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
    Mike Martinet (profile), 28 Aug 2012 @ 12:29pm

    On Second Thought

    I'll just post it here:

    A couple of days after reading about the RIAA having its budget cut, I left a comment on this story, which was the genesis for the following:

    An Alternative (Recent) History of the RIAA

    1999: Realizing the inevitable, the RIAA convinces member labels to set up all-you-can eat buffets. All music available as DRM-free downloads, $5/mo. 100M of storage, additional available for increased monthly fee. The RIAA uses superior marketing muscle to "drown out" competing "free" alternatives, insists people should only download from "legitimate" sources to ensure data integrity and security. It recommends the gradual reduction in the production, marketing, storage and sales of CDs, vinyl and tape, keeping only a small reserve capacity*.

    2000: RIAA negotiates a small increase in financial support from labels' substantial savings from physical media reductions to create the Online Strategy Group (OSG), hiring engineers, programmers, technologists, musicologists and a futurist or two and forms FoM, Future of Music, Incorporated to handle subscriptions.

    2001: On OSG advice, the RIAA convinces member labels to cross-offer artists by genre in online sites with fun names like, "", "", "", "", etc. Marginally increased monthly fee ($1 more each) gets access to all sites and membership in forums, discounts on t-shirts, tickets, posters, etc. FoM takes over all profit-making ventures. FoM buys Creative and with the help from the OSG brain-trust, designs and sells a fantastically popular line of MP3 players.

    2002: Capitalizing on the psychology of "sharers", OSG introduces memberships that encourage people to find and upload obscure and out-of-print audio. Uploaders compete for discounted memberships, back-stage passes, artist access and the most important prizes, minor fame, street-cred and a custom avatar. The RIAA creates work-arounds for copyright issues removing limits on fan's abilities to upload, modify and share work.

    2003 - 2005: Recognizing the growth of social media, the OSG introduces groups and messaging. Higher-access users get expanded pages on OSG sites and are encouraged to rate and critique music. OSG makes available interaction with music journalists, holds contests for album & t-shirt art, gives prizes for mashups with highest votes by the communities. The OSG makes "Locker" space available, 1G free, $1/mo for each additional gigabyte. OSG introduces "Rip Me" - user puts a factory CD in the computer drive tray, and is given the option to rip/upload tracks or have recording company copies put in his/her locker. (Subsequent attempts to upload the same CD from another computer is allowed with a minimum new subscription)

    2006 - 2010: FoM buys Pandora, iTunes, YouTube, RIM,, Facebook and controlling interest in Sirius. OSG helps FoM branch the Blackberry, creating the "Rockberry", a consumer-oriented "mobile media sharing device". OSG solicits auditions from all musicians everywhere, showcases the best on YouTube. FoM makes record profits from tours, downloads, streams, hardware, music licensing and merchandise. Cary Sherman becomes fifth richest man in the US.

    2011: *FoM introduces choice "retro" vinyl, CD and tape catalogue for hipsters worldwide. OSG and RIAA move into "palatial" FoM office campus in Los Angeles, work begins on 30-story FoM tower in Manhattan.

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