How Copyright Filters Present A Serious Challenge To DJ Culture

from the collateral-damage dept

A few months ago, we wrote about how the super popular (and very useful) SoundCloud service implemented a copyright filter, which resulted in a bunch of DJs (who are some of the biggest users of SoundCloud) to have their work go missing. It’s not hard to figure out why SoundCloud put in place a filter. The entertainment industry has decided to pretend that copyright law in the US requires such a filter, to avoid falling afoul of the DMCA’s “red flag” clause. Yet, as many people have pointed out, if the DMCA was designed to require filters, it would have said so. Of course, because of this, many companies who host works have felt compelled to use filters, not just to avoid a lawsuit, but to keep the entertainment industry happy, because most of these companies want to work with the entertainment industry (contrary to the claims of some that these services just want to “ripoff” the entertainment industry).

However, there are all sorts of problems with these filters. Contrary to the claims of some, determining copyright infringement is not an easy call for humans, let alone computers. Computers, for example, have no algorithm to determine fair use. The end result is that the system defaults to blocking way too frequently, taking down works that are legitimate. David Collado points us to yet another example of this happening with SoundCloud. Apparently a DJ from Brussels, DJ Lowdjo, recently was listening to a lot of Turkish psychedelic rock, and noticed that American artists The Gaslamp Killer & Gonjasufi apparently copied a bunch of these same tracks, with very minor edits, on the album they released last year. Lowdjo tried to upload his own work, based on the same Turkish psychedelic rock songs… and it got blocked by SoundCloud’s copyright filter, claiming that the copyright on the song belonged to the Gaslamp Killer’s rightsholder, Milan Records.

Of course, Lowdjo’s work was similarly inspired from the same source, so the copyright claim seems questionable. But a computer apparently can’t make that distinction. Unfortunately, it appears SoundCloud also refused to respond to Lowdjo’s counternotice. Some argue that the DMCA requires companies to put works back online following a counternotice, while others point out that sites are free to refuse to put the works back up at their own discretion. At the very least, SoundCloud should have responded, though.

Either way, the situation is unfortunate for both SoundCloud and DJ culture. The supporters of filters will simply brush off DJ culture as if it doesn’t matter, or if it’s “just copying,” rather than any real art form, which is pretty insulting (as an aside, why is it that the folks who insist that copyright is needed to “defend culture” are always the first to mock any sort of culture they don’t like?). The reality is that DJ culture is an art form, whether people like it or not, and copyright law (and the way the entertainment industry interprets the law) is clearly getting in the way of that culture. SoundCloud, and other services pushed to install filters, are sort of caught in the middle of all of this, trying to stay on the right side of the law and appease the entertainment industry, while also helping DJ culture. At some point, something has to give.

Filed Under: ,
Companies: soundcloud

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “How Copyright Filters Present A Serious Challenge To DJ Culture”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

DMCA was designed to require filters, it would have said so

What a wonderfully false statement.

Filters aren’t a legal requirement, they are however the best way for companies who choose to publish open user submitted content to their websites to check the legality of the content in question. They could use other means, but a filter is reasonable effective and keeps these companies from having to hire a large staff to review submissions.

They could do it in other ways, requiring DJs to list all of the content in their tracks, and to provide a written approval from the rights holder for each sample or clip used. That wouldn’t require a filter.

Sorry Mike, but on this one, you are reaching.

Oh yeah, DJ culture is an art form. But at the same time, calling it “art” doesn’t remove the requirements to have the rights to use other people’s performances and material in their mixes. DJing lives by the sword and dies the same way.

Jay says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Lawrence Lessig: … If you understand this refrain, you’re gonna’ understand everything I want to say to you today. It has four parts:

Creativity and innovation always builds on the past.

The past always tries to control the creativity that builds upon it.

Free societies enable the future by limiting this power of the past.

Ours is less and less a free society.


You’re hurting our culture!

Actually, what you ARE doing is disregarding the information in terms of the cost of trying to pay ASCAP, SESAC, and BMI, the labels, and anyone else because of supposed copyright issues.

Let’s think this through here:

The artist loses 16% automatically to the PRO. They also have a habit of shutting down bars and restaurants so that new acts have harder times to play in their local area. One example. Here’s some more. Even more issues with them

So… If they’re creating because they want to, and the artists create from other sources, what the hell is up with copyright impeding their progress?

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I tend to cringe every time I see something called a “manifesto”. It’s usually a bullsh-t stringing of partial facts and poorly framed quotes to try to create truth where none exists. In this case, it’s like a techdirt post with video.

I note that you make absolutely no attempt to argue your case using logic and evidence. All you provide is a string of emotional reactions and incoherent critiscisms.

Can you actually point at a “partial fact”?

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Filters aren’t a legal requirement, they are however the best way for companies who choose to publish open user submitted content to their websites to check the legality of the content in question. They could use other means, but a filter is reasonable effective and keeps these companies from having to hire a large staff to review submissions.

They could do it in other ways, requiring DJs to list all of the content in their tracks, and to provide a written approval from the rights holder for each sample or clip used. That wouldn’t require a filter.

They are not required to do any of that. They are only required to respond when notified by a rightsholder. The burden of determining when infringement has occurred remains with the rightsholder. That is what the law says and has been re-inforced by numerous judgements (such as those that Perfect 10 has provoked).

Filters were introduced for a quite different reason. They were part of the deal that allowed YouTube to continue to host copyrighted content in return for passing some Ad revenue back to the rightholder. The primary function of the filter is revenue allocation. Once the filter was in place it was easy for Youtube to allow rightsholders to use them as a takedown mechanism – it certainly does reduce the amount of work that Youtube has to do – once the filter is there anyway – but not to the extent that you (incorrectly) suggest.

BTW in this case The Gaslamp Killer & Gonjasufi should be prosecuted for copyfraud since they clearly did not have the right to upload the content in question into the filter.

(Although it’s worth noting that most “DJ” cases would be rather different.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m a DJ. I can’t speak on behalf of all my peers, but this has resulted in many of my friends moving to the friendlier “mixcloud” service instead. But generally, if a track is DMCA’d I won’t hear it, meaning I won’t buy it, meaning I won’t play it for hundreds of people enjoying the set. DJs in my scene play many tracks from first-time artists, local heads, independent labels, etc. The more you care about your track not being “stolen”, the less likely anyone will listen to/download/buy it. There is massive competition, and the culture and labels in general are very friendly to sharing tracks and remixing copyrighted content. It gets the word out, and in what is now a really saturated market, that matters. A lot. Also, when labels region-restrict a track, and I like it, it means I won’t buy it but I will find a way to acquire it. Otherwise I buy 100% of the tracks on my set when a purchase link is available (there are a lot of artists share download links to their own track among the scene). Im not familiar with the “top 40/hiphop” bar dj experience- nor do I want to be in the position of being told what to play.

What soundcloud did is a grave mistake. The culture on both the consumer side and label/artist side in the electronic music and dj scene is remarkably forward thinking and anti-restrictive copyright. Soundcloud, by catering to the dj, should have known better. Warner Bros/Sony/BMG can’t save them from the exodus unless soundcloud completely sells out and leaves the dj behind (at this rate, good riddance. When will these companies realize that they are REPLACEABLE. Especially when restricting consumer’s ability). BTW, Itunes is not one of our storefronts.

DH's Love Child (profile) says:

Re: Re:

taking other peoples music and mixing it differently isnt creating, thats just modified version of someone elses work, create your own music, dont steal from others

I challenge you to find ANY song that was not inspired or built from ‘someone else’s’ work. Any.

All music is created by building on the music that came before it. You name any piece of music that you think is original, and someone will be able to find a previous piece that it was built from. That is how music works. As the late, great Leonard Bernstein once said, “A composer is the sum total of his listening experience”

pringerX (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

My gf pointed me to this youtube video of a comedian demonstrating how a ton of pop songs utilize the chord progression found in Pachelbel’s Canon in D, seamlessly transitioning from a line of the song in question into the canon. Which has since been rearranged into countless works.

Ah, link here:
Comedian Rob Paravonian’s Rant on how boring it is to play Pachelbel’s Canon in D on cello.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Glenn Gould was a fucking hack!

“Glenn Herbert Gould (September 25, 1932 ? October 4, 1982) was a Canadian pianist who became one of the best-known and most celebrated classical pianists of the 20th century. He was particularly renowned as an interpreter of the keyboard music of Johann Sebastian Bach. His playing was distinguished by a remarkable technical proficiency and a capacity to articulate the polyphonic texture of Bach?s music.”

Where’s your amazingly original music by the way?

BdgBill (profile) says:


Although I agree with the central point of the article, I think the word “culture” is misused here.

Political correctness tells us that all cultures are 100% equal and must not be criticized in any way. Mocking someone’s culture is just one tick below racism. This has led many people to attach this powerful word to their favorite activities. So now we have “DJ Culture”, “Graffiti Culture”, “Hip Hop Culture”, “Rockabilly Culture” etc.

Larisa (user link) says:

speaking of credit, communication & culture...

Nice to see this get some more coverage.

I wrote about this in the follow-up to my blog post that this author linked to in his earlier piece, about a month ago. And so did Wayneandwax. And we both said all of this and more.

Speaking of cultures, and communities, there are already communities of djs and dj-scholar-academics writing about these issues, it would be good for your argument, as well as good practice, to link with more of them, especially if you are going to make an argument defending them. It’s nice of you to speak for us, but we are already speaking for ourselves.

here’s some of us, over a month ago..
specifically on the gonjasufi thing:

and on Soundcloud:

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop ยป

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...