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Lisa Derrick Headshot

YouTube Copyright Takedown Targets Punk Bands

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In recent months there have been a slew of takedowns under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act on YouTube affecting numerous punk bands. Once a video has a copyright infringement claim against it, it is removed from the site.

Apparently SST Records -- owned by Greg Ginn and the home of punk legends like Black Flag, the Minutemen, fIREHOSE, Lawndale and others -- has been utilizing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to claim copyright infringement on a vast number of videos that utilize brief clips of music from Black Flag, including skateboard videos made by fans. Well, gosh, that's what copyright holders can do, though it does seem sort of mean.

However, SST has also claimed multiple copyright ownership of videos featuring bands which that have nothing to do with SST, including X, Fear, Sin 34, Lower Class Brats, Puzzled Panthers, and the Adolescents. Also affected, videos made by fans under Fair Use, utilizing snippets of songs.

YouTube provides copyright holders with a Content ID program. YouTube account holders who use the software must submit title lists and audio files, as well as proof of copyright. The program can be used to:

Identify user-uploaded videos comprised entirely OR partially of their content, and
Choose, in advance, what they want to happen when those videos are found.
Make money from them. Get stats on them. Or block them from YouTube altogether.

Reduce Infringement. Educate your fans about your copyright preferences and prevent your content from being distributed on YouTube without your permission.
Fully Automated. Once you're set up, Content ID will identify, claim, and apply policies to YouTube videos for you.

The DMCA takedown of "Democracy" by the Adolescents on Frontier Records, which also handles their publishing via Bug Music, indicated that a company called Love Cat Music had also claimed DMCA rights, along with SST. I wrote to Love Cat, which has only one punk band, Reagan Youth, in its catalog. Owner Randy Frisch replied promptly to my email:

i do not know why LoveCat Music is mentioned here. Could be a mistake.
we have sent takedown notices with respect to other songs in our catalog that we do in fact control. But not this one

Is it possible that YouTube's Content ID program is faulty and can't tell punk songs apart? If so, major fail.

I wrote to SST Record's owner Greg Ginn and asked him about YouTube issues. After several emails back and forth about YouTube in general I asked him point blank why bands not on SST were taken down from YouTube with a notice posted that SST Records had claimed copyright. He did not respond, and blocked my ability to email him.

If YouTube's content identifying software is at fault for false DMCAs, then those using it should definitely alert YouTube about the glitches since it looks pretty creepy and bad to take down videos for which you do not own the copyrights. However, if people are purposefully DMCA-ing videos out of spite, and have a long record of false claims, perhaps YouTube should treat them with the same vigorous enforcement they show to copyright abusers.

YouTube's PR person did not respond to my email questions about the accuracy of the Content ID software, however she did say:

Unfortunately, in some cases, individuals abuse our notification process by submitting fraudulent claims. When we become aware of this, we take action by reinstating the videos and/or accounts affected, and taking appropriate action against the individual responsible.

I pressed the point about the accuracy of Content ID in another email to the PR person, who responded:

You can read more about both of these things at our Copyright Center. Thanks!

No actually, you can't learn if Content ID has glitches on the link she provided, which is why I wrote to Google/YouTube's media department. If Content ID is causing inaccurate DMCA takedowns, YouTube needs to tweak its program, as it causes both the copyright holders and those who mistakenly claim copyright a great deal of difficulty.

You can read more about the YouTube DMCA issue here