video of yourself, don’t post it on YouTube.

Most nudity is not allowed, particularly if it is in a sexual context. Generally if a video is intended to be sexually provocative, it is less likely to be acceptable for YouTube. There are exceptions for some educational, documentary and scientific content, but only if that is the sole purpose of the video and it is not gratuitously graphic. For example, a documentary on breast cancer would be appropriate, but posting clips out of context from the documentary might not be.

Of course anyone who’s clicked around YouTube knows there are all sorts of “sexy” video clips on YouTube, so before we put up the trailer we clicked around a little to get an idea of where YouTube draws the line. Here’s a little of what we found.

A bit from a Lindsey Lohan movie:


At the end of the Lohan clip, YouTube suggest we might be interested in this Japanese schoolgirl fetishist clip:


At the end of the quasi-pedophiliac video, YouTube thought we might be interested in a little sex ed:


Then YouTube thought a testicular exam was in order:


And then finally this clip, mislabeled “Britney Sex Tape”:


After watching the above clips, you might feeling a little confused about what is and is not acceptable on YouTube. The trailer for “Bill and Desire” does not show full nudity. There are no female nipples shown, and the swell of Desiree’s breast is barely discernible between her and Bill’s bodies. There is no pubic hair and no genitals. There are no buttocks or ass-cracks. In short, there is no objective difference in the degree of nudity shown in the trailer for “Bill and Desiree” and these other clips that YouTube is hosting. But YouTube has an answer:

Please take these rules seriously and take them to heart. Don’t try to look for loopholes or try to lawyer your way around the guidelines—just understand them and try to respect the spirit in which they were created.

That clears it right up, doesn’t it. Like YouTube’s parent company Google, YouTube favors pranksterism over candor. The College Humor clip shows just as much skin as our trailer, but it’s meant as a joke, so that a-okay. Lindsey Lohan’s orgasmic moaning and groaning is okay because we know she’s faking it. The pedophiliac fetish schoolgirl clip – even the part with “POV” intercourse between the videographer and the model – is okay because she’s wearing white cotton panties and covering her breasts with her hands. The penile exam clip is just fine because it’s medical.

Oh, speaking of medical, next month “Bill and Desiree” will be playing for faculty and clinicians at the Martha Stewart Center for Center for Living at the Mt. Sinai Medical Center.

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  1. Posted December 3, 2008 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    In a surreal world where women can be stoned to death in one country for revealing their faces and across the globe in another country people masturbate in public an annual street fair, I suppose I ought not be surprised by this outcome. But it is essentially absurd, without a doubt. And it is a trend that will continue as YouTube inexorably dominates the mass market.

    I gather there is no appeals process? And have your other videos survived this far unscathed?

  2. tony
    Posted December 3, 2008 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    Well since you brought it up. This is a YouTube clip of a hanging in Iran. You’ll want to stop watching this one around minute four:

    This is YouTube clip of a teenaged girl being stoned to death in an “honor killing”. Pretty much you shouldn’t watch at all:

    This what the YouTube community guidelines say about violence:

    Graphic or gratuitous violence is not allowed. If your video shows someone being physically hurt, attacked, or humiliated, don’t post it.

    YouTube is not a shock site. Don’t post gross-out videos of accidents, dead bodies or similar things intended to shock or disgust.

    I suppose YouTube would also say that I’m trying to “lawyer my way around” their TOS. I’m not.

    What I am trying to do, with Bill and Desiree, and my other films, is point out the poisonous hypocrisy that surrounds the “rules” that govern what are are and are not permitted to see. As I said two years ago in my Open Letter to the OFLC:

    I have been a photographer my entire adult life. In the name of bearing witness to the human condition I’ve documented unspeakable suffering, violence, and death; and for that I’ve been praised as a courageous witness. When I review the scope of people, places and events that have passed before my lens, I am unable to comprehend the censor’s rational for “protecting” adults from photographic images of sexuality. Adults have the capacity and the right to choose for themselves what sort of images they wish to see. They do not need to be protected from images of sex, and least of all from a film like DAMON AND HUNTER. In the face of horrific images we are exposed to each and every day, the OFLC decision is not only unfair, it is perverse.

    I recognize that Google and YouTube are not the government. I recognize that commercialized sexuality draws a disproportionate number of bad actors, and that whether it’s Google juking porn-spam, or aggressively inappropriate posting to YouTube, these bad-actors constitute a disproportionate drain on Google’s business resource.

    But as the above video show, or the [penis] v [clitoris] SafeSearch result show, Google starting point for separating honest participants from criminal and quasi-criminal behavior is flawed, because our society starting point for dealing with sex is flawed.

  3. Posted December 3, 2008 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    Bastards. We can joke about sex, we can pretend, we can make it look stupid and childish and ignorant and immature, but we can’t show it as it is.


  4. Posted December 4, 2008 at 1:23 am | Permalink

    Depressing yet not surprising that this has happened. It’s your evil intent to arouse that is at fault, Mr Comstock. How dare you turn people on like that!

    Perhaps it’s an unfortunate coincidence that you posted the video on the same day that Youtube announced a crackdown on porn spam vids:

    So I wonder if they’d TOS the vid if you only showed Bill and Desiree, say, kissing each other? Or just snippets of the interviews? Because now you’ve been flagged, will they keep an eye on you?

  5. Posted December 6, 2008 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    Wow, wow, wow. I don’t know what to say other than this is horrible and hypocrisy at its best.
    Please don’t stop participating in the process.

  6. t_in_pdx
    Posted December 6, 2008 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    That is absurd. I like your examples of things far more socially objectionable. It could be argued that the violence portrayed has redeeming social value as showing it is a form of activism. By that standard you should be good to go as well. Lets pull down the college sex jokes, celebs fake sex/music videos and go with the real content.

    YouTube can have it one way or another, but to arbitrarily apply standards is simply wrong. Best of luck getting the message out, positive images of sex do a lot to heal the ills of society that we face. The masking of joyful desire is just too much for me to stomach from the media and web establishment.

  7. Posted February 17, 2010 at 12:10 am | Permalink

    One of the issues with important resources on the internet is that many of them are run as little dictatorships with little or no accountability. Sometimes, their arbitrary decision are even given the force of law (see the way anti-computer-hacking legislation has been stretched to the point where terms of service violations can become criminal or at least civilly actionable— see Prof. Orin Kerr’s excellent papers on the subject).

    Youtube’s terms of service specifically do not authorize the uploading of “bad stuff” which evidently is a hard and fast rule for “the company can declare any content it wants to as inappropriate.”

    One thing I have learned in my own internet-based business (though it is software engineering and consulting) is that nothing beats basic, careful, ordinary marketing. The internet is great for distribution. However, for marketing, nothing beats direct contact with the customer

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