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YouTube Identifies Birdsong As Copyrighted Music (c4sif.org)
289 points by frankydp on Feb 26, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 79 comments

This just happened to me with a parody video I created. I created all the music from scratch and obviously rewrote all the lyrics. And UMG review my video and said that it was indeed their property. So, I can not run ads against the video, which at this point has probably cost me $500-$1,000. There is nothing I can do right now but wait and hope YouTube changes its mind...

The video:


Here is what I see:

These content owners have reviewed your video and confirmed their claims to some or all of its content: Entity: UMPG Publishing Content Type: Musical Composition

These content owners have reviewed your video and agreed with your dispute: Entity: Music Publishing Rights Collecting Society Content Type: Musical Composition

Your dispute is still awaiting a response from these content owners: Entity: Social Media Holdings Content Type: Musical Composition

What should I do?

No action is required on your part. Your video is still available worldwide. In some cases ads may appear next to your video.

What can I do about my video's status? Please note that the video's status can change, if the policies chosen by the content owners change. You may want to check back periodically to see if you have new options available to you.

Please take a few minutes to visit our Help Center section on Policy and Copyright Guidelines, where you can learn more about copyright law and our Content Identification Service.

It's different in that neither party has claimed ownership of your content. If they delayed with intent to cause damage, sure, but otherwise a court would probably defer to the extra-judicial process Google is using. It's not ideal, and I'm not really sure if there are sites with similar revenue sharing deals like YouTube you could post it on, but it's how the cookie crumbles, unfortunately.

I was so furious after reading this article, I wrote to Rumblefish demanding an explanation.

Anyway, it's good news, I've just received this email.


Thank you for your note, just read your email and I share your concern.  The YouTube content ID system mis-ID'd birds singing as one of our artists songs.  We reviewed the video this evening and released the claim that YT assigned to us.  One of our content id representatives made a mistake in the identification process and we've worked diligently to correct the error once we were made aware of it earlier today.

Thank you for voicing your concern.  Very much appreciated.  We're doing our best to improve the process as it's very challenging for our team to keep up with the massive amount of claims coming through which grow every day.

All the best,

Paul Anthony | Founder and CEO | Rumblefish

A ray of hope. Albeit a very small one in comparison to al. the other things that are very wrong with the system.

Absolutely, it's a shame that only cases with a little publicity get reviewed and corrected. Still, least there's a small positive to take away from this.

What is truly appalling here is the claim that the video had been reviewed by humans, who had determined that birdsong was copyrighted music (although the birds ought to be flattered by that), and, as such, Rumblefish is either lying (about having looked at all), hoping to make a quick buck, or criminally incompetent. I wouldn't be surprised if Rumblefish was trying to make a buck or two off of ads here, but I'm guessing that that's their standard response, and they hope whoever made the video will give up.

Are there humans from Google involved in the review process somehow? Or do they just automatically accept claims from the copyright owners?

I'd say the wording of Rumblefish's reply implies that there are Rumblefish humans involved in the review process.

>Are there humans from Google

Yeah, good point, are there humans at Google? Or have their bots finally taken over?

If they had, we'd already be doomed. http://intelligenceexplosion.com/

Kill all the mockingbirds!

During the SOPA mess, a lot of people on this site were saying that the DMCA is fine, we don't need a new law.

However, it seems pretty clear that the DMCA is not fine. There need to be better protections against this sort of thing - no hiding behind "it wasn't a DMCA takedown notice" when your automated takedown bot fraudulently implicates someone.

Also, and this almost goes without saying, we need to modify the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA to at least legalize jailbreaking, whether the device is an iPhone, a PS3, or whatever. Though ideally the anti-circumvention provisions should be repealed wholesale, since they're unreasonably broad and create huge damages for a wide class of perfectly valid uses.

> There need to be better protections against this sort of thing

There is always a better protection against this sort of this: host your own content.

It is regrettable that as the Internet has grown, and services that offer hosting for free in exchange for attaching ads have grown, a lot of people have forgotten that you're under no obligation to host a video file on one of those services.

If your blog/pictures/videos/whatever are important to you, look for a self-hosted solution. If enough people are interested in doing that, businesses will appear to help the less technically literate do it as well, just as there are numerous businesses today that will make you a web site, register you a domain, and host everything on their servers but otherwise under your control.

Unless that starts happening, all the big video sites (not that there are many of them in the grand scheme of things) can impose more or less any terms they want, including claiming all kinds of rights to use any content you upload and not giving any guarantee that they will continue to host it or that they will not modify/corrupt/ad-splatter it.

> During the SOPA mess, a lot of people on this site were saying that the DMCA is fine, we don't need a new law.

The sentiment was mostly that DMCA provided enough and more than enough "protection for the artists" (as demonstrated by the numerous fraudulent DMCA cases over the year, DMCA is already way overboard).

Then again, this has little to do with DMCA, it's Youtube's content copyright management tools, producing entities don't even need a DMCA they can just go "I have the copyright on this" and down goes the video.

I am pretty sure this amounts to fraud on the part of Rumblefish.

I would love it if Google would revoke Rumblefish's earnings/account in the same fashion that they revoke mom & pop AdSense publishers, like: "Your account has been terminated. All of your earnings have been returned to the advertisers. There is no appeal. Goodbye."

Seriously, Rumblefish's behavior reminds me of a certain CEO I used to work for. The guy would rip off just about anyone he could (including his employees) by exploiting loopholes. Some of the exploits worked, others didn't. But, he would hold out a carrot just far enough to avoid a critical mass of lawsuits.

This happened to a friend of mine with no warning and no explanation. He appealed and was soundly rejected, again with no explanation. He ran a nutrition blog and created all of the content himself.

Google's business model seems to involve fucking over anyone who can't sue them.

Something similar happened to me years ago. They accused me of "click fraud". All I can figure is that a disgruntled reader decided to click repeatedly on my ads to get me in trouble. There really isn't an appeal process. You email them asking for details, and they reply with form letters.

This is exactly what happened to him.

Apparently all it takes to kill someone's AdSense account is one person reloading and clicking through ads a few dozen times. This is pretty fucking horrible on Google's part.

Yeah, I searched after it happened to me and found a lot of cases, including a couple of angry exes.

How does Google profit from return revenues to advertisers?

Google's business model is reducing overheads in business processes in order to scale them down to the point where anyone can use them. This involves eliminating human participation from their side as much as possible.

> How does Google profit from return revenues to advertisers?

"By keeping on their good side" would be my stab at that one. If the advertisers trust Google to take their side, they're more likely to spend money. Nothing particularly 'evil' about that or anything, just how it works.

Not if it's anything like the Megaupload controversy recently.

Here's the loophole. Your EULA with YouTube states that YouTube may take down your videos for any reason. YouTube also has a side deal with certain large rightsholders that they may take down videos at any time for any reason.[1] It is implied that these takedowns will be only for DMCA purposes, but since the companies never have to officially file a DMCA notice, there are never any legal repercussions for false takedowns.

Nice, eh?

[1] (Edit) Well, they are only supposed to take down videos for good reason, but we haven't seen YouTube enforce that. Either way, this is between YouTube and the rightsholders; the DMCA doesn't get involved.

>Your EULA with YouTube states that YouTube may take down your videos for any reason. //

Shouldn’t this prevent YouTube from relying on the common carrier defence - they're are clearly manipulating and policing the content [to benefit their commercial interests] and not acting as a common carrier.

What troubles me more is that they're somehow allowed to deny individuals their copyrights - they're putting other peoples advertising next to your content presumably without waiting for it to be acceded to. They should surely, to keep lawful, take down dubious content until the ownership of rights has been resolved.

In some jurisdictions I'd have thought that they couldn't add a EULA that would allow them to use third-party copyright material without explicit permission. That is when a corp claims your uploaded material and YouTube simply decide to add ads for that corp and send earnings to that same corp then this should (and I contend probably is in some places where YouTube are operating) be unlawful.

In short: Google are actively infringing copyright. Is a EULA statement really sufficient to make this lawful?

Do you have any links to substantiate your claims? I'd be interested in reading the background.

Here's a few news articles. As I understand it, the only way UMG would be in legal trouble is if they violated their contract with YouTube -- that is, they promised YouTube to only take down stuff they had the rights to. So the only enforcement here is if YouTube decides to sue UMG for breach of contract. (Which I wouldn't hold my breath on.) Either way, the DMCA never gets involved because they never had to file a DMCA notice to take down YouTube content.





Copyright law does have the tort of slander of title; if Rumblefish's actions are interpreted by a court as claiming rights Rumblefish does not have, that could be a quite serious issue separate from anything YouTube has in a contract or EULA.

Ok, cool. How does that work? The original author sues in civil court? And what do we mean by "quite serious"?

Probably the most notable case involving slander of title was SCO v Novell. Groklaw explained the slander of title aspect: http://www.groklaw.net/articlebasic.php?story=20040211161256...

It looks like it's not the easiest claim to prosecute, but in the case of YouTube videos where the content is entirely original and thus cannot be owned by a music label, the only hard part would be proving lost income. If that can be done, then the label can be held liable for actual and punitive damages, and legal costs.

I'm not a lawyer but I know contract law does sometimes recognize third-party rights. Not sure if would be applicable here.

Having seen the video (the ads are gone now, btw), it's pretty clear that no reasonable human watched it, because they'd certainly be misrepresenting ownership of the content.

'Misrepresentation of ownership causing damage to another party or benefit for oneself' is generally fraud (criminal too), but intent tends to be weighted far more than status. That said, the test is usually a good faith belief that one is the legitimate owner, and I don't know of many bots with that sort of discretion.

Why? Birdsongs are actually copywritable music, and since they all sound fairly similar it's certainly possible that the software confused his recording with something from the Cornell lab of ornithology, which licenses their bird recordings to Hollywood, toy makers, musicians, etc.

since they all sound fairly similar

That's not how copyright works. If you make an original work, it can be identical to a copyrighted work and not be infringing. It's only a problem if you make your work from the copyrighted one.

I suspect Cornell do have mechanical copyright in some recordings of birdsongs - which'd allow them to charge royalties on anybody using copies of the recordings they made, but there'd be no composer or performer to own the actual "song". (Sort of like how you can't claim copyright in every photo of a sunrise just 'cause you took one, but you do have rights with regards to the particular sunrise photograph you shot.)

In GB the copyright definition apparently includes the mere idea of a photograph: http://www.amateurphotographer.co.uk/news/photographers_face...

In the U.S. as well.

"Infringement of Copyrighted Photographs Under U.S. Copyright law, you violate the copyright owner's exclusive rights of copying and/or to create a derivative work by creating a work that is a copy of or "substantially similar" to another's. The courts determine whether the two works are substantially similar by comparing them and evaluating whether copyrightable elements have been used in the second work. A court is much more likely to find an infringement if the subject of the photo has been "set up" by the photographer and contains creative and original elements, compared to a photograph of subjects that already exist, such as in nature or a structure such as the Golden Gate Bridge."


The case you quote is not so easy, though.

The tough decision is if New English Teas intended to violate copyright, and if the Red Bus photos were original enough to claim copyright.

The judge decided that the Red Bus photos were original enough (creator claimed 80 hours of work), and New English Teas had used the original photos earlier on, and was made to remove them, so there was clearly intent to violate copyright. However, I'm not so sure if the Red Bus photos were original enough, or if there was intent to mislead buyers into thinking the New English Teas were Red Bus licensed.

A melody has recently (here in Australia) been granted copyright protection (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Down_Under_%28song%29#Copyright... ).

In the US music industry, there are separate copyrights for songwriting and recordings. If you create an original recording of a birdsong, then you hold the copyright to that recording. I don't understand how owning a copyright for a melody created and performed by birds is defensible.

It's the same way you can own the copyright on a photograph. It's enough that you decided to open a sensor at a specific time and location and record a physical event.

Exactly. So if you opened the sensor, then any Rumblefish claim is invalid...

The music of Handel, Vivaldi and Bach et all is not copyrighted: only the recording. You are quite welcome to go make your own piano recording of the Goldberg Variations and sell this. Similarly you can't make a sellable copy of the music book you might have learnt the notes from but you can make your own interpretation from the original manuscript, or other version out of copyright, and publish this.

I - you the person, you the lawyer?

pretty sure - just guessing, sure from some other knowledge, or just misusing words?

fraud - like, they have committed a crime in some jurisdiction?

I am pretty sure this amounts to uninformed speculation.

Well, "fraud" in non-legal English is generally taken to mean false or deceiving statements. And falsely claiming to hold rights one does not hold is, well, a false and/or deceiving statement.

Though in the realm of copyright, "slander of title" might be the more appropriate phrase.

So there are two things here.

The first is Google's algorithm incorrectly identified something as another work. This is bit is a bit "yeah, whatever". False positives will happen, what's important is the processes that are put in place around the algorithm to help resolve the errors.

And that's the second bit and the foobar bit, where a "human" check has confirmed it. Now, I may be skeptical but it feels very much like no-one ever looked at this, that Rumblefish basically automatically reply "yeah, that's ours" to any request or question and then leave it up to the poor video owner to show otherwise.

What I'd suggest needs to happen here is, at the very least, Google, Rumblefish or whoever need to state the piece of work that's being infringed. On Google's part this should be trivial - it's algorithm must have got a match against something specific which is cataloged.

The "copyright owner" at that point has a far more straight forward check (if they bother with it) and the video producer at least knows more about the claim rather than ending up in a slightly Kafka-esque position.

This is a massive problem on YouTube right now. Essentially, there are a few large troll operations that abuse Google's "Content ID" system to steal ad revenues from random accounts, while Google shows no interest in fixing the system or shutting down the fraudulent accounts. The targetted videos often contain original music or no music at all. It's so common that it seems to be a fact of life for anyone as soon as they start monetizing their videos, and it's enough to remove any desire I have to do business with Google.

Rumblefish CEO responded on Slashdot: http://yro.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2693545&cid=3916...

And a Rumblefish employee (Lead Architect actually).

They at least appear to be answering questions, that's a start.

Edit: apparently an AmA on Reddit too. From http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3640452


The question here is not about Youtube's algorithm being perfected or not, but about why they are having such an automatic censorship tool in the first place?

They aren't doing anything illegal by not having the tool, which means they are doing it voluntarily, and since the tool is not perfect, Youtube itself can be more abusive than the copyright owners asking for takedowns. Google needs to stop this practice.

Because of all the lawsuits from media conglomerates.


The interesting part is that Rumblefish is the largest sync/track provider and has a vested interest when it comes to increasing copyright ultra-protectionism. Which is sad because you would think that there "process" as they call it would be the non-legislative answer to audio copyright billing.

5,345,377 Social Soundtracks Licensed(and counting)

Geezus internet. How and why are so many people getting so damn angry about this?

Rumblefish presumably gets thousands upon thousands of copyright infringement claims every day. And so far, there has been one guy who had birdsong mistaken for music. Instead of just writing an email and getting it fixed, he decides to make a post about it to make people angry, and then once Rumblefish hears what happens it gets fixed.

Let's look at the key elements here.

1) It got fixed!

2) Of course they use an automated system for confirming copyrighted audio content. It's a second line of defense after Google's initial scan. The third line of defense is called customer support, and in any other situation that would be the obvious and trivial solution.

3) It's one guy! This happened ONCE!

4) It got fixed!!

And if you're still worried about your own stuff being falsely identified as copyrighted music, rest assured you can always make an internet s*storm about it and your problem will be solved (this is clearly the ideal solution, yes?)

Now can we please get on with our lives?

Of course they use an automated system for confirming copyrighted audio content. It's a second line of defense after Google's initial scan.

It's good to pay attention to cases like this, if only to flush other such cases out of the woodwork. You say it's once, but it's more accurate to say it's at least once.

I also say that if I were greedy, I'd make my "automated system" confirm everything as a violation. I'm not making that up as a crazy consume conspiracy theory. That's exactly what robosigning was: mass-production of claims that put the burden on consumers to figure out, and show evidence, of whether the company was making a valid claim or not. Robosigning (or simply returning "true" in this case) is extremely cheap, gets the job done in cases where the company is in the right, and gets the job done in many cases where the company is wrong because some people fail to jump through the hoops placed before them. In either case, it softens people up a bit before the company has to do any real work.

In the case of robosigning, it might actually have been profitable, even though they got caught at exactly the wrong time, when people were mad as hell about the crisis. At any other time, the penalty for getting caught would have been lighter, and it's certainly profitable when you don't get caught. If the strategy comes close to making money even in the worst possible case, I'd call it successful, and any established means of gaining an advantage at somebody else's expense merits a certain amount of vigilance. We put locks on our doors, we have laws against fraud, and in cases like this:

rest assured you can always make an internet s_storm about it and your problem will be solved (this is clearly the ideal solution, yes?)

Exactly. I'm not any good at it myself, but I have to admit, it's the best way to get things done as a consumer.

Just more evidence that the DMCA is broken. This isn't YouTube's fault, it's a problem of Rumblefish harassing YouTube users.

No. On the face of it sounds like a problem of Rumblefish stealing from users.

It's not accurate when the RIAA says stealing like that, and it's not accurate when anyone else does either.

The ads on the video pay out to Rumblefish instead of the video's owner.

The word "steal" still obscures the true nature of the problem, which is one of demanding services they have no right to based on a flawed law. That's not theft, though it could be described as fraud, extortion, or racketeering.

If you really want to be pedantic, "steal" is not a legal term. It's a term of common English routinely used to refer to any of theft, fraud, extortion and racketeering.

I find it hard to equate an automated (bad) copyright takedown with any of those terms. Or file downloading, for that matter.

Exploiting an automated takedown system for the purpose of extracting advertising revenue from non-infringing content to which you don't own the copyright is undeniably fraud.

Fraud requires intentional bad faith. You can't accidentally commit fraud. (And there is no proof that this was anything but human error.. you could probably make a good case for gross negligence though.)

You can't know intent in either direction. That's an issue of determining guilt, but this thread is a (ridiculous) digression on whether it's linguistically appropriate to use the word "steal" in reference to the takedown request. I assume you would therefore agree that it's valid to say that Rumblefish has allegedly stolen the ad revenue. So therefore you agree, right?

Only that this wasn't a DMCA request. It was a request from Rumblefish to Google, using a Google channel. I'm not trying to defend DMCA, but it wasn't used here.

has google published anything about how their audio copyright detection algorithm works? i ask because i know some people faced with the (clearly related, it seems) problem of automatically recognizing birdsong (as in - identifying from background noise, and figuring out what species).

Apparently they licensed it from AudibleMagic:




The CEO of Rumblefish did an AMA on reddit as a result of all the press this story received: http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/q7via/im_the_ceo_of_ru...

The video in question: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPBlfeuZuWg

Due to the low quality microphone the sound is a bit metallic. Perhaps that throws off YouTube's recognition software. But if there are a lot of false positives then Google should adjust its algorithm.

The author makes it sound like Rumblefish manually inspected the video after the author disputed the automated claim, and Rumblefish still insisted the audio was copyrighted.

It seems big companies fold to pressure from large companies and political pressure. It is sad they see a creator as less valid then a bigger company. I think they fear the legal teams of these larger companies. Many of them have legal teams waiting around to file suit and since they are salaried lawyers it costs the companies nothing extra to sue. On the other hand music companies already lost billions on free music being used. It appears every industry is either going through or will go through a lower cost or free model. Examples are books, music, newspapers, and the list goes on. Who pay 15 for a cd when it is easy to download for 0. I am happy many top music acts still make so much that it doesnt matter. Firemen, teachers, and cops make pennies compared to Snoop Dogg? Who deserves more? That's the dizzle for schizzle my nizzle!

Small claims court. Sue them for damages (and punitive, if small claim courts allow).

Also, report Rumblefish for sending fake DMCA requests, it's illegal.

Rumblefish hasn't sent a DMCA takedown request, they've used Google's provided tool to say that they own the rights.

I don't know if the video was ever actually taken down, but it's available now. Either YouTube has ruled in favour of the poster or Rumblefish is taking a cut of the advertising on the video.

If it's the latter, then I believe that makes Rumblefish guilty of copyright infringement, since they're profiting off the copyright (the video) of the poster.

DMCA request or not, that seems like it would be actionable.

Youtube is only complying with DMCA safe harbor by doing this. It requires a speedy takedown of whatever content the claim was filed against. I'm getting slightly sick of people claiming this is Youtube's fault. YT is required by law to do this.

"Youtube is only complying with DMCA safe harbor by doing this." … "YT is required by law to do this."

I'm pretty sure that's not the case here, but I'm also pretty sure that's the intended interpretation of intensionally misleading messages sent by Google/YouTube/Rumblefish.

As far as I can tell (and as mentioned in previous comments) there has been no DMCA takedown notice issued. That means Rumblefish hasn't crossed any legal line over the DMCA (but might still be acting fraudulently), and Google has no obligation under DMCA to take the video down.

Google/YouTube _do_ require you to agree to terms and conditions that say they can take down _anything_ you upload for any (or no) reason.

So Google have no obligation to host/serve your videos for you.

Google also have a business deal with Rumblefish (and many businesses like them) saying "we'll attempt to automate detection of uploads of copyright infringing material with your content and place ads on them and give you a cut, and we'll let you adjudicate disputes", presumably with something in return along the lines of "and you'll agree to ask for takedowns instead of suing us over things our automated systems miss".

It's obvious that the relationship with power is the one between Google and large-scale rightsholders, not the one between YouTube and the free uploaders and downloaders.

(Queue the old "The advertisers are the customers. _Tou_ are the product" line.)

With that being said, it seems appalling that it is possible on Rumblefish side to claim copyright on bird songs, assuming that they have vetted the audio personally.

Then again, should we not say that the algorithm that processes for copyrighted audio is imperfect and therefore could be improved further to not have false positive such as this?

I would bet that someone would have copyrighted sounds such as cash register's ka-ching!. Although use of such sounds from a specific recording should be copyrighted, I should be able to record a video of a real world cash register without anybody in the world claiming my work to be theirs.

"With that being said, it seems appalling that it is possible on Rumblefish side to claim copyright on bird songs, assuming that they have vetted the audio personally."

Two comments:

I wonder of Rumblefish intentionally err on the side of false positives, and use that stance in marketing their service to copyright owners? Cynical-me thinks perhaps this is just some viral marketing scam - with the birdsong being used on purpose since there's no legal-entity who could be said to be "the copyright holder" who could file fraud charges?

Secondly, I wonder if there's some recourse available to audit Rumblefish over this? If they're accepting payment from Google for their alleged copyright interest in the birdsong, how exactly are they disbursing that money and to which "copyright holder"?

Don't comment until you read the post. This wasn't a DMCA takedown.

I see no evidence that this incident has anything to do with the DMCA.

> I see no evidence that this incident has anything to do with the DMCA.

Other than the fact that false DMCA claims occur regularly on youtube. People end up blaming youtube. I guess that's not what happened here, but I don't think my assumption was unjustified. I've seen this happen often. The original post on the google support forum also refers to "false copyright claims", and barely mentions ads.

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