Is Content ID Broken? How a Music-free Video Was Almost Permanently Removed by YouTube…

Is Content ID Broken? How a Music-free Video Was Almost Permanently Removed by YouTube…

Rumblefish CEO Paul Anthony has been suffering through his own, private hell for the past 24 hours or so. And here’s why: over the weekend, YouTube’s Content ID system falsely flagged a video as having music that belonged to Rumblefish, even though that video contained no music at all.  Rumblefish reviewed the claim, determined it was indeed valid, then only reversed that decision after a huge backlash was brewing.  By that point, there was full-blown outrage on Slashdot and Reddit, among other places, mostly directed at Rumblefish and Anthony himself.

It’s hard to see how anyone could claim copyright on background bird-chirping, but it happened.  As you can see, the video has birds lightly chirping in the background, and that’s it.  Still, the author was dragged into the rigmarole and forced to contest the problem through multiple channels before it was ultimately reinstated.  



Sounds like an unfortunate hiccup, though the author of this clip was almost unable to save the video because of it.  And, only after going outside the system and triggering a viral response was the video reinstated.  “They checked the video, and told YouTube that there was no mistake, and that they do own the music in the video. So the dispute was closed, and there was seemingly nothing else I could do,” the vegan naturalist author ‘eeplox’ explained.  “But I wrote an article about it on Slashdot, and somehow it went viral today, spreading all over the web, and Rumblefish backtracked, released my video and sent me an apology.”

Both YouTube and Rumblefish screwed this up, though Anthony identified two distinct points of failure: (1) the YouTube Content ID match, which was obviously false; and (2) the decision to uphold that false claim by Rumblefish. “The significant, significant majority of claims and disputes that are brought to our attention are resolved same day in an appropriate and accurate manner,” Anthony told Digital Music News.  “We hold ourselves to a high standard but can always improve the process.”

We’ve seen situations like this before, though with far less viral drama. Just recently, for example, a slow-motion, instructional crochet video with no music was flagged and removed by Warner Music Group, probably for similar reasons.  Others on Google’s support board pointed to lots of other misses, though in reality, these do seem like fringe cases that are typically resolved.  The only problem is that for users like ‘eeplox,’ it required extraordinary effort and luck to get the problem solved – and we’re not sure how many similar videos were simply buried.

Written while listening to Bassnectar, Junior Jack, Swedish House Mafia, and some chirping birds.

  • Steven Corn (BFM Digital)
    Tuesday, February 28, 2012

    This is a big problem with YT’s content ID system.  We manage 10,000’s sound effects and 10,000’s classical recordings (amongst others) thru this system.  Each poses an oddly similar problem.

    People forget that a recording of a sound or music can have its own copyright.  So a recording of a bird, a gunshot, waterfall, etc. can be a protected copyright as far as the sound recording is concerned.  The same thing applies to classical music.  While the underlying composition may be public domain (as is the sound effect), the recording is usually never public domain.

    Youtube’s Content ID system is designed to protect the copyright holder’s rights whether it eminates from the composition or the recording.  That is why a publisher AND a label can both make a claim on a particular video.  They are each asserting their respective copyrights.

    With sound effects, there is the general assumption that there is no copyright at play.  But with our sound effects content providers, they all have SR copyrights protecting their particular recordings.

    Ideally YT’s content ID should be able to distinguish between my recording of a bird and someone else’s.  But if it’s very similar (as are two identical recordings of the same species of birds), a mismatch can occur.

    If a match occurs and then the video uploader refutes it, YT’s system should defaul to that claim being take down automatically after a certain period of time (10 days?) unless the owner/administrator reasserts the claim.  

    BFM’s policy (I can’t speak for Rumblefish, of course) is that we always let any claim on sound effects expire.  We do not reassert such claims.  It’s more a matter of public good will than anything else.  So far, it’s been a policy that works for us and we’ve have very few problems.

    For classical recordings, we are less forgiving.  We generally reassert most classical music claims because the music usually has a more critical role in the video than a sound effect.  Users typically are just completely misinformed about the PD nature of classical recordings and we feel that it is our fidicuiary responsibility to pursue these claims.

    As for the birds, we just let the chirps continue unabated.


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