Warner/Chappell Issues Copyright Claim Over YouTube Video Deliberately Containing None Of Its Music

from the phantom-menace dept

Warner/Chappell’s DMCA takedown arm is so damn proactive it can kill YouTube videos containing as little as 0% of its IP. A clip of Star Wars posted to YouTube sans overbearing John Williams soundtrack was targeted by Warner/Chappell, the owner of the rights to John Williams’ Star Wars compositions.


Here’s Jeremy Hsu of Wired with more details.

Fans of the YouTube channel Auralnauts, which posted the doctored Star Wars scene in 2014 as a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the emotional power of Williams’ score, loved it for that weirdness. But another set of viewers—those with the rights to the movie’s soundtrack—tuned in to these sounds of silence and heard something else: the ka-ching of a cash register.

That’s what the Auralnauts discovered earlier this summer when they received word that Warner/Chappell—the global music publishing arm of Warner Music Group—had filed a monetization claim on their “Star Wars Minus Williams” video through YouTube’s Content ID System. That’s right: The copyright holder was claiming ownership of something that wasn’t there.

There are several theories to what went wrong here, although Warner engaging in kneejerk copyright claims with zero pre-claim vetting doesn’t appear to be the frontrunner. First, a clip of music sounding a lot like a John Williams piece opens the video. But the piece is written and composed by Gustav Holt — and is “copyright-free” according to Wired. The studio behind Star Wars had no objection to the clip, so it’s not related to the visual content. That leaves Warner, possibly motivated by a faulty trigger in its Content ID auto-scanning. There’s also a four-second loop of Williams’ score appended to the end of the video, which may have pulled the Content ID trigger as well. But even if so, there are still problems with Warner and YouTube’s Content ID system because the wrong piece of music was named in Warner’s copyright claim.

[T]he Warner/Chappell claim incorrectly identified the “Star Wars Main Title” track as being present in the Auralnauts video. The single brief Williams excerpt used by the Auralnauts actually comes from a track titled “The Throne Room and End Title.”

Whatever the case is, the claim was obviously bogus. But it shows how fragile an ecosystem YouTube can be for those using it as a revenue stream. Even when wrong about pretty much everything, Warner was still able to siphon this video’s profits from the Auralnauts. The Auralnauts challenged Warner — which the article points out is something that happens in less than 1% of content claims — but it didn’t matter. In fact, it’s unlikely anyone at Warner even bothered to read the challenge before issuing a rejection.

That leaves the Auralnauts in the difficult position of risking their entire channel to continue disputing Warner’s obviously erroneous copyright claim.

[I]f a copyright claimant such as Warner/Chappell does not back down from its claim, the video is likely to get taken down from YouTube entirely—and in that event, the Auralnauts would also be penalized by the platform as a copyright scofflaw and barred from some privileges, such as linking to their own store. Three such takedowns and YouTube will delete your channel.

Despite the constant complaints about YouTube being some sort of infringement wonderland, the odds are stacked almost completely in favor of legacy industry copyright holders. Nothing happens to Warner if it continues to file bogus claims. But those targeted by claims are expected to just let the bogus claims happen because challenging claims is a great way to damage your own YouTube account.

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Companies: warner/chappell, youtube

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Comments on “Warner/Chappell Issues Copyright Claim Over YouTube Video Deliberately Containing None Of Its Music”

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“look a copyright case that actually involves stealing… and a label is involved.”

Oh, those happen on a regular basis, from labels literally stealing the copyright itself from artists to shutting down artists’ original compositions. Look through the history of stories on this site, the flailing excuses used to pretend this isn’t a problem are quite hilarious.

Rekrul says:

Re: Re: Re:

Considering some of the movies I have seen coming from South Korea, unless North Korea blows them up, the South Korean movie industry might just kill Hollywood for us.

I actually just watched a small part of a South Korean version of the show Criminal Minds. To be fair I only watched the first few minutes, but it was the most overblown and silliest thing I’ve seen in a while. I was hoping it might be a serious take on the subject from another country and instead it looked about on the level of a Godzilla movie from the 90s.*

I like Godzilla movies, but they’re not exactly Oscar winners.

*Yes, I know Godzilla is from Japan. It was just the closest thing I could think of to match the tone of what I saw.

Anonymous Coward says:

Not even Williams' music

The small excerpt from the Star Wars soundtrack that they did use wasn’t even written by John Williams. It’s a direct quote from the end of Holst’s The Planets. Compare: https://youtu.be/Nz0b4STz1lo?t=7m10s

Of course Warner-Chappell can still hold copyright on the specific performance, but it still makes this whole thing that much more ridiculous

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Not even Williams' music

The small excerpt from the Star Wars soundtrack that they did use wasn’t
> even written by John Williams. It’s a direct quote from the end of Holst’s
> The Planets.

The bit at the beginning of the clip is “Jupiter” from Holst’s Planets suite, but that is not part of the actual STAR WARS soundtrack. That was added in by Auralnauts. The musical segment at the end of the clip is indeed Williams’ End Titles’ cue from the film’s soundtrack, so Warner-Chappell’s claim– while petty and ridiculous– isn’t without legal merit.

Daydream says:

I think the most mature response is to just point out what Warner/Chapell have done, to the whole world.

Make a list of all the false copyright claims, especially the ones the W/C has affirmed.

Then print posters, print stickers, advertise on websites and print newspapers, make sure to have a verifiably true statement on each one, put the stickers on CDs in supermarkets, posters on telephone poles.

Do everything to remind people, when they’re going to buy a CD or do something else that makes W/C money, exactly what crimes the company has committed.

Rekrul says:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; People need to start suing YouTube over crap like this.

The last time I suggested this I was told that wouldn’t solve anything because YouTube has to do stuff like this in order to continue to exist. However I don’t understand how YouTube is forced to use such a hands-off approach to copyright complaints. The whole thing seems to be on auto-pilot and while I realize that they probably receive too many complaints to have a human look at every one, they should have some kind of a process where a user can tell them "Hey, this complaint is bogus!"

It seems the only time that happens is when a channel is really popular and tons of people contact YouTube in support of them. It shouldn’t take an army of people complaining to get YouTube to take a closer look at some of the notices it receives.

Maybe if they started getting sued over complying with bogus complaints, they might set up some kind of process to correct this.

Rekrul says:

Re: Re: Re:

On what grounds?

I agree that YouTube’s enforcement is far too friendly to abuse, but I’m not aware of any laws against having a shitty takedown process. Can you cite any?

I said sue, not charge. Users who were wrong targeted could probably sue for things like defamation of character (for being wrongly considered a copyright infringer), harassment, etc.

Shane Roach says:

YouTube is lazy man’s world, and in my brief experimentation with game streaming, I contested and won a copyright claim from the company that did background music for one of the games I streamed.

The risk of contesting is I think overblown in this article, and the reality is YouTube provides incredibly cheap (free) hosting and marketing.

The real culprit here is obviously warner/Chapelle. Well, and the government itself and the overreaching IP regime in general.

Jennifer Faun Snyder says:

Warner Chappell is just a bully! They go after even the smallest content creators. And it seems they own everything these days. Poor Mumbo Jumbo has had a hell of a year dealing with them. And it doesn’t help the youtube doesn’t back its content creators With a chance to make things right before they demonotize and threaten to shut a channel down.

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