How Rumblefish Ended Up Claiming Copyright On A Song Uploaded By The Band Who Actually Held The Copyright
from the overclaiming dept
A few years back, we wrote about the company Rumblefish claiming copyright on public domain works on YouTube and getting them taken down. Recently, the company got a lot of attention for claiming copyright on someone’s video because it had some birds chirping in the background, and a very mistaken Rumblefish process not only believed it owned the birdsongs, but then an employee doubled down and refused to back down when challenged on this. The company did eventually admit a big mistake after this received a ton of publicity — but many of us were still worried about the process that allowed Rumblefish to make such a bogus claim in the first place.
Here’s a story of another Rumblefish takedown — but the details suggest one of the reasons why these things may be happening. John Boydston, from the band Daddy A Go Go, recently contacted us after he discovered that Rumblefish was claiming copyright on a video he had put up on YouTube, for an original song called I Wanna Be An Action Figure. The song was written by Boydston and he holds the sole copyright. It was released on a CD back in 2002. The video was produced (by Boydston again) just last year and posted to YouTube last October. Even so, Boydston received a notice from YouTube saying that music in that video “may have content that is owned or licensed by rumblefish.” Boydston filed a dispute over this — but was told that it would take a month to hear back — and in the meantime ads might appear next to his videos with the proceeds going to Rumblefish.
Thankfully, the process didn’t take that long. Within a day of filing the dispute claim, YouTube sent Boydston an email telling him that “rumblefish has reviewed your dispute and released its copyright claim on your video.” So, at the very least, that’s an improvement over the birdsong situation.
So, what happened? Boydston searched around for a while to actually find a contact at Rumblefish and had a short email exchange where he was told that the “system is working the way it should.” It turns out that Boydston signed the band up with CDBaby to be his online distributor. They offer his music off of the CD Baby site, but also distribute it to tons of other properties, like iTunes, Amazon and various streaming services. And… it turns out, mixed in with a long list of music stores and streaming sites, is Rumblefish. The company is supposed to help potentially license the song to others, with a cut of the proceeds going back to Boydston (I assume after Rumblefish and CDBaby take their cut). So part of that is that Rumblefish automatically registers all such music with YouTube’s ContentID, and sets it to “monetize.” That, of course, leads to the silly result that any time an indie artist who uses CD Baby puts their own work up on YouTube, Rumblefish may end up claiming the work as its own (though, in theory, some of the proceeds would eventually get back to the author). Unfortunately, this is not clearly explained at all.
CDBaby does let its musicians opt-out of each individual service, and having gone through this whole experience, Boyston has decided to uncheck Rumblefish, and no longer allow them to claim his own music on YouTube.