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.

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Companies: cdbaby, rumblefish

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Comments on “How Rumblefish Ended Up Claiming Copyright On A Song Uploaded By The Band Who Actually Held The Copyright”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

As this gets more coverage I expect to see more artists unchecking the Rumblefish box.
It sounds like an amazingly convoluted system that doesn’t benefit the artists 1 bit.

I think Boydston should find out how much ad revenue was generated during the process, and wait for his check from Rumblefish. They collected money on his behalf, so they should be paying him.

Anonymous Coward says:


It’s what Mike doesn’t want to talk about here. As more and more bit players come into the game, and as more and more of them write interesting and original terms of service and contracts, more and more artist will be scammed.

Anyone who thinks record labels are a scam are going to look back in a few years and wish we were back in those days. It will probably be some time after they realize that the Russian Mafia has the rights to every song in existence.

Mark C. Petersen (profile) says:

re: CD Baby

Mike wrote:

“And… it turns out, mixed in with a long list of music stores and streaming sites, is Rumblefish.”

I don’t think it’s that sinister, Mike.

I checked my artist account on CD Baby (artist name Geodesium). Turns out you actually have to make an effort to opt IN for the Rumblefish sync license deal; it doesn’t happen automatically without you knowing about it, so that you have to opt-out after the fact to undo the damage. It’s separate from the digital distribution CD Baby does, that gets an artist’s music to iTunes, Amazon and such.

So while it doesn’t negate the dumbness of the takedown situation, Boydston must have made the effort to sign up for the Rumblefish “service”. And got less than he paid for. CD Baby offers this Rumblefish/YouTube thing to artists for free. If they do successfully wangle a music sync license with someone, they split the proceeds with the artist 50/50, it says.

Kevin says:

To correct some misinformation

The article above gives the wrong impression about how the deal between CD Baby and Rumblefish works. Artists are not automatically opted in to Rumblefish when they sign up with CD Baby. There is a completely separate section in the sign up process dedicated to explaining the deal with Rumblefish where artists are required to opt-in to participate.

To read more about it, go here –

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:


It seems from my loose understanding, someone correct me if I go astray, that they offer a “service” of submitting material to ContentID on YoutTube.
They do the “heavy” lifting of submitting your material for you, then pursuing copyright claims, getting advertising placed, and collecting that money. Remember YouTube is setup that only corporations/companies can hold copyright, so a regular folks type most likely would be dealing with the faceless monolith trying to find out how to put their material into ContentID.
At some point I am sure some portion of it is supposed to go to the artist, but like with most middlemen I am guessing it is a small fraction of what actually is collected.

The fact they laid claim to birdsongs was an amazing double failure that highlighted how broken the system is. 1 ContentID somehow decided a real live bird singing was a portion of a song Rumblefish manages. 2 when someone complained a Rumblefish employee said NO, IT TOTALLY IS OUR PROPERTY I CHECKED.

Other than having to publicly eat crow *giggle* over the birdsong fiasco, no one from Rumblefish or Google seems interested in the issues of copyfraud, perjury, and the laws broken by Rumblefish. The system is broken but no one wants to try and fix it lest they be sued out of existence by the **AA’s who demanded ContentID be created for them by Google to stave off another lawsuit, Viacom not withstanding.

The idea has SOME merit. Small indies do not have the time to figure out how to get stuff into ContentID, so they are left to deal with Rumblefish (and I am sure others) who do this work for them… for a cut. It would make more sense for Google to create a more friendly system so indies could do these things directly, but then 22 bajillion jobs would be lost to piracy somehow.

I would like to see more details about disclosures made when people sign up with CDBaby, if they know that is what Rumblefish does for them or if its just a long screen of 100 names that all come prechecked.

Anonymous Coward says:


Zach, with due respect, the difference between the two is very small, and very hard to determine. As an example, Google’s terms on their storage solution is the sort of thing that could give rise at a later date to all sorts of issues regarding ownership or exclusive rights.

The term “gatekeeper” is very dishonest and misleading as well. Plenty of companies who are “good” are in fact playing gatekeeper games, from Twitter (who appears at times to be engaged in actively blocking things out of their active term list) to various file locker sites (who make their money in questionable ways). They all enable, but they all also have internal politics, they filter, and they adjust. Even Wikipedia, a supposed paragon of truth, is in fact just one man’s political agenda these days.

What you (and Mike) are not seeing is that today’s “helper” is tomorrow’s monopolistic market controller. The best solutions tend to be where everyone ends up, and those best solutions end up having to do things that turns them into gatekeepers in order to make their clients (end users) happy. There is just too much stuff out there to have a wide open, unfiltered, never checked flood of crap.

So you can stand there and act like the grass is greener on the other side, but really it’s just a clean field building site for the next set of walls and toll booths, courtesy of the “new” business models.

Kevin (user link) says:


You are correct in that YouTube does not allow indie artists to submit their music for content ID directly. That is why CD Baby works with Rumblefish. Everyone commenting on this thread seems quick to say this is the same as the bird song debacle but it is not. This happens to every artist with music in the content ID system. Two things you should know about how it works.

1. YouTube does not know that the owner of the song and the owner of the video are the same. Meaning, just because I upload my own song into my YouTube account does not mean YouTube won’t give content ID notice. They don’t know ‘m the song owner. How would they? Song ownership is not as black and white as video content ownership. The song could be owned by a publisher, label, or just the artist themselves. All they know is someone uploaded a video that triggered the ID.

2. The content ID message YouTube gives is very threatening sounding and does not adequately represent what is really happening. It makes an ownership claim instead of a representation claim. It’s really based on the early days when it was their vehicle to pull label content. I’m hoping they will soften the language in the near future so it better represents all the scenarios that trigger the ID claim.

CD Baby makes all this very clear to artists. You can read more about this exact scenario right here –

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:


What you (and Mike) are not seeing is that today’s “helper” is tomorrow’s monopolistic market controller. The best solutions tend to be where everyone ends up, and those best solutions end up having to do things that turns them into gatekeepers in order to make their clients (end users) happy. There is just too much stuff out there to have a wide open, unfiltered, never checked flood of crap.

I tend to agree. As companies get bigger, and especially when they are publicly traded, they are going to start acting like the companies they once fought. Many of the news stories about the big tech companies these days are about power struggles. And it will become interesting if Apple starts taking over everything. If IP laws are bad, Apple hasn’t yet gotten that message.

Noneya Bizness says:

"owned or licensed"

The Youtube content ID warning is pretty clear; it says “may have content that is owned or licensed by rumblefish.” Rumblefish licenses music on behalf of the content owners in order to collect ad revenue from youtube and pass it along to the content owners. Of course Rumblefish and CD Baby take their cut (probably the same percentage that they take on digital sales), but that’s what distributors do. If the distributors weren’t doing it, there wouldn’t be any money coming back to the artist at all, and anybody could be using their music on Youtube. If someone uses your music in a video and it goes viral, you’d get nothing.

That being said, I work at a distributor and I can tell you that the Youtube content ID for music doesn’t pay out much until you begin getting into the high 5-figure range in video views. Even then it’s on the order of a few hundred bucks only once you start getting into six-figure youtube views. But something is better than nothing.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:



Right now IP laws seem to be working well for Apple, so that company runs counter to the idea that IP laws are a plague. Not only is the company making tons of money, consumers seem very happy to support it.

I’m just pointing this out because sometimes I think the examples against IP laws don’t make the argument very well. So Apple is a hugely successful company using IP laws to its advantage. Just a good example of big companies being big companies.

Mark C. Petersen (profile) says:

re: CD Baby

I see you found an answer. Which is good, because the answer I would have provided is “I don’t know”, because I have not signed up for the CD Baby/Rumblefish deal.

Actually, I wasn’t even aware of the deal until this thread. On the CD Baby site, I looked it over, and on the face of it, I thought, seems like a good deal — costs me nothing, and if a miracle occurs and someone wants to license my music through Rumblefish, I might get *some* fractions of cents (like I do from Spotify), which is better than *no* fractions of cents.

But then I myself have already uploaded videos with my own music, and I might find myself in the exact same situation as Boydston if the snooperbot found my work and auto-generated a takedown. So until Rumblefish fixes their dumbness, I think I’ll pass.

Now, there’s a “chilling effect” for ya!

Kevin says:

re: CD Baby


Your thinking on content ID is actually backwards. If you sign up through CD Baby, you WANT to see Rumblefish making a claim next to your video. That means the musical content is being monetized. It does matter if you uploaded it or one of your fans. YouTube doesn’t know your YouTube channel has anything to do with the ownership of the songs and it doesn’t matter. In fact, you as an artist should be uploading as many videos as possible using your music so Rumblefish can collect rev share money on your behalf. That notice only means your songs are being monetized. YouTube does not let artists monetize their songs directly, so if it’s not Rumblefish, you’d have to use someone else and they would be making a claim on the songs you upload.

No one is claiming ownership of your music, they are just administering on your behalf. I know this article was positioned as a conspiracy theory, but that is just not the case. Please read this for all the info on how it works –

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:


I’ll toss this out. The author includes lawyers and patent trolls as people he can do without, but he gives other reasons why Big Tech isn’t working together.

On the other hand, I’m not sure I want them to. As they battle, perhaps they can keep each other in check so that they don’t get even stronger.

“Silicon Valley?s war for the mobile web | VentureBeat: “In my fantasy world, Google and Facebook and Mozilla and Yahoo and all the brilliant men and women who make those companies up would be able to sit down at the ultimate round table and hash out a mobile web that was good for everyone ? great for developers, great for users, great for manufacturers. Everyone would win.

“But in my fantasy world, there are no lawyers, no patent trolls, no limited streams of income, and definitely no online advertising. In the imperfect world, where lawyers and advertising rule the day, the round table is broken, and the deafening din of talk about the mobile web remains fraught with discord.”

Mark C. Petersen (profile) says:

re: CD Baby


Understood about third-party licensing and ownership. (I did not know that YouTube doesn’t let artists monetize their songs directly, which could account for the fact I’ve never gotten an answer to that very question every time I asked on YouTube.)

But in this case (if the original post is to be believed), Boydston had uploaded his own music video, and Rumblefish issued a takedown.

If I signed up for the Rumblefish deal, I could find myself in the same situation with my own uploaded videos, and might not be so lucky with an appeal.

Now, it could be possible that Mike got the details even more wrong than as posted. Maybe the Rumblefish deal worked as advertised, and a takedown wasn’t issued, just the Rumblefish licensing notice appeared, and Boydston freaked. More information is needed for an informed opinion.

Matt Webster says:

Still happening

I got the same message from youtube regarding a video about my dog. I bought the background music from, then was informed by youtube that I “may have content that is owned or licensed by rumblefish”.

I replied that music was in the public domain, and 3 days later was told that copyright was released. Well done youtube.

My Video: and

Their video:

Stickman (profile) says:

This JUST happened to me

My video is entirely original footage and music.

Here’s my email from them:

Your video “The Day (With You / Without You) by Chinese Goblin Factory”, may have content that is owned or licensed by rumblefish, but it?s still available on YouTube! In some cases, ads may appear next to it.

This claim is not penalizing your account status. Visit your Copyright Notice page for more details on the policy applied to your video.
So basically, Rumblefish gets the income from those ads now.

Of course I disputed it. The dispute page warns that “fraudulent copyright claim may result in your account being terminated”. So… when does Rumblefish get terminated?

Anyway, here’s my responses:

Please see this link: This is EXACTLY what’s happening here. I granted THEM the right to sell my music, not to own it. Their automated process just grabbed it. In fact, if any income IS generated to Rumblefish due to this fraudulent claim, it should be redirected to me.

Greg Hinaman, Terror Technologies Extreme Events f says:

CD Baby illegal copyright warning

I won a Haunted House, one of my actors is a rapper, CD Baby claims they own the rights? How?

The video was filmed on my property that I own, my friend owns the rights to the song, it has my actors in the video, so how the hell can CD Baby claim they own the rights to it> WTF?

Chris Gavin (profile) says:

Rumblefish at it again!

Today I’ve just had a copyright notice served on my Youtube film here…
Yes, the film uses a music track, a song called ‘Threepenny Waltz.’
The thing is I DID purchase a music license for this track by paying for it from a site called back on January 05th 2011.
I have paid handsomely to clear this track for all commercial use, yet Rumblefish claim they are now entitled to claim all ad revenue from my film!
The FAQ on their website claims they are entitled to do this, but I think this totally over-rides the agreement I previously signed and paid for. I did not ‘STEAL’ this music, I licenced it on a ‘buyout’ basis for my production. Rumblefish is obviously running a scam here and the shame is that Google/Youtube have partnered up with them. I’m all for artists rights, and I see why I should pay the artist/distributor for music I use in my films. I don’t see why I should pay some third party who comes along 18 months later and claims the ad revenue rights to MY FILM.

Frank Hirschi says:

the same thing just happened to me

I just put a song up that I own all the copyrights on and they (you tube)sent me a note stating that some one else owns the copyright. I did the cdbaby thing last year with it and they this year must have made a deal with this company as I did not agree to this and I am fighting it. as I own the fricken copyrights… I hate it when companies try to do a end run on you .. I went to cdbaby today looking to find out what was up and when I went to the page called sync.. at the bottem it had a check here to agree that was not checked .. so I never agreed to any terms on this “sync” crap … I for one will not stand for this out of any one I do business with.

Deotriese says:

I just had to deal with a copyright claim by them on one of my songs on Youtube – I was aware that it was probably through CD Baby, but at no point in the fine print does it state that you are giving copyright away to any extent. I have other songs on youtube which are copyrighted to CD Baby, and I ignored these as I deal directly with CD Baby and know this is my personal copyright, just administrated by them, but on no planet am I allowing a third party to hold copyright on ANY of my singles.

I put in a dispute immediately, and received this back today.

“Dear Deotriese,

rumblefish has reviewed your dispute and released its copyright claim on your video, “”Fly” by Deotriese”. For more information, please visit your Copyright Notice page

– The YouTube Team”

So, thankfully the Youtube dispute process does seem to work (:

Ragnar (user link) says:

Rumblefish Did the same to me

Well it looks like Rumblefish is in the biz of trying to do this because they did the same to me! I might just leave them, Now I am getting ads on a couple of my videos on youtube… I did not request any ads, does this mean Rumblefish is collecting on my plays? I inquired with youtube why this is happening, awaiting response. I haven’t done a thorough dispute, but after reading this I think its time.
my music vids are

Soul Sanctuary (user link) says:


Not sure why this is that much of an issue? It’s quite obvious to avoid the Rumblefish section of CD baby, it’s actually separate from the rest of the distribution, and I will say although it takes months to get your cut unlike having a direct Google Adsense account. It does actually pay more because Google provide a big company like Rumblefish with better quality ads than your average YouTube account. Thus even though they are taking a cut, you still end up with a bigger paycheck than doing it on your own. My first royalty payment from them was just over $2, but that was from only 88 plays which fell into the very start of my contract with the company. Having originally used Adsense myself I know that that is a much higher rate of pay then I ever got from having my own account. So I can only assume rumble fish are getting a much higher average cost-per-click. I have 10’s of thousands of plays on YouTube that are monetised since I signed up to Rumblefish on my own account alone, not including many plays, from users that have uploaded my music to their own videos, and although I haven’t gotten my next payment yet, I’m expecting it to be for a lot of money, far more than I would of gotten from my own adsense account.

Alan says:


Soul Sanctuary is correct. Rumblefish is a totally separate opt in that is not just bundled in with the other digital distribution options. Within the Rumblefish option there are two further options: you can opt to have them look for film and tv placements or just to do microsync (content id for youtube). You would really have to not be paying attention to opt into this without knowing it. That said, it would be helpful when you opt in if they’d explain the snafu that happens when you try to monetize your own content on youtube, just so it doesn’t take you by surprise, which happened to me as well.
In terms of Rumblefish, since their library is massive and there is no quality control, I doubt many tv and film music supervisors are looking for content there, but the microsync service is very useful. Yes, it’s a bit of a hassle when you upload your own material as there’s a little back and forth with youtube, but if you’re in the position I’ve recently been in, where dozens of people have been uploading my songs without my permission, it’s extremely helpful. All those videos are not only monetized, but link to itunes, amazon and googleplay, which has actually led to sales. My activity is very recent so I haven’t seen a statement yet. Sounds like it may be awhile from what Soul Sanctuary is saying. But there’s definitely no way I could track all the unauthorized uses on my own.

gseattle says:

youtube/rumblefish bait-n-switch

When I posted my video, Youtube presented “Chicken Music” as royalty-free as background audio, heavily promoted.
I was being very careful to make sure I wouldn’t run into royalty issues in choosing music, and accepted that one since they said it was free for that purpose.
Then once they had hooked me into choosing the supposedly royalty-free “Chicken Music”:
a. Youtube placed a link to that song on iTunes so Rumblefish could profit off of my video right away.
b. When the 1000 hits had been reached and I went to initiate monetization there was a note saying I was violating copyright (and therefore could not monetize). Notice youtube didn’t even have the human decency to alert me via an email.

That’s a pretty dern good gig for youtube when you get to profit off of everyone else’s original hard work and treat them like dirt as if they don’t matter, and bait-and-switch them into violating copyright and blame it on the user and make money on them all along the way, never accepting any responsibility and denying any attempts to communicate.

What was that about not being evil? Google and Youtube are becoming evil.

Part of the problem is that in removing that audio youtube also removed part of the professional voice-over I paid for.
So now I get to have to fix that.
What a horrible experience.
We need competitors to youtube, do it right, put them out of business.

Gary Daum says:

Rumblefish predatory behavior

I just uploaded a video to YouTube that consisted of my own synthesizer performance of a piece by Debussy (who died almost 100 years ago, making it quite public domain) with visual images I created, making me the sole owner of its content. There is no other audio in the video other than what I created.

Before the video was completely processed, I received a message that something was flagged by Rumblefish. I disputed the claim, which is being processed and will take ???

I sent an additional email yesterday to Rumblefish and have not received the dignity of a reply.

Does the word “predatory” come to anyone else’s mind?

Stan (profile) says:

I just got a copyright claim on my own song

This is MY song (My Music I never recorded my lyrics) which was uploaded to Youtube in 2014 Listed here at BMI in 2007:


Last year I gave Lois Chazen (She published it through CD Baby) NON exclusive rights to use it in her song (My music her lyrics) Grandmother’s Moonchild which also Bears my name (Credits Stan Williams composer )by the way !
Here it is at BMI since 2007!

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