You would have thought that using any of the free Apple media such as music loops supplied with the Pro Applications, wouldn't raise any copyright issues. Wrong. A cautionary tale from Alex Snelling and a drumbeat that YouTube didn't like.
We will let Alex take up his story:
Who remembers Soundtrack Pro? Along with Garageband and the extra Jampacks that came with a DotMac account, Soundtrack gave you a huge copyright free library of loops, samples and music beds to use however you wanted, many of which are now included in the Final Cut Pro X audio library. Copyright free did you say? Of course. Well apparently not...
Back in 2005, at Slack Alice Films, we knocked out a bunch of travel videos to be presented as a business. Since that time, our videos have been screening on a YouTube channel providing a very modest income supplement.
They were shot mainly on HDV with music composed in Soundtrack or Garageband.
One such video - entitled Secret Indian Beach, produced originally in 2006, was put up in 2010. Last week, we noticed that this vid had a YouTube Copyright claim outstanding and monetisation had been suspended. We had received no email or other communication telling us about this so understandably, we were quite miffed and decided look into this spurious claim. (It wasn’t so much the loss of monetisation that was worrying as the fact that copyright claims affect your channel standing and you can get videos removed and other penalties. Quite scary if your income stream depends on YouTube - luckily ours is just pocket money.
Now 2006 was so long ago that I can't remember exactly how the music had been composed but I know I used either STPro or Garageband and so was rather bemused that anyone could have any claim over it - after all - those Apple loops are copyright free. Right?
On further investigation I found a company called Rebeat was disputing my ownership of the music (composed by me). And they had got Youtube to give me effectively a yellow card caution for misusing their track.
What is going on? - I thought to myself. (Alex used a more expressive TLA here that we decided to modify- Ed)
I double checked the track. It definitely was all my own work. So what was going on?
Here is my video with our music:
And here is the track they were claiming that we had used in our video. (You can play the track at the top using the waveform-like player - the disputed part is clearest around a third of the way through when the beat first drops out.)
Almost anyone would be able to tell that the two tracks use the same drum loop in the background - so what has happened here?
There was no date on the claim, so I had no idea how long the monetisation had been suspended for but most frustratingly, the only action open to me was to remove the offending track from my video (which I didn’t because I knew I was in the right). There was nowhere to counterclaim or even question what was going on.
I am guessing that Rebeat have some spider-like technology scanning the web for their clients' tracks. When they find a potential claim, they notify YouTube and YouTube suspends your video.
A potentially clever solution if it worked but...
Firstly, the sample was a copyright free sample, probably sourced from one of the Apple Jampacks but certainly copyright free.
Secondly and just as infuriating, the publish date of the track on Beatport was over a year LATER than when had uploaded my track to YouTube and a full 5 years later than the original production of my track. Metadata mavericks - not!! A simple cross-check of date information would have ended this claim before it even started.
I am a long time believer in the altruistic (Do No Evil) intentions of Google (call me naive) but it is a surprise to me that Google are allowing this to happen.
Since when did this guilty until proven innocent policy kick in on YouTube?
So what happened?
We did eventually find a line of communication deep in the bowels of YouTube (not an email link but one of those nice online forms that doesn’t allow you to keep a copy of your message unless you remember to copy and paste). So we sent a rather pointed message, asking for an explanation.
And lo and behold we got a message the very next day saying the copyright claim had magically ended - no reason given apart from nothing had happened for a month and so it was being rescinded. Coincidence? Perhaps. But what is for sure is that the reckless use of this underdeveloped spider technology is risking the livelihoods of quite a lot of Final Cut Pro X users out there - especially if they cannot prove that the music is non-copyright.
It would seem only a matter of time that a much more serious claim is made such as feature film that has already gone out on iTunes. It would be interesting to hear what Apple’s policy is on this and whether they can offer any protection or at least backup, if a really serious case did come along.
You have been warned.
Alex Snelling Slack Alice Films
Quite a surprising story from Alex. We don't think Rebeat is the bad guy here, it is the content matching ability in YouTube at fault. They probably put all their tracks into the Video publisher's vaults that then get analysed ready for legitimate claims of misuse.
We have had to get a YouTube channel 'white listed' by a big music publisher to avoid complications. (Not Rebeat) This was after the music was bought with a licence for social media and video sharing sites only!
Another case we heard about was Fox Mahoney having two of his videos flagged as 'inapropriate' on YouTube. They both used Apple Loops, but were not flagged under Content ID. The case is still under investigation, but in the meantime, he's chalked up one strike and had some privileges revoked.
The moral of the story? Even though an uploaded video might be all your own work, somebody somewhere might have a claim to it. If your videos get claims against them, it is up to you to prove that the claim is incorrect.
This could be very awkward if the targeted video is one you have made for a client.