December 25, 2013
Adam the Alien has a Youtube channel that earns him some money through Youtube’s “monetization” service, which inserts ads and gives him a cut of the money. It worked fine until Youtube’s notorious “Content ID” system let some of the biggest music publishers in the world lay claim to the copyright in Adam’s video, on the basis that his rendition of “Silent Night” belonged to them — despite having been composed in 1818 and being firmly in the public domain. Once their claims had been laid, all the money his video generated was diverted to them.
The companies that laid claim to Adam’s video are the publishing arms of the biggest record labels on the planet — BMG, Warner/Chappell, and Universal Music Publishing Group — and they use an automated system to identify videos and claim them. There is no penalty for automatically generated claims over things that the publishers have nothing to do with, and so, unsurprisingly, their copyright bots are fantastically sloppy and operate with little or no human oversight.
It’s a perfect storm of stupidity and greed: Google has given the big publishers a platform that rewards fraudulent claims over indie creators’ work; the publishers responded by making plenty of such claims, and all the while decrying “piracy” as the great evil of our day.
As an independent content creator, it is absurd, ridiculous, and downright insulting that I can have my content de-monetized based on a completely fraudulent claim. The fact that the claims are based on an automated system doesn’t make it any better. If anything, it makes me think the automated system should not be in place. Or at the very least, it needs a major overhaul, and a lot more human eyes involved before action is taken….
…But we’re playing with people’s income, here, and I don’t think an automated system should be in charge of that. Certainly not one that apparently has public domain songs registered to it. Anything fitting that description should only be acted upon once a human eye has reviewed it. Perhaps a different category within the content ID system is needed. A category for protecting specific recordings and arrangements of public domain content, but without YouTube’s entirely too impressive ability to recognize the similarities of someone singing their own version.