Today, I got to really experience what the YouTubers in YouTube land are really complaining about. Unfortunately, 90% of the problems comes from the recording/music industry making bogus complaints concerning alleged infringements. Many of these bogus complaints are also made by company’s who don’t own copyrights. For the first time, since the creation of my YouTube channel (several years ago) I got a strike for a movie that is in the public domain. The movie that was flagged was called “Black Samurai (1977)” starring Jim Kelly. Let me tell you, the movie is just shy of being 38 years old; IMDB has it barely at 3.5 stars; trust me, no one is blowing up the producers phones demanding to see this movie. It is so easy to check these things, and I think a lot of these bogus companies do these fake claims knowing most people don’t understand copyright, therefore infringing on the rights of others to use works under fair use. The problem comes when a public domain movie contains a sound recording of a work that may still be copyrighted. They don’t own the movie, but because the song is in it, they feel they have the right to control what people do with a movie they don’t technically own. Unfortunately, the way the law is written for sound recordings, music copyrights never expire. Copyright law for music is very different than it is for movies and stills (however, for as long as you abide by fair use guidelines/conduct, you’re fine).
I had a similar situation with my diabetes channel. The law says, if you record a video of a street festival for example, and a copyrighted song just happened to be played in the background, that song being played is fair use. Why? Because the song isn’t the focus of the video; the music is simply a happenstance (however, if you’re videoing a concert of someone (especially famous), that may be a different story (unless you are doing a news like format) you should always ask permission (but you can take photographs outdoors though). You should know that sometimes even if you get permission from the artist, if they are a member of ASCAP, BMI, or Sound Exchange, one of the three still may make a claim against your video. It’s one of the big problems many lesser known artists are facing that release their works under Creative Commons. So, although they couldn’t get YouTube to take it down my diabetes video, they blocked it from Germany (Germany seems to be their favorite place to block shit). Why would an American copyright holder only block their song in Germany if a YouTuber committed an infringement? Go figure. They’re all on bullshit pills I tell you! It wasn’t even worth arguing with those idiots, sometimes it’s just best to leave it alone. Photos are different though, as a photographer in the United States, you can take pictures of anything and anyone in outdoors, and specific designated public buildings/places (except for certain government buildings where security is an issue (such as military, or the United Nations), and except inside private buildings without permission). Please check your legal rights in your particular city/state/country. So yeah, the music industry is a pain in the ass, and often times literally try to hinder our freedom of speech, while in pursuit of “all copyright infringers.” Which is why all bloggers and YouTubers should be against (and help fight) bills like SOPA/PIPA, because anything could be seen as an infringement, the way these bills are written. Therefore, if a copyright holder doesn’t like your site for whatever reason, they can legally have the courts shut down your entire site. You need to understand how this impacts bloggers; if someone wants to inform the public that a particular movie or even product is a waist of time, bills like SOPA/PIPA can theoretically be used by the entertainment industry to silence bloggers who expose them.
Unfortunately, there is no system in place on YouTube to account for fair use. Because of this, record companies now have the power to abuse claims. I don’t remember what the original company making the claim was, because the time frame for their claim must have already expired once I click acknowledge on the strike. But I do remember it was some hip hop company that matched a song that was in no way shape or form close to what was on the actual video. Once I had informed them of this (I guess they didn’t like the answer), the next thing I knew, I get a take down from only one of the distributors called “Televentures.” This tells me that the music industry is so petty, that they have nothing else better but to contact one of several distributors and had YouTube take it down.
Now, I want my readers to think about this for a minute. YouTube offers a way of changing the “infringed” sound to another sound (from a list of legal music), however, it actually removes ALL of the sound from the entire movie. In an age were everything is about streaming, the music industry is very much aware that to make money is through monetizing and licensing; why would any “copyright holder” contact the distributor in order to take down a movie; destroying your chances to monetize on that sound recording? I guess it is possible that since the sound was on an actual movie, they couldn’t monetize it, or want to share revenue (if they truly owned the song, which the didn’t). Further insult to injury, they must know it’s public domain, that’s why they didn’t contact the owner directly. This is what I call abusive power; yet the industry is totally backwards. Giving the benefit of the doubt, lets say that the movie was genuinely miscategorized as public domain; I’ve written enough detailed information that someone should have contacted and informed me, so that I can inform others in the public domain community. YouTube did not serve as a true mediator as they are supposed to. Hell, I don’t even think they read the responses. It wasn’t even the full audio, it was just the intro.
I tip my hat to all the young game YouTube reviewers who have the patience to deal with all that copyright stuff, this is really annoying, very annoying. This experience makes me now understand what documentarians go through to get permissions to use clips and such. We have fair use rights, but because everything is so automated on YouTube, it makes it extremely difficult to exercise those rights. However, this should not stop anyone from blogging what the hell they want to blog about, or talk about on video. Again, this speaks to what I’ve been saying earlier about the fear and desperation of the music industry. Unfortunately, YouTube is not going to change the system they’re using anytime soon. I really do hope that the music industry eventually loosens up. It’s funny, I’ve seen people upload full albums on YouTube, but little people like us, who try and do the right thing gets burned. Damn, they are so backwards it’s comical. However, this is the stupidity of the music labels, NOT the artists. So continue to support Rhapsody, keep your paid Spotify subscriptions, and support all your legally free internet radio stations (please). Although, I wish the music labels would focus more on paying artists fairly, and offering better contracts, as well as keeping music affordable, than wasting so much energy on YouTube. If there was ever a such thing as a “mafia” in the music industry, it would be the music labels. Trust me.