Major Labels Claim Copyright Over Public Domain Songs; YouTube Punishes Musician

from the not-cool dept

We've talked in the past about how YouTube's ContentID system fails at fair use and the public domain -- whereby it is unable to distinguish public domain material. That has resulted in ridiculous situations, often where large companies with huge catalogs end up shutting down perfectly legal content. Sometimes it's crazy stuff like taking down a video because of birds chirping in the background, but other times it can result in public domain music being pulled down.

Musician Dave Colvin appears to be dealing with the latter, as he noted in a frustrated Facebook post about how the publishing arms of the major labels keep claiming copyright on public domain cover songs that he's been recording and posting to YouTube. The end result is that, even though all of these claims are bogus, YouTube is threatening to take away his ability to monetize his account, and have already disabled it on a public domain song.
I am fed up with YouTube. Several times I have provided evidence that my video "O Little Town of Bethlehem" is a Public Domain song and each time I get an email saying the song is owned by either Warner Chappell or UMPG or Sony. Now they have disabled my being able to earn any money for the number of times the video is viewed. We are only talking about pennies but no one "owns" a Public Domain song.

They now have threatened to totally disable my account from monetizing any of my videos because of multiple "false" claims of ownership. Since there is no way to speak to a human being directly, there will never be a way to convince them of the error of their ways....Fed up!
(And just to cut this argument off before it even begins: you can absolutely make money from public domain material, you just can't stop others from doing the same thing). Again, this isn't the first time we've seen this kind of thing, and it's a situation that YouTube really needs to figure out a solution to.

Filed Under: business models, contentid, copyfraud, dave colvin, monetization, music, public domain
Companies: google, sony music, universal music, warner chappell


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  1. icon
    Suzanne Lainson (profile), 28 Aug 2012 @ 9:35pm

    There should be a better feedback loop

    I've been okay with the concept of ContentID because it allows YouTube to exist for the moment. If we had to wait until copyright laws were changed before YouTube could exist legally, then we might be YouTube-less for decades. It strikes me as workable interim system to keep YouTube up and working while people adapt to new music industry realities.

    That being said, there should be ways to correct errors like this. No, these companies shouldn't be able to take down public domain songs. What likely happened is that they claimed copyright on versions of public domain songs their companies recorded and ContentID didn't know the difference. Every label that has recorded a copy of "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" has probably submitted its recorded version to YouTube, so there are multiple copyright claimants for the same song. Each recorded version has its own copyright, but the song itself shouldn't be under copyright.

    There should be a way to tweak YouTube each time copyright is falsely claimed. And I am sure there are ways to enter false claims like this into the ContentID database so that after it happens once, it doesn't trigger any more of them. But maybe Google isn't in any hurry to do that, or maybe it has been done, but the musicians getting caught in the system haven't been told that. I don't know.

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