Thursday, February 26, 2015

It's Not Fair!

If you are a frequent uploader to Youtube or Soundcloud and work with editing other musicians' music, chances are you've run into both of their content ID matching algorithms. While the composer in me understands the need for some automatic way of catching copyright violations, the teacher in me gets frustrated by the automatic impingement on the Fair Use clause of the Copyright Law of the United States by both Youtube and Soundcloud.

What Constitutes "Fair Use"?

What am I talking about?  The Fair Use clause states, among other things, the following which applies directly to Music Tech class at WLA (emphasis mine):
Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair.
  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work
It is difficult to teach the process of editing music without commercially available music to edit.  Yes, royalty-free music websites abound for the sole purpose of making administrators feel good about their teachers and students not breaking copyright laws in their schools, but for all intent and purposes, royalty-free music is expensive (there are not copyrights attached or royalties paid out to copyright holders, but you still have to pay to access the material) and boring.  I'd much rather teach students how to digitally edit music using music that they already know well.

Youtube's and Soundcloud's Content ID Matching

Both Youtube and Soundcloud have automatic content ID matching.  What that means is both companies have source data files from major publishers or artists who have requested that their music not be uploaded to either site without their approval.  Youtube is a little more lenient than Soundcloud and will actually allow some copyrighted materials to "pass through" their system and be available online, provided the copyright holder has permitted monetization (ads).  Check out Youtube's Content ID policies for more information.

Both will send you an email or flag your content if their automated engines detect that you are using content that is owned by someone else. Youtube may allow some copyrighted material to be posted, as long as the original owner has allowed it, but it will either be forced to contain ads (Youtube/Google is all about the ad $$$) or it will contain warnings that it may not be played in certain countries.

A recent copyright notice I received from Soundcloud
concerning a track for Music Tech class.  This is the 
same type of notice a student would get if their music
was flagged as being owned by someone else.  In this
case, the music was Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger".
Soundcloud won't post your music track at all if it's been flagged.  You'll get a copyright notice via email (or Soundcloud's message center) and you will never see your track online.  (See picture on the left). Soundcloud's copyright policies are more rigid than Youtube's are, protecting the creators to a fault and not allowing any fair use cases.

In recent years, Youtube has presented its copyright stance more and more clearly to its users, even publishing multiple web pages and videos explaining everything from "Youtube Copyright Basics" to "How Content ID Works" to "What is Fair Use?".  But disputing a copyright claim which falls under fair use hasn't always been successful for me.

Soundcloud's copyright explanation page has a series of questions to which the user must answer "yes" or "no" to see if their track meets Soundcloud's understanding of copyright law and the protection of their artists.  One problem I see with this approach is that Soundcloud does not take Fair Use of an educational institution into account at all.

My Personal Experience with Disputing Copyright Notices

I'm not sure how they did it, but Youtube tagged my own orchestral and choral arrangement of the Gustav Holst tune, THAXTED, as matching third party content.  Was that by audio (I made sure my orchestral arrangement was not a copy of Holst's) or by text (the title and the description I added to my own upload)?  See for yourself below and listen to Holst's setting from The Planets, IV. Jupiter, the bringer of Jollity (the chorale starts at 2:29) and compare it to my arrangement for the 2014 WELS National Worship Conference.

For the sake of "science" I decided to contest this copyright dispute with Youtube, so I clicked on "Matched third party content" and this was the message from Youtube: "Is this a cover song?" In other words, it seems to me that Youtube has in their licence agreement with whomever holds the copyright for Holst's Jupiter Chorale (a.k.a THAXTED hymn tune) that it is okay with them if their music is uploaded to Youtube, just as long as they get a cut of the ad revenue. Two questions remain: (1) What third party content does my arrangement actually match, and (2) if I acknowledge that I have "covered" Holst's tune (to say nothing of the setting), will I (a) earn any money from Youtube though ad revenue, or (b) will my account receive a copyright strike against it?

So I clicked on "View Details" to see who owns the copyright.  Now I'm even more confused.

It seems that the entity which administers the copyright for "The Planets., Op. 32 - IV. Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity" is....

AdShare (Publishing)?  I have no idea who AdShare is. Is it Google? Is it some other corporation which buys up copyrights like tech companies buy up patents just to have them available for lawsuits?

I would have expected that a major music publisher like "the world's largest print music publisher" like Hal Leonard or the Gustav Holst estate would have owned the copyright?  What about the original publisher of the orchestral setting?  According to the Holst Foundation's website its Faber, but a search of their catalog reveals nothing.  A search for the publisher of the complete orchetrals setting of the Planets reveals Novello & Co., administered by MusicSalesClassical.com but doesn't have any copyright information.

So the question remains in my mind: who really owns the copyright to THAXTED?  Since it's a hymntune, I grabbed my copy of Christian Worship Supplement (NPH 2008) and looked up the copyright information for THAXTED (CWS 728).  Here's what I found:

Christian Worship Supplement (NPH, 2008)
728 Jerusalem the Golden, copyright information
The THAXTED tune (the melody) and setting (the harmonization) are under copyright by Gustav Holst, the composer himself.  Since US Copyright law states that a work is in the public domain if the creator/composer has been dead more than 75 years (Holst died in 1934, add 75 years for public domain, and THAXTED should have gone into the public domain in 2009) and the copyright has not been renewed in the name of the creator, it appears that the Gustav Holst estate has renewed the copyright.  Which still brings me back to AdShare.  What is this organization and should I monetize my video?

Can I dispute Youtube's or Soundcloud's Automatic Content ID System?

In a word, yes.  I just went through the process for the Soundcloud track listed in the picture above. After going through a couple of pages of questions, I was given a chance to write the reason why I was disputing the content ID blocking of my track.  This is what I wrote:

My dispute with Soundcloud over a Music Tech project.
How does that affect Music Tech class at WLA?  Every student in Music Tech has their own blog and posts all of their music to that blog.  We use Soundcloud to post music tracks and Youtube to post video with music that we've either created or edited.  When content ID matching kicks in on either hosting service, WLA's students' work cannot easily be posted and shared.  I think the sharing of student's work is very important in the Internet Age: it serves as a digital portfolio of their best work, it can explain how projects are done for outsiders, and it provides a way that students can learn from each other and comment on each other's work.  It's a very powerful tool.

Until this past semester, when content ID matching kicked in for a student, we had no recourse except to link the video or file to Google Drive or some other cloud service (we've also used Vimeo and Wikispaces)

Now for some good news...

Over the years of teaching Music Tech, I have had brilliant students who have taught me a thing or two.  This year's brilliant student is Ryan Boelk.  He figured out a way to embed a sound file (in this case, a WAV file) in a student's blog using Google Drive as the hosting platform, thereby bypassing the copyright issues of Soundcloud and Youtube.  Now mind you, neither he nor I are doing this to get around copyright issues.  I firmly believe that I am acting in the best interest of my students and the US Copyright Fair Use clause when I have my students post their edited work online.  We are doing this for education reasons and not to take money away from the original owner.

Ryan outlined his steps on an article he wrote entitled "Got Copyrighted?"  I encourage you to read it and try it for yourself.  The brilliance of his solution lies in the fact that he got an embedded music player instead of just a text link to a music file in Google Drive.

YouTube "Jerusalem the Golden/THAXTED" Copyright (UPDATED 3/9/15)

Youtube sent me another Content ID claim this morning on the video of the performance of my setting of "Jerusalem the Golden" from the 2014 WELS National Conference on Worship, Music, and the Arts:

Email from Youtube on March 9, 2015
I clicked on the "Copyright Notice page" link and found that the copyright holders list had grown quite a bit but the matched content, the THAXTED hymn tune, was now matched to a song called "Running".

"Running" Copyright holders

A number things confuse and trouble me about this new Content ID claim: 
  1. The composer and publisher of "Running" and not clearly listed.  Instead, it seems that an abbreviation system is being used by YouTube.  This makes it difficult for me, the composer of the orchestral and choral setting of "Jerusalem the Golden", to correctly identify if another entity truly owns the performance rights to the THAXTED hymn tune.  I know I own the performance rights for my own compositions, but how do I look up the song that is listed on Youtube's copyright page if the copyright holders are not clearly identified?
  2. When trying to find the song "Running" on Captiol CMG Publishing's song search page, I can identify three songs called "Running" but none of them use the THAXTED hymn tune nor are remotely close to my setting.
  3. When I chose another abbreviated publisher from the list (TONO_CS) and Googled them, I got a number of hits which seemed to indicate that this might be a bogus Content ID claim.
  4. Three "Running" song matches from Captiol CMG
    Ho
Who are the copyright holders listed in YouTube's latest claim?

Summary

Don't steal.  It's the seventh commandment and it's God's law.  The US Copyright laws protect the owners and creators.  In this digital age, we will continually run into violations of copyright law on online music and video hosting services.  Companies such as Youtube and Soundcloud are doing due diligence to make sure that video and music track they host is not in violation of US copyright law, which protects them as business, but sometimes frustrates users of their services.  As teachers and students, we should abide by God's laws and our government's laws and do everything possible to help our fellow creators of music earn their living through their music.

37 comments:

  1. I somewhat get this and understand why these websites take the position they do. It's because they have to do this to avoid being sued or closed down. While I understand the annoyance of a video being removed, one has to remember that this is for the best. Isn't it better to have this law in play then not have youtube at all?

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  2. I understand what you are saying. I believe that the way in which Soundcloud is dealing with copyright claims and issues is wrong because of the exact reasons you stated above. Youtube does a nice job with allowing the video to be seen under some circumstances, so that even though the copyright claim was made there are still ways to bypass that. Like making a parody, or criticizing is still allowed. I understand the frustration of having your video copyrighted, but I also understand that the database doing the copyright claim might not know that you are using these videos for educational purposes.

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    1. Wouldn't it be nice if Youtube would certify teachers and students to upload under a "Fair Use" license much like they have a Creative Commons license?

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    2. Yes, that would solve some issues!

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  3. I have now been hit with copywriting on each project that I have done. I have learned the way that Ryan taught me and it is actually pretty simple. I think this method should be taught to all the students right at the beginning of a school year/semester. There is nothing that really can be done about the copy write policy, yeah it is over used, but it's not like they are going to be able to read emails from everyone defending why it isn't copywriting. Unless if they made like a spot on youtube where students can put there work for the public, I don't know how that would be done though. I think we should just be thankful for what we have. I learned a lot in this article though, never really understood copywriting until today.

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    1. I'm happy that you're understanding the US Copyright laws better! I like your idea of Youtube having a "safe place" where teachers and students can upload their educational content under a fair use clause. Just brainstorming...how would they monitor it or prevent a student or teacher from continuing to upload videos and music after they are no longer affiliated with an educational institution?

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    2. Maybe, if you have this safe place for educational reasons, then they should call you from youtube if they think it is copy-write. I don't know how easy that would be, just an idea. Instead of just taking them down right away. Then you can defend your work.

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  4. I think the companies are doing the right thing, i mean i would do the same thing if i was at risk of getting sued. Its not there fault for trying to do the right thing and following the law. I think it would help if they would find a way to add and keep the people certified as teachers and then high school students to have the ability to log in so we can do these projects and publish them. But all in all they are just trying to do the right thing and abide by the law that was put before them with the copyright thing. Like i said i would do the same thing so i wouldnt be at the risk of getting sue or have all of the site deleted

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    1. You've struck on a good idea, Jordan, and I think you understand both companies' legal obligations.

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  5. I can understand why Soundcloud and Youtube have this policy. They are doing this to avoid being sued or fined. They just want to make money and getting sued doesn't help. I do believe that they should make a way to follow the law and allow the few exceptions to the copyright law. So I believe that we shouldn't have to worry about being copyrighted every time we make something in class. I believe that they are smart for using copyright laws, I just believe that they should fix it so that they are not limiting the legal individuals the opportunity to share their music.

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    1. How do Soundcloud and Youtube make money?

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    2. Youtube receives visits from many people and there are many companies that want to advertise on youtube. These companies are willing to pay a large amount of money to get an add on the video. Therefore youtube makes a lot of money from these companies.

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  6. I agree with youtube and sound clouds copyright agreements. I know that they have to protect themselves from being sued. What I don`t agree with is the fact that you can be using a piece of music or a video and remix it and you still get a copyright strike. I have not had any copyright experiences until this class. Overall all of the copyright laws they have are a must. Without them people would just steal other peoples work.

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    1. So how would you propose that Soundcloud or Youtube determine if a certain song or video was a remix?

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  7. The Copyright violations have been happening because people that haven't read this or refuse to read the rules, do not understand the rules or procedures for the copyrights. I am siding toward Youtube and Soundcloud because In order for them to stay in business and keep making money, they have to follow these rules.

    The Content ID match that Youtube has created is a faster way to mark copied videos. One reason why people steal videos is because they can not think of any videos to make or they don't have the proper equipment to use.

    Being a fellow "Youtuber" (someone who uploads videos, not just watch the videos) I have to follow these rules every time I upload a video. I would monetize my videos so I would not run into some of these problems.

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    1. Does monitization mean that you can earn money from Youtube or only the copyright holder earns money?

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    2. For Youtube, only the copyright holder can make money. But, if you monetize your blog, you could be making money!

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  8. I agree with some of soundcloud and youtubes rules. I understand they have to enforce these or they will get in trouble. I just think that there should be more exceptions to these rules that they have. I think they should be more lenient on what is classified under the copyright policy.

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  9. I understand why soundcloud and youtube have the copyright policies. But I think that it should be easier to use videos and music of the websites. As long as you aren't using it to make money. I think youtube's copyright policy is much more reasonable than soundclouds. Because it allows users to still use music and videos even if its copyrighted.

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  10. I agree with the copyright policy that youtube uses. It still gives people a chance to use some of the original owner's content. I also think that youtube's idea is really good because in order to upload something that has an original owner's content, youtube will ask them if the person can or cannot do it. I don't really like soundcloud's way of copyrighting because whenever there is a match found with original content, they just automatically delete it. I think that soundcloud should do it more like youtube does and not just delete it right away.

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  11. Copyright is a good idea for the owners. But for the students, it is kind of hard to work around like Mr. Witte said. Yes, we can use this stuff in the classroom and it doesn't violate the law, but the owners probably aren't familiar with WLA's Tech Music class, so soundcloud and youtube are just trying to stay out of lawsuits, which I think is fine. But it is hard for some classes to display their work they put time into and not trying to get money out of the project. So I think it is good that there is copyright because I know I wouldn't want anyone stealing my great idea, but it is becoming more challenging for our class to display their work. So it is fine but it should have an easier way for schools to use music to help their class excel in their work.

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    1. I understand your reasoning, Samantha. There are many website and content hosting services which cater to schools and students for hosting their digital work. One of the reasons I don't like to use them is that I feel they are not "the real world" like Youtube or Soundcloud are. They are a safe, digital haven where students can publish their work but where their work won't be seen by anyone outside of their classroom or their school.

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  12. Well first off I can understand why there is such a thing as a copyright law, but at the same time not everyone is trying to steal the original piece to make money off of it. I think that it is a good thing that there is the fair use policy, because sometimes us as students use original pieces of music for example and get flagged at a copy right even though we are just trying to do the assignment that we were instructed to do. So while I was reading through this article all of these thoughts were popping into my head. I know that this law is put in place to protect the original owners and I understand that, but at the same time it can be frustrating to a student or teacher when they are trying to do things specifically for a class only.

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  13. You shouldn't steal someone's video just because it might be fun. You could use part of it and make your own video from it but not actually using the whole thing. I agree with the part where you can shut someone's video down if they stole it from you if you want to because you want to protect your video. I think they should do something though about using something but doing something different with the song because you aren't actually stealing the video, you're making it your own.

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  14. I understand where Soundcloud and youtube are coming from. they are a business and they are trying to make money and save themselves from being sued. I do think that it is a bit harsh how they treat students and people not trying to make a profit by giving them copyright strikes. I think that they should have a section or something that gives students the right to post a video or song without being able to be hit with a copyright strike

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  15. I understand why YouTube and Soundcloud have all those copyright laws because they want to prevent other people to stole someone else piece of music and make money out of it. But I also understand your point of view because not everyone wants to steel and I also understand that it could be frustrating for teacher who just wants to use that video for a class.
    I'm also thankful for your post because now I understand better all the copyright laws that before I didn't really know.

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    1. I'm glad ou understand US Copyright laws better now. Do you know what the Italian copyright laws are? Are they similar to US?

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    2. I'm not sure but I think they are similar to the US ones. I can surely make some researches about it!

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    3. It would be interesting to me to see which county's copyright laws are more strict or more binding. Case in point, since Youtube is an American company, how are international uploads considered? According to the country of origin's copyright laws, or according to the US copyright laws?

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  17. It is hard to understand the choices of what is declared copyright and what is not due to the presence of so many clearly copyright materials still being active on youtube, and some that should not be copyrighted being taken down. In some ways these powers can be abused depending on what materials are being copyrighted, for example last year a youtube game reviewer named John "Totalbiscuit" Bain was asked by a company to review their game. He did and he gave it an accurate and poor review. The company that made the game had the video of the review taken down even though Totalbiscuit had direct permission from them. So i believe that Youtube's system is quite often and quite easily abused in the cases of many types of content. Soundcloud's system seems a lot more extreme but more accurate in what stays and what goes.

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    1. You understand the problems of trying to monitor fair use and you've quoted an actual case. It continually surprises me to find full movies on Youtube that are not uploaded from a movie production company but seem to be pirated. How do some people get away with it while others are caught? Or, do you think there was a "deal" behind the scenes, akin to a permission agreement between the uploader and the copyright holder?

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    2. I am not sure how they are getting past it, but I am fairly sure that no deals are being made. The channels in which films are uploaded tend to be smaller channels. If there was a deal between a production company and a Youtuber the production company wouldn't look to smaller channels. Why wouldn't they make a deal with the more popular and famous channels if they really wanted a deal?

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  19. I don't believe that Youtube or Soundcloud are slacking in any way about how they take on copyright issues. I believe this because today we live in a society that is very power hungry and wants every dollar they can get so I understand why companies are using Content ID. On the other hand I believe Mr. Witte is definitely within his right when having us the students and himself break copyright for educational purposes as Copyright Law of the United States says that we are obligated to using. I believe that the problem is just and lack of communication between our government and the our corporations such as Youtube and Soundcloud. What we need is for our government to give our educational instructor’s a set pin or password of some kind that changes each year, and with this pin or password have the ability to enter it into youtube or soundcloud before the work is posted on the web so that these companies know its for educational use.

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    1. I like your "pin" idea. Can you imagine the government getting involved with Youtube? That sounds like a nightmare of legal red tape. I wonder if we can "petition" Youtube to have an educational policy like this?

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