As Record Labels Still Are Demanding Mandated Filters; Facebook's Copyright Filter Takes Down A Guy Playing Bach

from the does-the-public-domain-even-matter? dept

We’ve been covering a bunch of nonsense copyright stories lately, as the pandemic has really done quite a job in demonstrating the complete inanity of much of our copyright infrastructure. The latest, as posted by the Twitter account @linernotesdanny, is about how his brother, Dr. David Johnson, tried to livestream a violin recital on Facebook playing Bach’s Partita for Violin Solo No. 1 (which is a lovely piece of music), but copyright filters “silenced” it.

Johnson is a composer and violinist who teaches at Georgia College, and he was doing a “lunchtime violin” session for everyone stuck at home, which you can watch on Facebook. Oddly, while watching it, multiple parts seem to be silenced — rather than just the one minute section mentioned above. The audio comes in and out, because how dare anyone perform “copyright” protected music… that was composed in 1720, before music was even subject to copyright. Indeed, one of Johann Sebastian Bach’s children, Johann Christian Bach, famously filed a lawsuit in the UK in 1777 to get sheet music protected by copyright in the first place.

And, of course, even if there were copyright in the time of Bach, it would still be in the public domain by now. But, because everything must be owned, Facebook’s filters are claiming that this is actually infringing on someone else’s work — Arthur Grumiaux’s recording of Partita for Violin Solo No. 1 in B minor. And of course, here we come to one of the fun parts of copyright in music: that the composition and the recording may get entirely separate copyrights — such that while the composition is clearly in the public domain, a specific recording can still be covered by copyright, as Grumiaux’s version of this song apparently is. Of course, Grumiaux died in 1986, and seeing as Dr. Johnson appears to be playing live, it seems somewhat unfathomable that he is somehow infringing on Grumiaux’s copyright — should it be legitimate — of a recording from decades ago.

But, alas, this is the way copyright filters work. For the most part, they don’t even recognize the concept of a public domain, and have trouble distinguishing between multiple records of things in the public domain. But that hasn’t stopped the EU from mandating filters, and the major record labels now pushing strongly for such mandatory filters in the US, even though most major platforms already have them and they’re doing good work in making sure no one can possibly hear Dr. Johnson perform a three century old piece of music that apparently only a guy who died three decades ago can profit from. Copyright. What can’t it do?

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Comments on “As Record Labels Still Are Demanding Mandated Filters; Facebook's Copyright Filter Takes Down A Guy Playing Bach”

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Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

To the filters, it's all the same, tone deaf and without context

Shame on Dr. David Johnson for using the same notes and expressions that appear in the sheet music, that were also used by Arthur Grumiaux working from the same sheet music. He should have been more ‘creative’ rather than expressing Bach’s intent. Good thing they can’t pass liability to the instructors that taught Dr. Johnson how to read music and play the violin.


DB (profile) says:

Re: To the filters, it's all the same, tone deaf and without con

That’s an excellent idea. We should have joint and several liability for the performer(s) and all of their instructors (and instructors’ families and estates).
With increasingly large copyright violation awards, doing this will also assure that IP rights holders get paid at least a fraction of the vast damages that are incurred whenever any music, no matter how old, is played.
This might help, in some small way, to rectify the historic injustice of instructors using copyrighted music in their classes (thus commercially). Even if students butcher the music so horribly that it’s unrecognizable, it must still be a copyright violation. If their mis-playing sounds makes it sound like a different song, it’s a double violation.

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: To the filters, it's all the same, tone deaf and without con

Copyright laws have always been this way.

Suppose I take a beautiful photograph. I own the copyright to the photo. A friend sees the photo and asks for a copy so he can post it on his website. So I leave a physical photograph on a table for him to scan.

He comes in later, scans it, and uploads it to his website. A friend of his sees the scanned file on his computer and uploads it to Facebook.

One of those digital files is legal, the other is copyright infringement. Both have the same creation date, if they have a watermark it’s the same watermark. They are absolutely identical.

But one of them is illegal. So what does an automated filter do? Censoring just one has a 50/50 chance of picking the wrong one. Censoring neither has the problem of the site that doesn’t censor their copy being complicit in copyright infringement if CDA 230 didn’t shield them. Censoring both is the safest bet, but it really sucks for my right to issue copying licenses to my intellectual property!

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

"But, alas, this is the way copyright filters work."

No this is the way copyright filters work when the law is completely unbalanced in favor of one side.
No penalties for being wrong.
No penalties for lying.
No penalties for assuming everything belongs to you.

Corporations have proven time & time again they can not be trusted. They have lied, claimed the sky is falling and the government keeps rewarding them with larger umbrellas for their actions.

One wonders what would happen if we used the corporations estimates of the damage they might suffer as the basis for an award to people silenced unfairly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Just hypothesizing...

That’s still ridiculous even if true. He’s playing sheet music that is in the public domain. His performance is his alone. The only way this could possibly veer into copyright-protected territory is if he played a modified version copyrighted by someone else.

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Just hypothesizing...

I think that’s what he was getting at – if he was streaming the version still under copyright and only pretending to play it, then the copyright takedown could have been valid. Although it’s idiotic, it’s a legally sound position, if you are willing to believe that a music professor needs to mime to a CD.

Another sad example of what copyright has become – it’s possible for a music teacher trying to spread the music of someone who died 260 years ago to students who he has no other way of reaching, because it sounds too similar to an adaptation made by someone who died 25 years ago. Who, by the way, did not have to seek permission to make his own adaptation because the work was in the public domain.

I eagerly await the usual parade of psychopaths to tell us this is the correct way of the world because reasons.

David says:

Re: Re: Re: Just hypothesizing...

Although it’s idiotic, it’s a legally sound position, if you are willing to believe that a music professor needs to mime to a CD.

The Bach solo violin pieces are not exactly off-the-cuff stuff even for music professors. Even if partita #1 is not the apex of their hellish difficulty.

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Anonymous Coward says:

A computer could not hear a difference between Dr. Johnson’s performance and Grumiaux’s? Copyright nonsense aside, this situation is either acclaim for Dr. Johnson or an indictment of Grumiaux.

(Also, a mistake: you initially say it is a piano recital, but it was a violin recital.)

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You’ve heard that already here many times – it’s either an anomaly, or nobody cares about classical music so it doesn’t count. Or, it’s all Facebook’s fault, a false flag trying to prevent those poor, sweet, innocent record labels from recoup the $765 trillion lost sales that every infringing stream costs them.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Classical music presents 2 main problems to these guys – first it’s not "popular" popular. While it sells and there is a dedicated fanbase, nobody’s getting rich off it in the same way they do with production line pop songs.

Secondly, it involved musicians with actual talent, and a fanbase capable of recognising it. They can’t autotune some aspiring model, get them to sign up to a predatory contract and kick them to the curb the moment a certain group of teenagers grows out of listing to them. They have to actually produce quality product.

Rico R. (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I don’t know if you’ve made that number up to illustrate the copyright maximalists’ nonsensical point, or if that number was actually raised in anti-piracy claims somewhere. But in 2017, the Worldwide GDP was $80 Trillion. Are you seriously telling me piracy is "costing" the economy almost 10 times what the actual economy itself is making? This doesn’t even pass the laugh test!

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

According to the RIAA and MPAA, it is costing more than that. Of course they are delusional and speaking in their own interest (magnifying the potential income for their agenda).

What they never want mentioned in public, anywhere, is the marketing value of the ‘piracy’. There is nothing worse than no one talking about your IP, whereas those ‘pirates’ are creating public awareness of the IP that would not have existed had it not been ‘pirated’. See a number of Techdirt resources that explain that position. What they, the IP ‘owners’, disdain hearing is ‘I never heard of that movie, song, book, etc., and are using regulatory capture and incessant proactiveness with the laws they have gotten passed to protect their, not the public’s, interest.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Well thank you, but I don’t believe I was looking for any video. While I don’t have time to listen to that Ted Talk (which are generally good things to listen to) the title tells us that rounded corners are not something people should be litigating about, something we already knew about.

The thing that concerns us now is how do we go about getting IP laws to relate more to the precepts dictated by the Constitution (see Section 8 Clause 8), and less about the regulatory capture achieved by the IP industry.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"I don’t know if you’ve made that number up to illustrate the copyright maximalists’ nonsensical point, or if that number was actually raised in anti-piracy claims somewhere."

It was a joke, though not particularly far from some claims made in the past. I don’t have time to check the actual figures but I do seem to recall one industry study that actually claimed that they lost more than the GDP of the entire globe due to piracy at one point.

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Federico (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Trillions of dollars in copyright damages

Yes, copyright maximalists have in the past happened to claim that copyright infringement causes damages significantly bigger than the entire GDP. Usually they rely on people not being able to do the math, let alone check the sources.

A famous story is "No, The RIAA Is Not Asking For $72 Trillion From Limewire (Bad Reporters, Bad)".

The copyright industries have a long experience on making up numbers. A famous figure is "750,000 jobs and $200 billion in revenues", which was a complete invention. See William Patry’s "copyright wars":

Federico (profile) says:

Re: Re: Copyright justification

You’re not thinking far enough.

If people can listen to Bach for free on the internet, who is going to buy fancy Bach albums, let alone expensive theatre tickets? And without such sources of income, what incentives will musicians have to study Bach? And without incentives to study Bach, who will teach people about Bach? Soon Bach will be forgotten, maybe everyone will be talking about Ludovico Einaudi. Unlicensed musicians playing Bach, and their audience listening for free, are just thieves, freeriders on the decades of work by Bach rightsholders and Bach performers, paid for by generations of dutiful and licensed Bach listeners.

That’s why we need copyright to last at least a couple millennia. Then Bach will have proper incentives to not turn in his grave at the thought of his heritage being erased. You wouldn’t want our children to be haunted by the ghost of an angry Bach, would you?

ECA (profile) says:

would like to know..

Was this an automated HIT or someone REALLY listened to it and Bitched.

Now lets add to this problem.
(as the RIAA would love to charge individual persons in a car for using the radio,CD/DVD/anything)

Local bars, even with Jukeboxes, Have to have license to play music.
If you install your own system, its not long before the RIAA is knocking on the door.
This is so Abundant(ignorant) that They have even admitted, They dont know All the music they have rights to, so they just hit everyone. Until they get to court, and need to PROVE(not always needed) that they have the rights, they dont care.
And just to add, that the Music/movie industry OF THE USA is spreading itself around the Whole planet. these CR, had no value in Other nations, until recently. You could play the hell out of Music from other countries, and not worry about it.

Crafty Coyote says:

Copyright is like mosquitoes. If your YouTube video gets taken down, that’s just the equivalent of getting an itchy bug bite, it’s irritating but not all that serious. Yet the same issue that causes annoyance in YouTube posters- copyright- causes people to get sued, just as those same itchy mosquitoes become the vector for far more serious and deadly illnesses like dengue fever, malaria, and West Nile virus. That’s why copyright is bad, we only see it is a mild nuisance but a few might experience far worse problems because of it.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

What's the problem, all the approved music stays up fine.

Honestly, you’d think this was some sort of creative apocalypse or something, like mandatory filters will kill all creativity when nothing could be further from the truth.

All that’s needed to protect a creator is to simply sign up to one of the many generous and creator-friendly labels/studios/publishers, as I’m sure everyone knows by now that real creators are ones that have signed a contract handing over all their creative works to another to look after, and it’s only the creatively-void hacks that are stubborn enough to refuse.

All the law will do is to help the public by making this even more clear, protecting them by ensuring that only approved works are able to stay up and all those unprofessional hackjobs are taken down post-haste, and if a few (hundred/thousand/million) creators have to be reminded of the benefits of being under a label/studio/publisher by having their works taken down until they do then really, they’re getting off lucky when you consider the heinous harm they do to the real, official creators out there.

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tp (profile) says:

No problems...

Instead of faithfully replcating existing song from 1800s, he should add his own custom variation to the piece. This variation is what distinguish copycats from the professional authors of music. His mistake: he played it too perfectly from the existing notes instead of adding his own tweaks and customisations. Ordinary people who play violin never have this same problem because their skill is not nearly perfect enough for copyright filters to regognize it as existing piece. Only professional violiin players run danger of cloning existing music so accurately that platforms flag it as cloned. Professional music authors need to be extreamly careful against publishing cloned music on the internet.

The copyright filters don’t need to regognize public domain. Your music players just need to stop cloning other people’s music and start innovating by adding their own custom tweaks and modifications.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:


By your logic, anyone who recites a public domain poem in a YouTube video should be DMCA’d to hell because It’S nOt CrEaTiVe EnOuGh.

Not creative enough — miss me with that apologia for censorship.

The public domain exists to help drive culture forward. It gives people the building blocks necessary to create new culture. All culture is built on what came before it, be it music, movies, books, videogames, or any other form of creative expression.

But the public domain also has another purpose: conservation of culture. A work being public domain means that work can be legally distributed by anyone. That means people can find a copy of Night of the Living Dead, then share it with others or — and this is important — archive it. And the more people who have a copy of that work archived, the longer it will survive in the public consciousness (and public domain).

Imagine how many books, songs, and other creative works we have access to in the public domain right now. Then imagine how many works we’ve lost between the passage of “the Mickey Mouse Act” and now because works weren’t allowed to enter the public domain and were thus lost, for whatever reason, to the sands of time. All those works are gone — unable to be shared or archived or studied or used as a building block to new cultural works. And that happens every time the government extends copyright terms or thinks of some new way to tighten copyright controls that helps only major corporations.

And you want to make things worse becasue sharing public domain works in some way isn’t creative enough? Fuck you and your copyright-loving, corporate bootlicking, open-source-hating, (likely) DMCA-abuse-justifying mentality with a rolled-up set of Bach sheet music. We should consider the fact that anyone can play Bach’s music at all, even without “their own custom tweaks and modifications”, to be a minor goddamn miracle. And you want to ruin that — to make sure no one can ever share their own version of a public domain work like a performance of classical music — because of some whole-assed dumbassery mindset that says “public domain works don’t matter, people should only ever play new music”?

I can’t put it any stronger than this: Fuck you and your copyright maximalism. Now go carve the RIAA’s boot like a turkey, since you so clearly want make a meal out of it.

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