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
    PaulT (profile), 28 Aug 2012 @ 1:59pm

    Re: Coppy Right Applies to Public Domain...not monotarily.

    "You can easily make money off of public domain. It is how it is arranged that makes the copyright.

    I see a few heads scratching and I want to clear up what I said:"

    Possibly because you made 2 completely separate points and pretended they were the same?

    Different arrangements/recordings may have different copyrights attached. That's not in question. If it is indeed the arrangement rather than the song that's triggering the complaints, this clearly needs to be discussed with the musician in question. The musician is clearly making his own recording of a public domain work - he needs to be notified that the arrangement is the issue if you are correct here, as that's the only way this will be cleared up.

    If nothing else, this just shows how blunt and unworkable the current system really is. You have a musician who's distributing what he believes to be a legitimate and legal recording, and a corporation that seems to believe these takedowns are correct. They need a way to discuss this, and ensure that information gets out that this arrangement is actually copyrighted despite the song being public domain, or for the corporation to stop attacking innocent musicians. Sadly, of course, the corporation have insisted that a 3rd party with no knowledge of the reasons for the takedown act as copyright police, and just accept their automated notices as fact. If the corporations were using systems with human interaction and accepting challenges themselves, such issues would easily be cleared up. Not so when you have an automated system taking down content based on flags from (presumably) another automated system.

    But, your first point has nothing to do with any of this. Yes, it's possible to make money off public domain material - with the same arrangement as the one that's in the public domain. All it means is that the original copyright holder is no longer the only person who can do this. If you think that rearranging the original in order to get a new copyright is the only way to make money, you're really missing the point, and a number of facts.

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