Rumblefish CEO: Claiming Copyright On Your Incidental Recordings Of Birds Was Merely A Series Of Unfortunate Errors

from the that-just-happen-to-profit-us dept

Following Rumblefish claiming copyright via YouTube’s ContentID system (and putting ads on the video to monetize it) of a guy’s nature video because the birds singing in the background sounded too much like a Rumblefish-licensed track, Rumblefish’s CEO has gone into PR crisis mode, setting up an AMA (ask me anything) on Reddit to address the story. While he gets a smidgen of kudos for the funny title of it:

I’m the CEO of Rumblefish, I guess we’re the newest up and coming bird music licensing company – I’m also a copyright, music licensing, entrepreneur guy. Ask me anything.

the details aren’t leaving many satisfied. The key explanation is basically that it was a “series of unfortunate errors”:

Here’s what happened. YT ID’d a song in our catalog improperly, it was disputed, one of our content ID reps re-instated the claim mistakenly. The issue was brought to our attention b/c of a post tonight. We reviewed the video, I watched it myself, and it was clearly a mistake. We released the claim on Sunday eve a few hours after our mistake came to our attention. That’s what happened.

We review a substantial amount of claims every day and the number is increasing significantly. It’s been rather challenging. We have millions of videos now using our songs as soundtracks and keeping up is getting harder and harder.

This is, almost certainly, an accurate reflection of the specific events, but hardly touches on the key error. That the Rumblefish rep re-instated the video “mistakenly.” Remember, this was a nature video. There was no music. No one who watched the actual video would think that it involved someone taking “bird songs” off of some Rumblefish licensed track and placing it on the video.

Separately, this highlights an ongoing problem that we’ve discussed concerning YouTube’s ContentID program. While it has been a great way to enable copyright holders to make money from content uploaded by others, it also can (and often is) abused to either take down content or to monetize someone else’s content.

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Companies: google, rumblefish, youtube

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Comments on “Rumblefish CEO: Claiming Copyright On Your Incidental Recordings Of Birds Was Merely A Series Of Unfortunate Errors”

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67 Comments
HackDefendr (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Actually…

He wasn’t playing dumb. That is exactly what happened. But leave it to an Anonymous Coward to state opinions used to induce further flaming. Anonymous coward posting is how you avoid being human, and not having to actually reach out to the company for comment as did I.

The CEO of Rumblefish is actually a rather nice guy, and is willing to respond to emails directly rather than have them funnel through channels where the message would surely get mangled.

All anonymous cowards are just that…cowards! If you can live with that fact, then so can I.

Spaceman Spiff (profile) says:

What RF owes

Every penny Rumblefish may have earned, multiplied by some reasonable number (say 100), should be remitted by them to the videographer who originally posted the film to YouTube. They assaulted him, took advantage of his work, and were just generally obnoxious, not to mention behaved in an illegal manner in that they were claiming rights to something they had no rights to! This should be the case for every company that does what they did.

bob (profile) says:

And so what....

The constant story is that web sites could inadvertently put up infringing content and music owners might inadvertently put up copies that were protected by copyright. We’re constantly told that these errors are all just honest mistakes, but we should never punish anyone because it might just be a mistake. I’m sure there are some out there who think that even though Tenenbaum admitted to making unauthorized copies, it still might be a mistake you know. Quit being so harsh.

So why be so harsh when some automated tool at YouTube went kablooie? It’s just a mistake and it looks like it will be fixed. Quit being so harsh.

Anonymous Coward says:

Their excuse that it was a single mistake and, by and large, we don’t make these kinds of mistakes very often given all the content we do foster should not provide them any relief.

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.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

I appreciate the sentiment behind doing an AMA, but in the thread it seemed like he wasn’t prepared to say much – and there weren’t really many questions to ask anyway. Basically it was “what happened?” and “why?” and “what are you going to do about it?” – to which he answered “it was a mistake”, “it was a mistake” and “try to avoid mistakes, in more or less the same way we do now” respectively.

And that’s not really too surprising – they weren’t about to turn anti-DMCA or anything. But why do an AMA if they have nothing to say? I guess they just heard “that’s what people do…”

Matthew (profile) says:

Oh Look...

“We review a substantial amount of claims every day and the number is increasing significantly. It’s been rather challenging. We have millions of videos now using our songs as soundtracks and keeping up is getting harder and harder.”

I hear you saying that the situation current copyright law puts you in is untenable and that you would like to see comprehensive copyright reform take place. I applaud you for your progressive attitude when so many in your industry are focused on backwards, money-grubbing punishment schemes that harm the artist and the consumer alike. Thanks also for your heartfelt apology and pledge to never let this sort of thing happen ever again – that sort of thing, when it’s sincere, really goes a long way towards establishing a positive relationship with consumers.

Oh wait…you say the only copyright reform you want is more copyright and you didn’t actually apologize or pledge to do better? In that case it’s a solo bird salute to you. Stop trying to get ahead of the story and spin it and start fixing the problem or you’re just another asshole in a vast sea of them.

Anonymous Coward says:

And so what....

I want infringement penalties to be far less harsh and the penalties for bogus takedown requests, or for what Rumblefish did here, to be be harsher than the penalties for infringement. This mistake argument won’t hold if someone who doesn’t get the high court treatment infringes, why when Rumblefish commits an act worse than infringement should we be less harsh on them. Absolutely not.

One interesting Slashdot 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 …

This is unacceptable. I want Rumblefish to pay hundreds of thousands in fines, period. They should at least pay what someone who infringes could pay in fines. Infringement damages are fake and imaginary, the damages caused by bogus takedown requests and claims like this by Rumblefish are real and empirical and Rumblefish does not deserve the high court treatment, they deserve serious punishment like us commoners.

HackDefendr (profile) says:

Re: And so what....

Wrong!

The issue is with YouTube’s system not Rumblefish. It was YouTube’s copyright detection mechanism that reported it to Rumblefish, and then the human error of accepting what YouTube reported. That is just human laziness.

Rumblefish copyrights legitimate music and the likes, it doesn’t scan the Internet looking for violations. It relies on clients reporting, however those may come.

One day…when you grow up and stop hiding behind the Anonymous Coward account, you will understand. Now get out there and sell some more magazine subscriptions for your den so you can win that bicycle.

GeneralEmergency (profile) says:

Fishing for Rumblefish....

.

tweet chirp tweet-tweet chirp-chirp-chirp-tweet chirp-chirp chirp-chirp chirp-tweet-chirp chirp-chirp-tweet-chirp chirp-chirp-tweet tweet-tweet-chirp-chirp-chirp-tweet chirp chirp chirp tweet-chirp chirp-chirp-tweet chirp tweet-chirp chirp-tweet chirp chirp chirp-tweet-chirp tweet-tweet-chirp-chirp-chirp-tweet chirp-tweet-chirp-chirp tweet chirp chirp-chirp tweet chirp-chirp-chirp tweet-chirp-chirp-chirp-tweet-chirp-chirp-chirp-tweet chirp-chirp-chirp-tweet tweet chirp

.

AG Wright (profile) says:

And so what....

The problem is, Bob, that time after time sponsors of SOPA, PIPA, ACTA and other measures that seem to seek to limit the use of people on the internet of music, tell us that it’s easy to tell when something is infringing on copyright.
Now not only has the automated system failed, not really surprising, but when a human being supposedly reviewed the claim the copyright was again claimed with little or no recourse to the real owner of any copyright that may apply.
The only thing that actually got him is rights back is the fact that he got a bunch of publicity because he posted his complaint in the right places.
That’s not how things should work.

Patrick (profile) says:

The real problem

Thanks Techdirt for highlighting this issue, but as seems to be common with the tech press, you’re missing the real heart of the problem. The problem here is NOT that Content ID mistakenly identified this guy’s video as infringing. The problem is that when he disputed the mistaken match, YouTube gave the copyright claimant the sole discretion whether to accept his dispute or not. Rumblefish of course did what all copyright owners do and just blanket denied all disputes, causing YouTube to reinstate the Content ID match with a message that the dispute has been “reviewed and confirmed.” This shows once again that the supposed “dispute” process in the Content ID system is a joke, since disputes almost never succeed anymore.

As I have documented extensively on my website, http://www.fairusetube.org, the real problem here is that when Content ID makes a mistaken match, YouTube gives the copyright claimant the ultimate authority to decide whether to accept a user’s dispute. When the copyright claimant inevitably denies the dispute, the YouTube user has no further recourse. Though Content ID was originally intended as a front-end to the DMCA notice and counter-notice process, once a content ID claim has been “confirmed” against you, you have absolutely no further way to dispute it–either through Content ID or the DMCA process. Copyright claimants thus get to be the judges of their own disputes–a system which is ripe for abuse.

I have documented this problem quite thoroughly on my website, along with many specific instances of blatant abuse by unethical companies using Content ID to steal ad revenue from videos they have no rights to. Please see http://fairusetube.org/youtube-copyfraud for more info.

It’s time for YouTube to wake up and fix the problems with the Content ID system before someone sues them for facilitating copyright fraud!

Anonymous Coward says:

Rumblefish’s CEO has thus far ignored a large number of pertinent questions, such as:

1) Whether removals are reviewed by a copyright attorney, or what level of training or qualifications are held by the reviewing employee.

2) What section of Rumblefish’s catalogue resembled the bird songs.

3) How this incident is different from Rumblefish’s 2009 snafoo where they forced a video to be taken down because it used a public domain album as background music (by an artist who has no dealings with Rumblefish).

Anonymous Coward says:

And so what....

Public outrage should be the last resort to resolving these issues. The first should be

A: Their internal efforts. That failed.

B: The legal system. Too expensive and ineffective, plus penalties against this sort of behavior are either too low or don’t exist.

C: Public outrage.

That public outrage has turned into a necessary resort to resolve these issues is unacceptable.

Anonymous Coward says:

The real problem

I don’t know that it’s not a problem that Content ID mistakenly identifies anyone’s non-infringing video as infringing. However, you make a very good point and that is that laws like the DMCA aren’t just limited to their text. They have second or third order effects and one of those effects is a system where a site like YouTube makes agreements with rights holders that supersede what’s in the law. YouTube certainly has lawyers and you can bet any amount of money that those lawyers advised them that the current Content ID system implementation exposes them to less liability than one that follows the letter of the DMCA complete with a proper counter-notice procedure.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Its like Charlie Brown's teacher is talking.

Blah blah blah blame Google not us.
Blah blah blah blah to many reports.
Blah blah blah blah sorry we got caught.
Blah blah blah blah to the interwebs to defend out name.
Blah blah blah blah won’t let you know what it matched, secret systems are best.
Blah blah blah blah blah shift blame more to anyone but us.
Blah blah blah blah someone else has to protect our IP.
Blah blah blah blah blah no mention of reviewing anything else that employee reviewed and most likely mass claimed was infringing even if it wasn’t.
Blah blah blah blah blah Google’s fault.
Blah blah blah blah did I mention not our fault?
Blah blah blah blah blah complex issue.
Blah blah blah blah blah still all Google’s fault, why won’t you peons shut up your screwing our Google search results.
Blah blah blah blah blah you all just want to steal from us anyways.
Blah blah blah blah PR spin machine set to frappe.

I’d ask him did he really think that he was going to get out of this with a weak pr campaign?
When does he plan to review all other cases and discipline employees who never looked at the content to compare?

tpp says:

Single mistake, one at a time, thousands of times

So this is the real problem with this.

Every single one of those companies gets a one or more free bites at the apple. They call them honest mistakes, bugs in their software, or whatever and face no consequences whatsoever.

Meanwhile the targets of their “mistakes” get to deal with the “mistakes” one at a time.

There’s real cost involved in dealing with “mistakes” like this, and the cost is shifted entirely on the innocent.

Saying you’re sorry costs nothing. We should demand more than that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Seems to me, if he really wanted to recoup some of the lousy publicity the company got from this, the best move would be to find out exactly who it was that just rubber-stamped the video as infringing, and boot them out the door with a nice ‘You’re fired for making us look like a bunch of greedy idiots!’

Assuming of course that the process wasn’t completely automated, in which case he, being the CEO and therefor the one ultimately in charge of the company would be the one getting the boot. Somehow I rather doubt he’d be willing to go that far.

peter says:

Copyright birdsong

Is it just me or have I missed the point?

I thought the real problem is not the mistake in claiming someone else’s recording as their own, but the fact that they are claiming copyright on birdsong.

I recognize that they can claim copyright on a specific recording of some birdsong, but my question is…how do you know that a recording is a copy of your recording and not just some other bird have a tweet?

I think that what i am saying is that the similarity of one birdsong recording is so similar to another that it puts a very heavy onus on checking prior to claiming someone has copied.

This sounds more like ‘its birdsong therefore its ours’ rather that a mistake in claiming copying.

HackDefendr (profile) says:

Re: And so what....

It was a single person hired to do follow up verification on reported infringements. I will say it was very lazy, and unprofessional for that one person to not do his/her job. I am willing to bet that person no longer works for Rumblefish, or at least is on notice, should he or she be presented with another report verification instance.

Spaceman Spiff (profile) says:

Copyright birdsong

Well, I agree that copyright of basic animal noises is just silly/stupid/ridiculous/absurd, but as for determination that the copy of such a recording is a copy is not difficult. There is freely available software that can generate a “signature” of any sound recording, compare it to another, and determine if they are copies of the same source recording. I’m sure that the MGM lion roar is quite distinctive, from the forensics perspective at least.

Anonymous Coward says:

Copyright on recording BIRDSONGS? How much do the birds get paid?

I do not see the “original work” within that copyright. So if I wanted to provide an income for the next 5 to 9 generations of my family, all I need to do is start recording every dog sound, every cat meow, as many frogs croaking as I can, crickets at night, turning on the tap, the shower, doors opening and closing, the sounds of making coffee in the morning …

That’s insane. I do not believe there is a copyright for those sounds and if there is – that deserves outrage and destruction.

Katie Seagal (user link) says:

Sound recording administered by: Rumblefish

Many years ago I worked with 2 musicians and made several videos for the group. One came up on Youtube as Sound Recording Administrated by Rumblefish! Does that mean that the group lifted a song from Rumblefish (what Rumblefish is implying) and slightly changed the format of the songs subject and lyrics and music to make it their own creation? I heard a song on American Idol that sound so familiar to a song these two musicians were working on called “Jesus Cop a Feel!” and I heard an American Idol singer singing a song that made me freeze the tv and break out my CD of that other song I did with that group months and months ago. I played the tv and the singer sang, but it was different lyrics, slightly different music, but when I froze the tv and played the CD, I got similar results. The songs were almost the same, only slightly different. Is that what this is all about and should I remove the videos that I think this was done too? Are these songs lifted too: http://change-wins.blogspot.com/ Thanks.

Anonymous Coward says:

add this to every original video you publish

Artist name:
Song name:
Music composer:
Lyricist:
Publisher:
Music label (if any):
Rights owner?s name and contact information:
*Rumblefish and/or similar entities operating via Youtube.com Do Not Have copyright claims against this material. They are a licensee only. U.S. Copyright laws take president over any claims made by third parties in regards to this original material. Rumblefish and/or similar entities are not authorized to claim this material as original or derivative work.

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