Ed Sheeran Vs. The CopyBots: Artist Goes To Bat For Musician That Covered His Song On Facebook

from the good-guy dept

In our recent conversation about Ed Sheeran’s rise to fame, we chiefly focused on his claim that music piracy helped him be discovered by the public and his generally lax views on filesharing of his music. While that modern view on how music is consumed is refreshing, we focused less on another chief part of the equation: Ed Sheeran is really good to his fans. Between engaging with them directly via social media, having a generally congenial attitude towards them, and producing music his fans love, he’s built up quite a connection with his listeners.

But he appears to want to go above and beyond simply connecting with his fans, as well. He’s even willing to go to bat for them with his label, Atlantic/Warner. He demonstrated this when a musician in the UK had a short video of herself covering a Sheeran song not only taken down from her Facebook account over a copyright claim, but had her account briefly suspended.

With two crowd-sourced albums under her belt, UK-based full-time busker Charlotte Campbell is regularly in touch with the public through performances on the London Underground. She also uses Facebook to keep up with fans, but a few days ago her entire experience came to an abrupt halt after she was banned from the platform. Charlotte’s crime was to post a 15-second snippet of her cover of Ed Sheeran’s song Castle On The Hill, together with a link to the full track on her YouTube channel.

“I love Ed Sheeran’s music and always cover his songs for my busking repertoire,” Charlotte informs TorrentFreak. “I find them easy to learn because I play them on repeat at home so I know all the lyrics by heart.”

Atlantic/Warner flagged the video for copyright infringement, leading to it being taken down and Campbell’s account suspended for three days. She was additionally warned that if she did it again, she could be perma-banned. This all came without prior warning or communication, for reasons that she would discover once Ed Sheeran himself got wind of all of this and got involved.

After Charlotte was banned from Facebook, some of her fans took to Ed Sheeran fansites to complain that after paying tribute to the star, Charlotte’s reward was to lose her voice online. Amazingly, word reached Sheeran himself, who dropped in on Charlotte’s Facebook page to give his support.

“Just seen your video, [the ban] definitely has nothing to do with me. I bloody love seeing people cover my songs. One of the best things I get out of this job is seeing other people find enjoyment too,” Sheeran wrote. “I asked what’s gone on and apparently it’s a bot that Warner have that works on some weird algorithm (I have no idea what that means) but it’s just bad luck that it was your video,” he explained.

Sheeran went on to say that he was going to have a word with the label to get everything sorted out. This sort of thing works on so many levels. First, Sheeran is doing all of this at least in part at the behest of his dedicated fans, who discussed this on a fanboard. That’s the kind of direct connection and interaction that can only serve to ingratiate Sheeran to the very people that love his music enough to support him. On top of that, being willing to go to bat with his own label in defense of a fellow musician that is covering his music is perfect in convincing the public that Sheeran is far more interested in the wider music ecosystem than he is in either being a copyright bully or milking every last dollar for his work.

The reaction from his fans and Campbell herself shows how well this works.

“I’m not sure I’ve really processed it, to be honest, I still feel like I’m dreaming!” she tells TF. “I felt so relieved that it wasn’t Ed Sheeran who had personally rejected my cover! And it really restored my faith in humanity and in Ed himself.”

And now a fellow musician that could have been miffed at the actions of his label is instead a firm ally for Sheeran, while the fans that complained about all of this have all the more reason to be supportive of his work. It’s hard to imagine how a musician could connect with his fans better than this.

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Comments on “Ed Sheeran Vs. The CopyBots: Artist Goes To Bat For Musician That Covered His Song On Facebook”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

They fear the loss of control they imagine will destroy them as hundreds of kids cover a song & get record deals.
Only they can choose who will be the next star, and the serfs will pay us dearly for our picks.
You can not have anything we do not approve of, because we have stolen your culture for centuries and we will not stop now.
The serfs will be mad at the stars, and not us so we really don’t care. Someone hearing 15 seconds of something we ‘own’ lock stock & barrel and us not getting paid is the highest sin possible.

Someone smart should start courting acts, so that when it comes time to renew contracts they just go with the smart guy. Don’t need giant buildings full of lawyers taking a cut, wasting money on making sure that only corporate approved methods of showing support will be allowed. You just need to connect with your fans & have a good time… the money will flow. (And probably more than under the old deal where the labels sucked every cent possible out of everything.)

That One Guy (profile) says:

Good ending, not so good background reasons

Atlantic/Warner flagged the video for copyright infringement, leading to it being taken down and Campbell’s account suspended for three days. She was additionally warned that if she did it again, she could be perma-banned.

Video pulled, account suspended, threat of it being shut down entirely. Those are some pretty hefty penalties there, what exactly triggered them?

“I asked what’s gone on and apparently it’s a bot that Warner have that works on some weird algorithm (I have no idea what that means) but it’s just bad luck that it was your video,” he explained.

… a bot ‘that works on some weird algorithm’. That was enough to get the video pulled and her account threatened, a gorram bot flagging the video she put up, no human interaction or intervention needed.

While it’s great that Sheeran stepped up and defended one of his fans, the fact that he had to, and for such a ridiculous reason seems to be a pretty solid indicator that something is very broken and needs to be fixed. Whether that takes the form of less insane penalties, a requirement that a human must review claims made before they’re enforced and are held responsible for bogus ones, a mix of the two or something else, something needs to be changed to avoid this sort of thing from happening again.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Good ending, not so good background reasons

One of the many problems with the DMCA is that it not only actively encourages hands-off, automatic takedowns, it actually encourages that the algorithms they’re based on be as dumb as possible.

Because if it can be proven that a rightsholder intentionally issued a false takedown, then the rightsholder is liable. But if it’s an accident, they’re not.

R2_v2.0 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Good ending, not so good background reasons

Agreed. It’s hard to come to any other conclusion. This algorithm has matched to a 15 second clip of a cover. The logic being used must be so basic as to be absurd.

I question FB’s role in this though. There is no requirement for them to auto-process this rubbish. They could enforce minimum standards for their automated process and send everything else for manual assessment.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Good ending, not so good background reasons

Actually, as shitty as this situation is, it would be a violation of the 1st Amendment to dictate to Facebook what they can or can’t have on their site (not to stick up for those asshats). Due process is irrelevant. She wasn’t being prosecuted. She had her stuff taken off a private website, which is bad and stupid, but completely constitutional.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Good ending, not so good background reasons

Not only that, but both the bot and Facebook’s perma-ban policy are still in place.

So if the bot comes across the song again, boom. She’s perma-banned. Reversing that will require a request from the publisher to Facebook to undo the ban, and in order for that to happen, someone like Ed would likely have to instigate it. Meaning, someone’s life halted for x amount of time due to an FP from a bot, and numerous man hours required to undo the problem, leaving the damage done.

Maybe WM needs to come up with a better bot, and have real fingers touching these things sooner, so that less time needs to be wasted later?

OOA (profile) says:

Re: Good ending, not so good background reasons

It’s amazing that copyright is considered so important that so much collateral damage is allowed. Yet only for certain players.

This suggests to me that the law exaggerates the importance of big rights holders. Of course at the expense of others.

Techdirt keeps logging me out. Is there a FAQ somewhere?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Good ending, not so good background reasons

Regarding the logging out issue, two possibilities come to mind:

Did you remember to check the ‘Keep me logged in’ box when signing in?


Is your browser set to delete cookies on a regular basis?

If it’s not one of those two no idea. I know that for a while there that even when neither of the two applied to me I kept getting logged out, but as I never figured out the cause I can’t say if that’s affecting you as well.

f205v says:

I travel to London 5-6 times a year, and I have had multiple occasion to listen to Charlotte Campbell while she was busking on the south bank close to the Eye. I also bought 1 of her CDs.
She is very good in singing and playing, and she is also a good entartainer, always smiling and interacting with the crowd around her. She has a way of connecting with the people very similar to Ed Sheeran himself, and somewhat this story is a sort of magical circle of good karma closing on itself.

Ben (profile) says:

Who has the power?

Does Sheeran have the power to undo the suspension? To reset the strike?

I don’t think so; he’s going to have to invest time and energy arguing with Atlantic/Warner to undo it all and hope the ‘bots don’t do it again (I would _hope_ they are able to whitelist, but I’m not certain they care enough).

He may have some leverage; it all depends on his contract. I have my doubts.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Who has the power?

He might not be able to get the label to see reality, but pretty sure that pissing off a star isn’t high on the list of things FB wants to do.
FB works because you can totally get upclose with that team that pretends to be your hero, and if they start leaving the platform users might look for other places to interact.

R2_v2.0 (profile) says:

No business sense

Another reason this type of thing really bugs me is that it makes no sense for the business.

Even in a case where the algorithm identifies that the video is undeniably an unauthorised copy. So what?

Is anyone so committed to both FB and piracy that the only way they consume music is by watching unauthorised copies of works via FB posts???

I spend so much time in meetings with marketeers who are super pumped about social media influencers, customer centricity and building community engagement.

If you’re algorithm identifies Charlotte (someone with 13k followers) as having uploaded this song don’t get her account suspended, send her a cheque and a thank you note and offer her an HD copy of the video to upload as well.


My_Name_Here says:

The problem is very simple: Ed sold his music to someone else, it’s not any more complex than that. He can perhaps exert some moral pressure, but he’s already been paid (and continues to get paid) by those who purchased the rights to market his music and control it’s use.

Ed isn’t any different from a painter in this case. He did the art work, and sold it to someone else. He doesn’t get to say how or how it is not shown to the public, how it is shared, and the like. He has done his job and been paid for it.

Unless of course you are suggesting that all artists should have control of their work after they sell it.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If he really cared about his fans covering his songs, he should have known this would happened when he sold his copyright away to Atlantic/Warner. They won’t change their policies (except maybe in this one instance) unless all the musicians at the label band together and demand it, which isn’t going to happen.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:

To be fair, it’s unlikely that he was aware of this when he sold his copyright. Everyone I know who doesn’t read TD or Pirate Party blog posts or EFF or Cory Doctorow only knows the MAFIAA party line on copyright.

Ask your friends and neighbours about this issue, particularly if they’re in a band. If they’re not ferociously paranoid about their “intellectual property” and the protection thereof, I’ll be surprised. If they’re not, they’re clued up about the public interest aspect of copyright.

Yes, I know I'm commenting anonymously says:

As far as I know, it is illegal to have a bot issue an automatic take-down (it is required to have a human claim to have assessed the match.) This is something that the label can be taken to court over.
Off course it is too expensive but flaunting your violation of the law is a dangerous move. There will come court-cases from this shift, I hope.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Not quite. It should be illegal, or at the very least make any bot-issued takedown faulty and therefore rejected, but courts and lawmakers in the US and elsewhere have made the ‘protections’ the accused get from copyright so pathetic that bot-issued takedowns are somehow considered valid, even with the requirement of a statement made ‘under penalty of perjury’ that the US version of the law has.

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