The absurdity of YouTube’s Copyright Claim System

I recently found a bumblebee nest in my back yard. Friends on Facebook asked questions about it, and I decided to set up a GoPro and record a video of the bee’s activity. After assembling segments into a two hour video, I decided to add some music. Knowing that is a tricky proposition on YouTube, because of the insanity of illegitimate organizations making copyright claims on the tiniest sample they can suss out of a video, I came up with a strategy I thought would be foolproof:

  1. Pick my music: Flight of the Bumblebee, composed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov sometime around 1899-1900. Long out of copyright.
  2. Find a MIDI file built from the score.
  3. Run the MIDI file through a computerized synth to get a mp3 file.
  4. ***
  5. No profit. (YouTube took away my ability to monetize.)

I even included this helpful message in the description:

**The musical accompaniment is a computer generated audio track created from a MIDI file transcribed from the original score. As the score itself is long out of copyright, and this is not a human performance, you would be blatantly abusing the Youtube copyright system if you attempt to file a claim against this video.**

As a computer generated rendering of a MIDI file of a public domain work, there should be no basis for a copyright claim. And yet… I got one within minutes of uploading my video. This had to gave been done by an automated system that scans all new videos on Youtube, for I do not have a popular channel. I’m reasonably sure my only subscribers are family members and the occasional random person who took pity on me. At my current rate of subscribers and views I should qualify for monetization right around the time we finish colonizing Mars.

A company called AdRev Publishing has filed a claim: “Monetized in some territories” What does that even mean? Monetized isn’t the same as copyrighted. There are people that ‘monetize’ Project Gutenberg public domain books by publishing them as ebooks on Amazon, but that doesn’t grant them rights.

They specifically filed a claim against the interval occurring between 16:59 and 19:04. That’s really odd, since I repeated the exact same piece of music approximately 60 times. If they have a claim, and its legitimate, why pick a specific interval in the middle? Why not the first iteration? Why not the whole video? I suspect they didn’t file against the whole video so that if I successfully dispute this they can just file again for a different time interval. Or maybe it’s even more evil… Maybe they only file against a small subset of people’s videos with the expectation that people won’t risk their account on a dispute for such a small slice of the ad revenue; and in that way make tiny slices of revenue from large numbers of creators.

AdRev didn’t demand I take my video down. Nooo… they leveraged YouTube’s system so that the video now shows ads and they get the money. What really makes this absurd is that I can’t show ads for revenue on my own videos, because YouTube changed their requirements and I no longer make the cut. So I make a video, AdRev swoops in and files a completely bogus claim against a computer generated rendition of a public domain piece of music, and AdRev gets to make money on my videos where I can not.

This is my response to the claim on Youtube:

The music in my video is Flight of the Bumblebee, composed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov between 1899 and 1900; and it is in the public domain.

The specific orchestration of the piece used in my video is non-human; it was generated using a MIDI file made from the score and then run through a computer based synthesizer, so it can not be a copyrighted performance.

I respectfully ask that the claimant provide documentation for how they can be representing the rights of a Russian composer who has been dead for 111 years, or for the synthesizer used to render this piece.

It appears that AdRev has a history of filing illegitimate claims against Flight of the Bumblebee. Perhaps the existence of precedence could be used to block them from making similar future claims?
https://www.summet.com/blog/2017/01/01/youtube-copyright-claim-by-adrev-for-rights-holder-flight-of-the-bumblebee/

When the content reviewers at YouTube realize the absurdity of this claim, I ask that AdRev’s claim be rejected with prejudice; so that they don’t just keep re-filing for the other 59 instances that this same clip appeared in my video.

https://www.ghostwheel.com/2019/12/08/the-absurdity-of-youtubes-copyright-claim-system/

While filing my dispute to their claim I am presented with a dire warning that filing a fraudulent dispute can result in the termination of my account. This is a scary threat for some content creators, as they may be depending on income from their videos. This warning feels a bit one-sided to me, as AdRev has been filing claims against Flight of the Bumblebee since at least 2017 and in at least one case dropping the claim when it was disputed. Is there no penalty for a company filing fraudulent claims? How many times have they pulled this maneuver?

In another display of bias against the creators that made Youtube what it is, when a claim is filed it goes into effect immediately; but they then have thirty days to respond to your dispute. That’s thirty days where a creator is in limbo stressing about the fate of their monetization. I wonder how many claims are filed by automated systems and then left hanging for thirty days after they are disputed?

This is what YouTube has become: A platform where content creators upload videos and copyright trolls can file an illegitimate automated claim and steal any potential revenue, and where the threat of a lost account will deter people from disputing those claims.

UPDATE 2019/12/11 (NZT, of course!) – Thanks to Cory Doctorow’s awesome write-up at boingboing, and the sleuthing of Sluggo in the message boards, these two interesting tidbits have come to light:

UPDATE 2019/12/12 – I received an update from YouTube today that Adrev has deigned to release their illegitimate claim on my public domain music. YouTube considers this “Good news!” but I find it disturbing. My takeaway is that YouTube never reviewed my response, and instead allowed AdRev to self police. If that’s the process, then YouTube gets to remain blissfully ignorant of the abuses occurring on their platform.

Phase two of this experiment is coming soon…

Preserving Thermal Receipts

I am not a fan of thermal receipts, but they’ve taken over the word and now we have to deal withe them. Not even addressing all of the health an environmental problems with thermal receipts, my biggest issue is that they fade. Even if you are careful to put your important receipts into a folder or file, I’m sure you’ve had at least one time you needed a receipt for taxes or a warranty claim and when you went to dig it out you found a collection of unreadable pieces of paper. I have two suggestions for addressing this first world problem:

  1. If you have a camera enabled phone, take a picture of the receipt as soon as it is in your hand, and file it in a folder called Receipts. A digital copy will last forever, if you maintain decent backups.
  2. Before you file the physical receipt away, ‘laminate’ it with packing tape. I recommend 3M Heavy Duty Shipping Tape for its strength and durability. You still need to store your preserved receipt someplace cool and dark, but this will slow down the eventual oxidation of your receipt. DO NOT use a heat laminating machine, as that will turn your receipt black.

Our Gratitude for Sandy Spring

Our successful adventure owning a home in the San Francisco Bay Area began and ended with the help of Sandy Spring. Her expertise, patience, and relationships with competent vendors saved us from the downward spiral of despair we found ourselves in when we tried to navigate it all on our own.

We had spent several months researching neighborhoods and schools, visiting showings, and trying to find a house we loved and could still afford. We’d even put in one offer, with the help of a friend who was a ‘part time’ realtor, and that had gone poorly enough to sink our spirits and make us rethink whether renting wasn’t that bad after all.

A chance introduction at some friends’ housewarming party changed all that. Sandy had been their realtor, and they had nothing but praise. She listened to our tale of woe, and offered some very helpful advice. It was immediately evident that we needed Sandy as our full-time realtor.

Right away she helped us curate a list of viable houses and we were off and running again. And then the impossible happened… There had been a house that we loved, and could have afforded, but someone beat us to the offer. That offer fell through, and Sandy helped us craft an offer and ninja it to the sellers before they had a chance to schedule more showings. They accepted our offer, which was just the beginning. Sandy helped us arrange all the inspections, and personally attended to explain all the nuances. After all the inspections and a little more negotiating, we bought that house. We could have never done that on our own.

Seven years later we decided to take a leap and head off on a new adventure. We immediately called Sandy. She helped us build a list of tasks we needed to accomplish, and helped us prioritize them. This was no easy task because we were living in the house, sorting belongings between keep and sell, packing for an overseas move, and trying to sell our house all at the same time. I honestly think we’d still be spinning in circles in a cluttered house were it not for Sandy dropping by every couple of days and infusing us with her calm and helping us keep focused. Sandy helped us self-stage our house, and even loaned us furniture to make sure every room was suitably accentuated. Throughout the entire process she made us feel like we were her only client, such was her attention and focus on our success.

We accepted an offer on hour house the day we were scheduled to leave the country. Sandy rushed the offer over to us, thoroughly vetted it with us, and we had it signed two hours before we left for the airport. At this point, Sandy didn’t just go the extra mile, she ran a marathon on our behalf. She represented us during all of the seller’s tasks while we were in a different hemisphere. She attended the inspections, arranged to have all the staging removed, delivered our last boxes of donations and hand-offs to friends, and kept our landscaping watered.

With her very hands-on help we didn’t just sell our house, we started a new adventure. We owe our successful, and very profitable, adventure in Oakland home ownership to Sandy Spring. You couldn’t have a better realtor or friend.