Film Your Kid Dancing To A McDonald's Happy Meal CD... Get A Takedown Notice From Google

from the prince-redux dept

One of the more famous examples of abuses of the YouTube video takedown process was the case of Lenz vs. Universal Music, which involved Universal Music issuing a YouTube DMCA takedown to a woman who posted a very short clip of her baby dancing to a Prince song that was playing in the background. It was a clear case of fair use, and while after the woman filed a counternotice Universal chose not to sue, the EFF filed a lawsuit against Universal Music, saying that the DMCA notice was fraudulent, since it was such an obvious case of fair use. While Universal Music argued that since fair use is just a "defense" and not a "right" it need not consider fair use in sending a takedown, the court disagreed.

You would think, then, that any takedown notices on similar short videos of kids dancing to music would avoid a similar scenario. Copycense points us to the news that a guy has received a notice from Google of potential infringement for his short clip of his kid dancing along to what appears to be a version (not the original) of the Kool & The Gang song "Celebration." As in the Lenz case, this video is a kid dancing to somewhere around 30 seconds of a song:
The notice claims that the video contains content for which the copyright is held by record label Razor & Tie. The guy who got the takedown seems a bit confused, in that he appears to be blaming McDonald's for the mess, when it appears McDonald's had nothing at all to do with the takedown. In fact, the record label Razor & Tie may not have anything to do with it either... as I'll explain below. The song used in the video was from a CD that came with a McDonald's Happy Meal. Looking around, it appears that in April, McDonald's announced a promotion with record label Kidz Bop to issue music CDs. Razor & Tie is the parent company of Kidz Bop. The problem here is clearly not McDonald's. All it did was include the CD in Happy Meals. It's got nothing to do with the takedown, and the guy's anger at McDonald's is misplaced (though, you could make the argument -- and it's a stretch -- that McDonald's should tell its partners to avoid these sorts of ridiculous copyright claims that scare people away from buying Happy Meals).

The next assumption, then, would be that Razor & Tie is guilty of sending the takedown, but I don't think that's true. If Razor & Tie had sent a DMCA takedown, the video would be down. When Google receives a DMCA takedown, it almost always (or perhaps always) pulls down the content immediately in order to retain its DMCA safe harbors. The user would then need to file a counternotice to start the process of potentially getting the video back up. The fact that the video is up and the notice the guy received simply tells him to review the videos suggests that no DMCA takedown was sent.

Instead, the blame almost certainly lies with Google's content recognition engine/filters that the record labels pushed them to use to try to catch copyright infringement ahead of time. Now, Razor & Tie is somewhat complicit here, in that it appears to have uploaded its catalog to train Google's filters (if I remember correctly -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- Google needs the copyright holder to submit copies for its filter to work). So, Google had this particular song on file, and noticed the similarity. Google's filter algorithms don't appear to consider fair use (or, perhaps more likely, they do a bad job of it in many cases) and the guy then is sent the automated notification, even though it makes everyone -- McDonald's, Razor & Tie and Google -- look bad, though the blame from the recipient appears to be in almost reverse order of culpability.

Unfortunately, the guy who received the notice also appears to be confused concerning his own rights. He says he is going to take down the video, though he clearly has a strong fair use case in asking for the video to be left alone. It seems likely that Google would allow the video to stay up, and I highly doubt that Razor & Tie would do anything else (it would be ridiculous to try to claim that this was not fair use).

Either way, this highlights a variety of interesting things. First, despite all the publicity of the Lenz case, these types of "takedowns" (even if it's not a DMCA takedown) still happen. Second, people on the receiving end of these notices assume that there is no recourse that would allow the video to stay up. People get official sounding notices and they assume they need to jump. Third, Google's content match filter isn't particularly good on fair use issues. Fourth, when these sorts of bogus notices are sent, it reflects very poorly on a variety of companies. In this case, McDonald's is getting most of the blame, despite being almost entirely blameless (well, it did decide to put out these silly music CDs, but that's a separate issue). Even Razor & Tie may be getting misplaced blame (though it may depend on the "rules" it set for Google's filter). Amusingly, it may be Google that deserves the most blame, and it appears to be getting the least.

Still, no matter what the situation, it's simply ridiculous that a guy filming 30 seconds of his kid dancing should have to worry about any of this.
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Filed Under: copyright, dancing, filters, kids, music, takedowns, videos, youtube
Companies: google, kidz bop, mcdonald's, razor & tie, youtube


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  1. identicon
    Clyde Smith, 2 Jan 2010 @ 4:22am

    Who's to Blame & Branding

    "though, you could make the argument -- and it's a stretch -- that McDonald's should tell its partners to avoid these sorts of ridiculous copyright claims that scare people away from buying Happy Meals"

    That's not a stretch. They're a major corporation with a major brand and entering into a relationship that can harm that brand is a major mistake and one for which shareholders should hold them accountable.

    So the direct blame may not be on McDonald's but that's no reason it can't or shouldn't harm their brand.

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