Guy Gets Bogus YouTube Copyright Claim… On Birds Singing In The Background

from the that-ain't-right dept

A whole bunch of folks have been sending in this Slashdot story about a guy who had one of his videos “claimed” via ContentID on YouTube due to a purpoted match with content that Rumblefish claims to hold the copyright on. We actually saw this post early on, because it links to an old Techdirt post about questionable Rumblefish takedowns. In this case, the guy says that there was no music in the video, but that Rumblefish said that the birds singing in the background violated its copyright:

“I make nature videos for my YouTube channel, generally in remote wilderness away from any possible source of music. And I purposely avoid using a soundtrack in my videos because of all the horror stories I hear about Rumblefish filing claims against public domain music. But when uploading my latest video, YouTube informed me that I was using Rumblefish’s copyrighted content, and so ads would be placed on my video, with the proceeds going to said company. This baffled me. I disputed their claim with YouTube’s system — and Rumblefish refuted my dispute, and asserted that: ‘All content owners have reviewed your video and confirmed their claims to some or all of its content: Entity: rumblefish; Content Type: Musical Composition.’ So I asked some questions, and it appears that the birds singing in the background of my video are Rumblefish’s exclusive intellectual property.”

While it’s still not fully clear what happened, the idea of claiming copyright on birds singing is actually not an entirely new concept (though, yes, it is ridiculous). In 2010, we wrote about Apple getting sued buy a guy, Martyn Stewart, who had recorded a bunch of bird sounds. Someone else had used those sounds in an app called iBird. As I said then, I’m not sure that there really is much “copyright” to claim over recording birds, but even if someone wants to make an argument that recording birds is copyrightable, it’s pretty clear that the guy in the story above was just recording his own sounds — not using someone’s “copyright”-covered bird songs…

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Companies: google, rumblefish, youtube

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Comments on “Guy Gets Bogus YouTube Copyright Claim… On Birds Singing In The Background”

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Dark Helmet (profile) says:

O Rly?

Yes, his account only highlights the damned problem, which he doesn’t seem to understand. Here’s what he says happened:

1. Guy uploads video
2. Content ID system flags it as infringing
3. Guy appeals flagging
4. RumbleFish human being somehow supposedly watches the video and “mistakenly” upholds the ingringement objection with YouTube.
5. Guy reads second objection, pinches his own wang to ensure he’s not somehow sleeping and dreaming of retarded amounts of stupidity, turns to bird and asks if he sang an infringing song. Bird, being a bird, declines to answer. Guy feels that this should be taken as a sign that it’s not him that’s insane.

So, we have a guy with a video who did nothing wrong and does every step right. We have the infringement police fucking up at every turn. In the end, the only parties doing ANYTHING FUCKING WRONG AT ALL were Google and RumbleFish.

I hate this shit…I really do….

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

*rehash of my boingboing post cause well its true*

Isn’t the bigger problem Content ID itself?
We have tons of cases where things are mistakenly tagged/flagged/bagged and the default answer of the system is Copyright Holders are always right.
Content ID was thrown together to make content holders happy, and make them stop suing You Tube. It appears to be a flawed system randomly flagging things, but then your comparing it to millions of things the content industry has shoveled into it.
We found 12 seconds of your video to be infringing, it matched 12 seconds of silence from 435 films… the first one the system spit out will get to place ads on “their” video.

Maybe its time to demand YouTube stop with secret deals (UMG vs MegaSong anyone), and demand they fix Content ID.
When the system creates a claim of ownership on actual real world bird songs, you shouldn’t need more hints that it completely screwed up.

Robert (profile) says:


If Rumblefish and Martyn Stewart can claim copyright owners of birds singing, do they pay said birds their content creator royalties? Did they have the birds sign away their given copyrights since they created the song themselves? Are they paying the birds royalties for performance rights?

Do Rumblefish and Martyn Stewart provide feeders for said birds whose content they copyrighted without the birds signature or even contacted the birds’ lawyers? That sounds like theft to me.

Think of all those singing birds who never get their fair pay (in worms or seed) for their efforts in singing their songs. Hell, I’m surprised Rumblefish and Stewart LLC are not out there shooting birds for performing their copyrighted music.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:


Reading through the AmA, I am not all that convinced of the guy’s sincerity. While the situation was resolved, it was only resolved after getting a media storm. Had this thing never blown up on Reddit and elsewhere, the video would still be falsely flagged today.

The problem is not that there is so much content for them to review, it is that the system is designed to flag as much content as possible without any controls in place.

One of the problems with prescreening content, which many here have pointed out, is that there is just too much stuff being uploaded to site like Youtube to be effectively screened. This situation proves that point. Content ID is meant to automate the process, but it fails on a way too regular basis to be useful for anyone but big interests like Rumblefish. Add to that the fact that any artists that wish to participate then have to sign a licensing deal with a company like Rumblefish and at the same time signing over up to 50% of the revenue to said company.

Another issue I saw in that thread and the FAQ linked is that even if you license the music properly, Rumblefish can still claim it and force ads around your legal content. This is double billing and should not stand.

This is not the way to move forward.

Gwiz (profile) says:

O Rly?

Be right back guys, I’m gonna go copyright whale songs, or maybe car traffic noises, those are used so much I’ll make a FORTUNE!

I’m going to copyright the sound of crickets and sue for every reference ( *crickets* ) on every on discussion forum on the web. Plus every TV show and movie with an outdoor evening scene. Maybe I’ll even sue Disney for that silly singing cricket named Jiminy, since they obviously based him on real crickets. And all of the UK too, for naming a national pastime after them.

$$$ CHA-CHING! $$$

drkkgt (profile) says:


I didn’t see anything about them having to pay back and money made while the ads run. In reality, if rumblefish did this with a bunch of vids that weren’t really theirs and only half of the owners stopped them by arguing RF would still make quite a bit of change wouldn’t they? Maybe that was their plan? (I get that they won’t make a ton on ads but I could see where it would all add up if they did this a lot.

Vincent Clement (profile) says:


Depends. Could be possible that these birds are under contract to God. What happens next depends on your version of God.

If he is the Old Testament vengeful God, he will sue Rumblefish and then charge back the cost of that lawsuit to the birds. If he is the New Testament kinder gentler God, he will forgive you. I’m sure there are other versions. Feel free to expand.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:


The only way a mistake could have been made in this instance was if the reviewer just flat out didn’t watch the video. Had a human watched the video from beginning to end, there could not have been a mistake made. If that reviewer was like me and watched about 30 seconds of the video and got too bored to watch it all the way, I could see them saying to themselves “The infringing stuff is probably later. I will flag it anyway” That is absolutely wrong.

Of course, no amount of “training” will fix this problem.

Keroberos (profile) says:


Or the “mistake” was just plain getting caught abusing the system. From the looks of it this kind of “mistake” is reported with alarming frequency–which begs the question; how many times has this happened and not been reported? Now it looks like some poor schmuck of a low level employee who’s gonna get thrown under a bus for it.

When there is no penalty placed on content owners that abuse the system for profit, it will be abused (and no, the threat of a lawsuit from some guy with no money isn’t gonna stop them–although it might make them laugh).

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Stolen from someone funnier than me...

“But, I have been known to give the bird to people.”

You should always use both hands to give the bird to people. This also keeps your middle fingers free from performing sinful acts with your lady-friends. Hence the well-known axiom: a bird in two hands is worth one in the bush.

Wait…I might have fucked that up….

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Content ID the problem?

Chirping birds run afoul of YouTube?s automated copyright infringing system: We (Rumblefish) didn?t claim it as anything actually. The YouTube Content ID system, ID?d the song and associated it with one of our artists / labels. I found out about this a few hours ago, watched the video myself and there was clearly no music in it at all?.only birdsong. I hit up the right person on our team to remove the claim and it was removed earlier tonight. We don?t know why YT claimed birdsong as one of our artists songs. It?s confusing.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:


The bigger issue: Why is YouTube (Google) bending over backwards to the pro-copyright thought police? I’d tell ’em to get lost. What are they gonna do, take down YouTube? Pffft, yeah, right.

Content ID has been a great way to push music licensing forward, so I think it was an inspired move on Google’s part. YouTube could not have rolled back copyright laws any time soon (if ever). Rather than fighting it, Google found a work around which showed copyrights holders how they could make money, which was better for them than tying up the system in endless lawsuits.

I suppose there gets to be a point where Google is so big and powerful that it can tell governments to shove it, but that bigness generates its own set of backlashes. And I’m seeing signs of it all ready for Apple, Google, Facebook, and others. They are no longer the warm, fuzzy underdog startups.

Anonymous Coward says:

“YouTube Identifies Birdsong As Copyrighted Music” music

One interesting comment

“The *PROBLEM* is that Rumblefish is claiming copyright on other people’s work. That’s completely unacceptable–it’s piracy. And that’s what needs to be stopped.”

Posted by im_thatoneguy

But will Rumblefish get slammed for potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars for an act worse than infringement? Of course not, they get the high court treatment. Had it been anyone else …

Anonymous Coward says:


Oh, and their excuse (from the link)? It was a single mistake, by and large we don’t make these kinds of mistakes very often given all the content we do foster.

But this ‘mistake’ argument would never hold for anyone else who infringes, IP extremist lawyers would sue them into the ground, so they should be given the same exact merciless and unforgiving treatment that IP extremists are quick to give anyone they suspect of infringement. They should be fined hundreds of thousands, I have no sympathy for them just like IP extremists have no sympathy for those who infringe and demand ridiculous sums of money.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Content ID the problem?

Yes, that’d be interesting, but it still wouldn’t alleviate the problem of the content rights owner “accidentally” affirming infringement after supposedly manually reviewing the video.

No it wouldn’t. So this would end up being a case-by-case correction. Each time a video is wrongfully tagged and removed, whatever resulted in the tagging in the first place is corrected. I’m not saying it is the best solution to the entire situation, but at least it would eliminate having the same mistake occur multiple times.

If there isn’t a self-educating system, I suppose every video with a certain type of bird sound is going to get flagged and each one is going to be sent to Rumblefish for review.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Content ID the problem?

If you believe that then you beleive Rumblefish either never engaged the Reddit community to respond in the link cited earlier, or you believe they’re lying in that earlier response.

I, on the other hand, believe what they said on Reddit, that they reviewed initially and affirmed infringement, though I find the idea that this reviewer actually watched the entire video suspect to say the least. More likely he/she simply chose to reaffirm without actually taking the time to watch the video.

After all, as they said on Reddit, there’s like, lots of videos to go through, yo, and it’s, like, really hard and stuff….

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

Why YouTube?

Why does it have to be YouTube? There are any number of places you can post videos now. Vimeo seems quite popular among a certain circle I hang out with. And even Tumblr allows video uploads.

After all, people find your video via a link. And a link can just as easily point at one site as another. YouTube isn?t a walled garden.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Content ID the problem?

You are still missing DH’s point. After Content ID falsely flagged it and the flag was disputed a REAL HUMAN from Rumblefish reafirmed that the video was infringing.

How are you going to fix that problem? When one of your employees can’t tell the difference between birds chirping and one of your songs, that is a HUGE weak link in the system. Bigger than the automated Content ID system.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Content ID the problem?

How are you going to fix that problem?

Once a video is wrongly tagged, it is no longer sent to that company. So for each screw up, hopefully it would only happen once.

Are there ways to remove human error altogether? Perhaps. The “ideal” Content ID system would work so flawlessly that no human intervention would ever be necessary. That’s not going to happen, of course, but if the technology were continued to be improved each time there is a failure, that would help.

As I have said here many times, you are all welcome to try to eliminate copyright altogether, but you’ll have a long haul ahead of you. YouTube has at least found a reasonable solution until that point. It’s not perfect, but at least it keeps YouTube functioning in the meantime.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Content ID the problem?

I am not asking how things would work under ideal circumstances with an ideal Content ID. I am asking how you are going to fix things in the here and now with the resources currently at your disposal.

Here is my best guess of the sequence of events:

1) Man uploads his video to YouTube.
2) Content ID scans it and flags it as having Rumblefish IP in it.
3) Youtube puts ads around video which pay money to Rumblefish.
4) Man disputes Rumblefish’s claim.
5) Rumblefish employee “inspects” the complaint and decides the video is infringing, when it is clearly not.
6) Man’s dispute is brushed aside and Rumblefish continues to get ad revenue for non-existent infringement.

We are not asking how to fix step 2. We are asking how you plan to fix step 5.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Content ID the problem?

We are not asking how to fix step 2. We are asking how you plan to fix step 5.

Obviously I’m not going to fix anything. I don’t work for Google.

Google could add some penalties to punish companies inappropriately requesting that videos be taken down. But given that this problem has happened in the past and Google hasn’t set up any system to correct it, it’s probably not a high priority for Google right now.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:


And because your not facing charges of copyfraud, its completely one sided and wrong.
Google found a system that was demanded by a bunch of rights holders to go above and beyond their required duty in this manner as a service provider to actively work to protect your IP.
It is completely 1 sided and your not the first company who has wrongfully snagged content and made money from things they are not entitled to. It is completely in favor of the gate keepers, and it is assumed no one else can own anything.
Your employee reaffirmed a claim because you allowed it, because in every previous case of this Google tells the little guy to suck it, they must be lying. This time you made the mistake of screwing someone who actually managed to get attention focused on this. It is completely insane that actual bird songs matched anything, it is completely insane that someone working for you thinks you license recordings of wild birds.

Here you talk about how wonderful Content ID is and earlier you try to blame it all on Google matching to much. You want Content ID when it works for you, and when it gets to be to much your employee just slaps whatever button makes the report go away faster. If Content ID is creating to many reports for you, maybe as a content holder you might speak with them about the failure that the system has become and look for ways to improve it, but as it stands now its making you money so why shake the boat.

If you had to pay a $3000 fine for everytime your employee accidentally reinstated a bogus claim, do you think you might have demanded more diligence then?

This is the problem, everyone else gets screwed because your assumed to be right. Content ID was designed to stop lawsuits from IP holders to freaking lazy to build their own system to protect their own IP and shifting the blame and responsibility to Google to take care of.

You get to hold copyrights longer than the lifespans of most people using the internet today, you get to make money that entire time, but claim there is not enough if you have to actually work to legitimately protect your IP, I say BS. If it is that important and that valuable you should be contributing something to protecting your property instead of pushing the burden onto someone else.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:


Your employee reaffirmed a claim because you allowed it, because in every previous case of this Google tells the little guy to suck it, they must be lying.

You do realize I don’t work for Rumblefish, have never sent them any music, and have absolutely nothing to do with either Google or Rumblefish.

I’ve been paying attention to Content ID since Google first announced it because I know a lot of musicians who record themselves singing other people’s songs and upload them. It’s never been fully explained by Google or anyone else which of those songs will be allowed to remain up and which ones won’t be. Most musicians know about obtaining a mechanical license from Harry Fox, but there is no easy way to obtain a synch license and therefore most don’t. Google doesn’t want to discourage this because it isn’t in itself self-interest to do so, but on the other hand, it hasn’t really provided info on how to obtain the proper licenses in advance. Content ID sort of handles the problem by identifying songs and then letting the video creator knowing after the fact whether the video gets to stay or not. It’s a work around given current laws and their interpretation. I’d rather this than no YouTube while the various companies spend years trying to sort out copyright laws. This work around allows YouTube to function in an environment which is still being defined legally.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:


I guess that means that woodpeckers get 50% of the insects in the trees, that crows get 50% of any carrion around or whatever pisses them off at the time, seagulls get to steal half of kid’s hot dogs and ice cream and the beach and them poop on half their parents?

This could get incredibly complicated. Requiring much wisdom, the patience of Job and the ability to split splittable hairs.

We need a politician to sort this out!!!

Bas Grasmayer (profile) says:

Content ID the problem?

Google provides content owners with tools for flagging. Some of these tools are not available to most of its users – only content users (who usually have to send a fax to request them).

If people are abusing these tools, Google should ‘fix’ that, by restricting their use of these tools. Else their automated system can be grossly abused.

People that abuse these tools really should be told to fax/mail DMCA notices.

Chargone (profile) says:


actually, old testiment God is more like ‘send a guy to tell them they’re doing it wrong and shall be smitten if they do not change’ …. then find weird and inventive ways to kill ’em all off.

New testiment God (not that they’re actually any different, but that requires caring about the theology) would be like ‘hey, realise what you did was wrong, admit it, and stop doing it and you’ll be fine. fail to, and when i wrap this thing up, you BURN!’ (please note that there’s a fair bit of evidence that this is not ‘tortured for eternity’ so much as ‘combust and stop existing because that’s a heck of a lot more merciful than spending an Eternity alive and completely separated from God. as with 90% of everything, some people disagree.)

dcee (profile) says:

Content ID the problem?

Suzanne, I know you’re trying hard to answer but I think you’re still missing the point, of course if Rumblefish disapears the problem would also disappear, because step 5 would have never happened.

The problem is that a human at Rumblefish confirmed company ownership of a wrongly identified video. If Rumblefish wouldn’t have confirmed it, then there would have been no problem.

Andy (profile) says:

The same thing happened to me on SoundCloud.

“Our automatic content protection system has detected that your upload “Drums_RIDE.wav” may contain content that is owned or licensed by EMI UK (Oliver Wallace, En El Tejado).
As a result, we have paused the upload of your audio for the time being.

If you are the original creator of the audio in all its parts, or have obtained all necessary licenses and permissions to upload and share this content, please contact us using the form below.”

The song they’re referring to is on Disney’s Peter Pan soundtrack, and the Spanish version to top it off!

My track was the ride (cymbal) track from the drums of one of our songs. Just to make sure everyone understands what that means, I’m talking about the a single element of the drum track from a song. Yeah, just a guy banging on a cymbal! This track was from a remix kit we put on soundcloud so our fans could remix our songs.

The situation sorted itself out within 48 hours but it’s a taste of what’s to come.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Content ID the problem?

If Rumblefish wouldn’t have confirmed it, then there would have been no problem.

In this instance there wouldn’t have been a problem. But there have been other cases where companies have falsely claimed copyright on a video they really have no rightful claim.

I’m not trying to defend Rumblefish. I have no interest in the company.

What does interest me is how Content ID works since I know so many musician friends who upload themselves singing songs they didn’t write. Content ID is the system that will decide if those videos stay or go. I am not anti-Content ID by any means. It’s a great interim solution to music licensing involving online video.

I just spend a lot of time looking for some answers to pass on to musicians. The Rumblefish incident illustrates a glitch in the system. One can either accept that these things will happen, or one can try to find solutions to reduce or eliminate these problems.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:


Well you honestly give an amazing impersonation of them.

We use quotes to show the use of others words, so as not to leave the reader with confusion about ones position.

YouTube is in a screwed position because on the one side you have the public who want to upload and share. On the other side you have corporations who demand the burden to “protect” their IP falls onto everyone else.

IP holders want every possible cent they can find, and have found fun ways to get more than their fair share by exploiting systems. They purchase Congresscritters, They use threats of massive lawsuits to get their way, They fake documents showing how they are bleeding money because someone didn’t pay them what they feel they are owed.

The system is loaded against the public, who were tricked into letting these corporations “own” imaginary property with promises of they would become part of the shared culture everyone could use.

The issue is clouded with the loaded argument of won’t someone think of the “artists”, when there is undeniable evidence that these corporations will use every possible “trick” to keep them from getting what they are owed.

You have people making laws who gleefully celebrate their total ignorance of the internet, and are handed enough money to believe the lie that Google is rich only from the sweat of someone elses brow. The truth is these corporations are the ones who are rich from the sweat of others brows.

The simple fact that Content ID matched wild bird songs to ANYTHING show that there is a bias flaw. The fact rightsholders have no accountability for lying in these situations, and demand a private system honestly needs to be addressed with laws written by people with an understanding of reality. That if you tape your child doing something cute and there happens to be a few seconds of a song in the background that the label, artist, etc… are not owed a damn thing.

They like to talk about the entitlement of the consumer, and consumers should be entitled to quite a bit. The entitlement of companies like this dwarfs anything consumers feel entitled to.

Google should dump Content ID, but they can not because the paid lackeys believe the lies. They gleefully support getting extrajudicial solutions to the “problem”. Content ID could become a useful tool, but only if rightsholders are forced to give more than demands to it.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:


That quote was taken from the Reddit article. I just used the “Blog This” tool (created by Google) to pull the quote out with the link. Sorry that confused you.

Google set up Content ID to keep YouTube in business. Of course it is self-serving for Google, but I like the fact that YouTube is still in business.

You guys can declare war on IP laws, copyright holders, Content ID, and/or Google for all I care. Please attack your “real” enemies. Not me.

Here’s the issue facing musicians. They are encouraged to cover songs and upload them to YouTube. Over and over again they are told how doing this will launch their careers. However, technically to do that they need synch licenses. Those are hard to come by because there is no set clearing house and no set price for them. Google on the one hand wants musicians to upload these videos, but on the other hand, doesn’t explain how they can obtain the proper licenses.

So someone like me ends up saying, “There’s no guarantee that the video will remain if you don’t have a license you probably can’t get anyway, but almost no musicians run into trouble, so do it.” I’m just trying to push Google to clarify what is allowable. However, they don’t really want to say because they don’t want to go on record about encouraging people to upload videos without proper licenses.

What I am hoping is that the new deals with publishers will turn Google into the Harry Fox of synch licensing so that there is an understandable system to explain to musicians.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:


Here. This is what I wrote about 1 1/2 years ago. I’ve updated it a bit as people ask me questions in the comments section. I have maintained that YouTube is doing its best to put music licensing forward without actually rewriting the laws (which will be a long and drawn out process). So I think what Google is doing is good.

Music, Copyright, and YouTube

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Content ID the problem?

Then you misinterpret my quip. I agree with you here. My point was, just as Suzanne completely failed to address what you actually said, the review(er) entirely failed to review the claim.

More likely he/she simply chose to reaffirm without actually taking the time to watch the video.



what you’re quoting misses the important step in the middle where Rumblefish FIRST reviewed the video and “accidentally” reaffirmed the infringement claim….


Obviously this video never should have been flagged. I wonder if there is a correction system so that whatever soundprint linked the sound in this particular video to Rumblefish can be removed from the Content ID system. A self-educating ID system would be interesting.


I mean, she’s really pushing the diversion by the end there. But ignorant affirmation or diversionary tactic, in both cases, the actual subject was not addressed at all.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Content ID the problem?

What I have been saying is that the Rumblefish incident is just one of many involving multiple companies. I’m concerned with how ContentID works. In this case, it wasn’t able to properly identify content, and then the problem was compounded by the fact that a company claimed copyright on video content it should not have claimed copyright.

It’s a multiple part problem and pointing to Rumblefish will not fix it. You guys think that since I won’t limit my focus to Rumblefish, I must be the enemy. In fact, I am saying that the entire system is flawed. It’s much better than having YouTube not exist. And it’s a good system to spread advertising venue to content creators. But sometimes videos are misidentified. I’d say it’s probably a relatively small percentage of videos that are misidentified, but it does happen.

What’s interesting whenever people attack me on TechDirt is that I am actually more radical than most of you. I’m all in favor of democratization of creativity and am wary of any big companies involved in the process. It’s been interesting watching the tide start to turn against Apple, Facebook, Google, etc., and to watch them all battle against each other.

cyberscan (profile) says:

You Tube Poster Should Sue

If the youtube poster can come up with the money to sue Rumblefish, he should sue Rumblefish for copyright infringement for “stealing” his work and claiming it as their own. These copyright trolls should see what it is like to be on the other end of the court system. If the poster can prove that he recorded the birds, then it should be pretty much an open and shut case.

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