Universal Uses Copyright To Censor Bad Lip Reading Parody; Why Not Embrace It?
from the bad-lip-reading-war dept
It seems like most of the subjects of these videos (at least the ones who find out about them) find them pretty funny. For example, the singer Michael Buble absolutely loved it when he discovered that BLR had turned his song, "Haven't Met You Yet" into "Russian Unicorn". And that kind of response has led many people to appreciate Buble even more. Seriously, a bunch of folks have been sending me that link and pointing out how Buble really seems so cool about it.
But, of course, not everyone is so cool about such things. A bunch of folks have been sending in this Slashdot snippet about how Universal Music issued a DMCA takedown over BLR's recent video called Dirty Spaceman, which was a bad lip reading of a of Nicki Minaj and will.i.am song and video. It's a little unclear what happened here. The Facebook post that Slashdot links to has been taken down. However, the Slashdot summary states:
Two days ago, Universal Music Group succeeded in getting his parody Dirty Spaceman taken down from YouTube, and despite BLR's efforts to appeal, in his words, 'UMG essentially said "We don't care if you think it's fair use, we want it down."' And YouTube killed it.The actual details here are important, so it's too bad that no one seems to have them. In a recent interview, the anonymous music producer behind BLR notes that he makes all his own music (so he's not just using the original songs). So there's no infringement on the music. But, of course, the video itself is copyrighted too, so there is a claim there. It's entirely possible that it was caught by YouTube's ContentID filter (i.e., passive catching of infringement, rather than a proactive decision by Universal Music). In fact, if it had been a real DMCA takedown, and BLR filed a counternotice, then UMG's next move would have to be to file a lawsuit if it disagreed with the counternotice. Since that didn't happen, it seems likely that this wasn't the result of a DMCA takedown, but the ContentID filter (which, yes, matches video too).
That said, once he appealed, Universal could have let it go. And, frankly, it should have. Whether or not this actually is "parody" is a bit tricky -- and depends on whether you think the commentary is on the original video. I would argue that it is, and separately argue that if we were to run the basic four factors test on this, you could make a good case that it was fair use (certainly, the BLR video didn't harm the commercial appeal of the original video, a key part of the four factors test).
But, leaving aside the legal issue, let's just talk about the practicality of the whole thing. As the Buble incident showed, embracing this kind of thing wins you fans. Insisting that such a video stays down does the exact opposite. It's emblematic of the sorts of bad decision-making coming out of the major labels like Universal Music these days.
Oh, and of course, in typical Streisand Effect fashion, others have uploaded the video. Amusingly, BLR even included one of the uploads by someone else in his own playlist -- so it's still there if you look on BLR's YouTube... even if the upload wasn't by him.