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
    ltlw0lf (profile), 28 Aug 2012 @ 2:03pm

    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.

    True, if the arrangement is substantially different (called "Original work of authorship" by the US Copyright Office.) It is still a derivative work, so you can't copyright someone-elses' work that is still under copyright. According to Circular 14: "To be copyrightable, a derivative work must differ sufficiently from the original to be regarded as a new work or must contain a substantial amount of new material. Making minor changes or additions of little substance to a preexisting work will not qualify a work as a new version for copyright purposes. The new material must be original and copyrightable in itself. Titles, short phrases, and formatting are not copyrightable."

    But while you own the copyright on the new work, you can not legally prevent someone else from accessing the original work, at least not unless you are Disney.


    :

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