White Noise On YouTube Gets FIVE Separate Copyright Claims From Other White Noise Providers

from the ad-absurdum dept

The implications of YouTube’s ContentID system in an era of user-generated content can sometimes be quite muddy. It is widely known that ContentID is open to abuse, and that it is indeed abused on the regular. However, too many stories about that abuse play far in the margins of what the average person could look at and recognize as a very real problem.

This is not one of those stories.

Instead, the story of how one music professor’s upload to YouTube of 10 hours of pure white noise was flagged five times for copyright infringement (FIVE TIMES!) operates as though someone somewhere is trying to bring a reductio ad absurdum argument into physicality.

That’s what’s happened to Australia-based music technologist Sebastian Tomczak, who uploaded a completely non-infringing work to YouTube and now faces five separate copyright complaints. One of Tomczak videos was a masterpiece entitled “10 Hours of Low Level White Noise” which features – wait for it – ten hours of low-level white noise.

“The white noise video was part of a number of videos I put online at the time. I was interested in listening to continuous sounds of various types, and how our perception of these kinds of sounds and our attention changes over longer periods – e.g. distracted, focused, sleeping, waking, working etc,” Tomczak says.

I could embed the video, which you can find on YouTube here, but I won’t bother because the video is exactly as advertised: ten straight hours of white noise. Tomczak composed this white noise himself, in all of its beautifully non-creative glory, making the copyright claims all the more absurd. Remember, copyright only applies to new creative works. White noise would not qualify. Now, the video is still available despite the copyright claims because the four different entities filing these five complaints against it — one, incredibly, filed twice for two different “compositions”– chose to simply monetize Tomczak’s video instead of having it taken down.

As seen from the image below, posted by Tomczak to his Twitter account, the five complaints came from four copyright holders, with one feeling the need to file two separate complaints while citing two different works.

As you will see, several of the complaints came from representatives of folks creating white noise compositions as sleep therapy or for other therapeutic effect. This, it should hardly need to be noted, does not somehow make Tomczak’s independent composition that is equally devoid of creative output somehow infringing. White noise is white noise for a reason, after all. This isn’t even a case of what to do about copyright in the event of independent creation of the same creative works. Judge Learned Hand’s famous line on independent creation notes: “[I]f by some magic a man who had never known it were to compose anew Keats’s ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn,’ he would be an ‘author,’ and if he copyrighted it, others might not copy that poem, though they might of course copy Keats’s.” But white noise is no “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” There simply is no copyright here at all.

Still, the story is immensely useful in demonstrating just how vulnerable to abuse ContentID and copyright claiming systems can be on the internet. The original claim against this video dates back several years, which means that for some time others have been profiting from Tomczak’s white noise, with nothing in the way of human intervention on YouTube’s end that would take one look at this whole thing and proclaim the claims ridiculous. In this case, this all happened to someone, Tomczak, who seems to largely not care about the claims beyond being mildly amused by them.

Tomczak says that to him, automated copyright claims are largely an annoyance and if he was making enough money from YouTube, the system would be detrimental in the long run. He feels it’s something that YouTube should adjust, to ensure that false claims aren’t filed against uploads like his.

But that lax attitude doesn’t change the absurdity of a reality in which ten hours of white noise can be flagged by four different outsiders as infringing, all the while the copyright industries scream that Google and YouTube aren’t doing enough to clamp down on copyright infringement.

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Comments on “White Noise On YouTube Gets FIVE Separate Copyright Claims From Other White Noise Providers”

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59 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Also known as...

AKA perjury. Every single false claim should be prosecuted and the fees should be paid by those claiming to have reviewed the works and found them infringing. There needs to be a cost associated with false claims or else the internet will start claiming everything is infringing and nothing could be done about it. Chaos is the end result of no penalty perjury lies like these.

Anonmylous says:

Re: Also known as...

Its not perjury though. These are not DMCA claims, these are YouTube’s automated content ID system “matching” and automatically flagging these videos as copyright infringing and giving another entity the choice of taking any money it makes or taking it offline entirely.

Pretty sure you signed away your right to sue when you signed up to post videos, or they changed the terms later on you so you can’t. It is bullshit, but its the platform’s bullshit and there’s nothing one can do but remove their videos and walk away really.

Or, go the nuclear route and sue the entities that have claimed monetization as they are now parties to copyright infringement and possibly other things, since they chose to monetize your video now. But that’s gonna be costly, take time, and be really super annoying. On the other hand, since its not likely these parties are actually in Australia, he’ll likely get the win by default and can take that to YouTube and try to force them to hand over any monies earned from the video. Which would be hilarious, and justice in my opinion.

Anonmylous says:

Re: Re: Re: Also known as...

I do have to eat my words, and I am rather surprised to do so. YouTube does not force arbitration clauses on its users!

Instead they make you agree to come sue them in their HQ’s local jurisdiction of Santa Clara County, California.

Of course, the indemnity clause before that pretty much means you agree not to sue them at all.

"11. Indemnity
To the extent permitted by applicable law, you agree to defend, indemnify and hold harmless YouTube, its parent corporation, officers, directors, employees and agents, from and against any and all claims, damages, obligations, losses, liabilities, costs or debt, and expenses (including but not limited to attorney’s fees) arising from: (i) your use of and access to the Service; (ii) your violation of any term of these Terms of Service; (iii) your violation of any third party right, including without limitation any copyright, property, or privacy right; or (iv) any claim that your Content caused damage to a third party. This defense and indemnification obligation will survive these Terms of Service and your use of the Service."

Anonymous Coward says:

This is SOLELY a Youtube problem, NOT copyright.

The flaw and miscreants are right in your title.

"the four different entities filing these five complaints against it — one, incredibly, filed twice for two different "compositions"– chose to simply monetize** Tomczak’s video instead of having it taken down."

YOUTUBE HAS A FLAWED SYSTEM. NOT COPYRIGHT. YOUTUBE. DRIVEN BY GREED. YOUTUBE. NOT COPYRIGHT.**

Now on to your flaws:

"exactly as advertised: ten straight hours of white noise" — Personally verified, or just assumed? You should nail these things down before writing. My own test with advanced feature player found a click or chirp at 7:35:12!

"on the regular"? Is that like "regularly"? … Turn of phrase that makes me wonder if you are a "natural" person.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: This is SOLELY a Youtube problem, NOT copyright.

YOUTUBE HAS A FLAWED SYSTEM. NOT COPYRIGHT.

You are half-right. Copyright, at least as outlined in US law, is flawed as holy hell. Term lengths that metaphorically laugh in the face of the word “limited” and a takedown system that forces the takedown of content before the person who posted said content can contest the takedown request are two of the biggest, but by no means the only, flaws in our lovely little copyright system.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: This is SOLELY a Youtube problem, NOT copyright.

I get to laughing at Geigner and leave holes that I’m sure you pirates are already leaping into. (Yot.)

So, to clarify: Youtube is a business that tries to gain money off potentially copyrighted material. Copyright is in the US Constitution and is not going away, therefore Youtube MUST make follow the law. — Now, trying to get more content means Youtube hands out some money, which brings in greed.

That’s why I YELL up there: YOUTUBE AND GREED, NOT COPYRIGHT!

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: This is SOLELY a Youtube problem, NOT copyright.

Copyright is in the US Constitution and is not going away

You missed the second deepity in their comment, and one I feel is rather more important.

Copyright is allowed for in the constitution, not ensured. Congress could decide that copyright wasn’t serving it’s purpose(namely serving the public) and take it off the books entirely and that would be allowed according to the relevant text in constitution.

AC720 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: This is SOLELY a Youtube problem, NOT copyright.

The claims mentioned in the article are not DMCA claims.

They are internal YouTube claims following a process and procedure and penalties that YouTube decided and determined and executed entirely on their own. There’s no law behind what they are doing. It’s just how YouTube chooses to act.

And the uploaders consent to this when they post videos. They accept that there may be claims and that YT will reserve the right to act on them without regard to DMCA.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 This is SOLELY a Youtube problem, NOT copyright.

I love how these comments talk about YouTube’s content ID system as though they woke up one day and decided to impliment it, rather than looking at what it really is. A flawed system desperatly implimented because the copyright lobbiests and abusive parties harass, threaten and defame youtube for ‘not doing enough’ to ensure copyright enforcement just by following the law.

When youtube followed the law as written for 3rd party hosting of creative content, they were attacked repeatedly for ‘not doing enough’. We would not HAVE content ID if youtube were left to opperate within the bounds of the law. However, because the LAW and LEGAL SYSTEM have proven so favorable to even the flimsiest of cases and lawsuits by “intellectual property owners”, not creators or innovators but ‘owners’, Youtube faced intense pressure to go above and beyond the law to satisfy people with more money than common sense and more time than interest in what copyright was initially created to promote.

So yes, this is a copyright problem, not a Youtube issue. Because if copyright, even as written, even as grotesquely imbalanced, were properly enforced, Youtube would neither have nor need a poorly designed ContentID system.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: This is SOLELY a Youtube problem, NOT copyright.

No, it isn’t solely a YouTube problem.

YouTube can’t effectively review all the videos being uploaded every second any more than FaceBook can review all the thousands of posts made per second. And even if either had the staff to do so, there are large grey areas where there will be little agreement on what constitutes offensive or copyright violating posts.

The problem is a copyright system that hands them an impossible job – putting THEM on the hook for users’ posts. And so an automated system is the only way to go.

That system is biased heavily in favor of the IP holders, since they’re the ones that can sue. Which unfortunately also makes it easy for trolls to abuse.

If copyright were less biased (offering penalties when the public’s rights were violated) then no doubt YouTube’s automated system would be less biased and harder to abuse.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: This is SOLELY a Youtube problem, NOT copyright.

YOUTUBE HAS A FLAWED SYSTEM

Uh, which your precious rightsholders demanded for, dumbass. The fact that rightsholders can order takedowns for even the most ridiculous of circumstances is entirely the intention of the corporations you support.

> Personally verified, or just assumed?

There are plenty of cases where not only do rightsholders not verify the stuff they demand a takedown for, they also complain about how hard it is for them to do the legwork. Hell, your fuckbuddy MyNameHere (when he was writing under his “Whatever” pseudonym) insisted that a movie of watching paint dry submitted to the British Censorship Board for verification was obviously a ploy to waste the time of those in charge. Even those whose job is to enforce law and standards can’t be bothered to do it properly. It’s cute that you think you have some kind of damning point.

out_of_the_blue just hates it when due process is enforced.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: This is SOLELY a Youtube problem, NOT copyright.

“Uh, which your precious rightsholders demanded for, dumbass”

Strange how he deliberately misses that point. If YouTube weren’t being sued for frivolous reasons and had to create some kind of filtering system to please them, the situation he’s whining about would not exist. But, he can’t place blame with the **AAs where it belongs, he has to attack the company he has a pathological aversion to for false reasons instead.

“There are plenty of cases where not only do rightsholders not verify the stuff they demand a takedown for”

When Viacom sued YouTube, half the videos they used as evidence for infringement were videos they had either uploaded themselves or had given express permission to be uploaded. That was a situation where all they had to do is check their own internal records, not scan every second of content ever uploaded, and they still failed.

It’s funny how these sycophants demand things of YouTube that their own heroes find impossible.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: This is SOLELY a Youtube problem, NOT copyright.

It used to be that when this happened I threw back my head and laughed.

Now when it happens I drag my palm over my face and mutter, “This shit again?…”

Largely because I know the idiots responsible will be granted every protection and shielded from every consequence, the latter of which we have to pay in their place.

No, it’s not strange when the sycophants “deliberately” miss the point.

David says:

Re: Re:

Sadly, I’d not be surprised if real life birds nesting in a mall roof would be adapting Shakira melody lines.

It’s similar to hybrid or GMO seeds spreading out from the intended fields to farmers then falling under patent and/or copyright laws, just that it’s noise pullution in this case.

If I cannot avoid getting plastered with that shit, I ought not to be forced to pay for flushing it out of my system again.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

I Agree

"…copyright industries scream that Google and YouTube aren’t doing enough to clamp down on copyright infringement."

But not in the way the copyright industry would like. Google and YouTube should be doing more to prevent these bogus take downs, even if that means qualified human intervention. They should be tweaking their algorithm as well, all the evidence given by these bogus take downs should give them something to work with. Use the automated system to locate potential issues, then verify it with qualified human intervention.

Then, change the way that accused up-loaders are treated. They should have the ability to counter claim, or deny or something before being tried and convicted by a claim they may or may not be able to be proven.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: I Agree

They should have the ability to counter claim, or deny or something before being tried and convicted by a claim they may or may not be able to be proven.

Unfortunately, the DMCA says that when a service receives a (legal) takedown notice, the service must at least disable access to the content or lose Safe Harbor protections, and that is before they ever have to notify the party who uploaded that content. If’n you want to change the way takedown notifications are handled, you need to change the DMCA. Good luck.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: I Agree

The problem is the onus is on the person receiving the claim to prove that in a court of law. There is a presumption of guilt.

Even for something where even the most copyright-friendly anti-piracy judge would take one glance at it and rule in favor of the person receiving the claim, you need to hire a lawyer, go to court (and likely out of state or even country depending on where you live), face appeals and all the while any actual stake you have in the obviously non-infringing work are ephemeral and meaningless.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I Agree

. Google and YouTube should be doing more to prevent these bogus take downs, even if that means qualified human intervention

Slight scale problems there, as YouTube has one hour worth of videos uploaded per second, or ten years continuous watching per day. That is more hours of videos in a minute than Hollywood produces in a year.

Beside which, YouTube/Google do not have the infomation, such as copyright date, or granted licenses to actually determine whether a posted copy of a work is public domain, licensed use, or copyright infringement; never mind dealing with fair use issues. At best an algorithm can say yes, they are the same, or similar works, which is NOT a copyright status determination.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: I Agree

Is the number of take down notices so rampant that they could not be reviewed by a human?

You are correct in that YouTube does not have the information to make a copyright determination, but making the system work wouldn’t need that. Take the item down, notify the up loader and seriously listen to what they have to say. That wouldn’t necessarily resolve any copyright issues, but it could help ameliorate bogus take down notices.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: I Agree

Considering that many companies outsource their copyright claims to 3rd parties paid based on how many takedowns they make or rely on bots with less of an idea of what is infringing than content ID, yes. Yes the number of take down notices is so rampant that they could not be reviewed by a HUNDRED humans.

The problem here is that it flips ‘innocent until proven guilty’ on it’s head.

I could probably go on youtube, make a ton of false claims, deny uploaders of monetization and get several channels shut down with absolutely no proof, no risk, no liability and no effort. All the burden and effort lies at the feet of the people I am accusing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: I Agree

Unless you have at least 100,000 subscribers, it is almost impossible to get the attention of a human at YouTube. Also, most companies making copyright claims appear to have a bot that automatically confirms the claim when they receive a challenge.

So yes, for most people it is impossible to effectively challenge a any decision made by YouTube. One person problems with YouTube, where the YouTube community he is part of came to his rescue.

Anonymous Coward says:

Is it an exact copy or not?

I doubt Sebastian Tomczak simply copied the content of these four copyright holders, it might be infringement if he had.

I assume he has his own white noise generation system, what ever it may be, and created his own unique white noise. White noise by definition is random and is therefore not a copy – it is different. But that apparently does not stop people from making stupid ass claims, like the dude who recorded wild bird song only to be accused of infringement.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’m assuming you mean an analog TV, rather than a digital one? Because I haven’t seen a digital (much less a “smart”) TV display the classic “snow” image and associated audio static as far as I recall; they tend to fall back to a “signal not available” message, much like computer monitors.

In that case, I’m reasonably sure that the “snow” and static come from the ambient electromagnetic spectrum around wherever the TV’s getting whatever signal it is managing to pick up, and have little to do with the design or construction of the TV itself. So, presumably no, the manufacturer would not have a copyright interest in those resulting patterns.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“White noise by definition is random and is therefore not a copy”

I would posit that it’s certainly possible for truly random noise to accidentally mimic an existing recognisable tune for a few moments. Without actually listening to both the white noise and the things it supposedly infringed, I can’t say for sure, but there does exist the possibility that similar sounds were accidentally produced. It’s just that it should be obvious in context that no deliberate infringement is taking place.

Anonymous Coward says:

5x White noise?

So, if these 4 other ‘composers’ of white noise are automatically linked to the 10 hours of white noise made by the professor, are they not automatically linked to each other too? And thus constantly (and in perpetuity) spamming each other with monetization claims and copyright notices?

Must be fun!

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