YouTube’s Content ID System Will Take Away Your Money If You Dare Sing “Silent Night”

YouTube is full of web-celebs with decent followings who make some cash by allowing the site to run ads against their videos. YouTube also has a horrendously inaccurate and over-eager system called Content ID that flags videos that may contain copyrighted music content. When a monetized video is flagged, YouTube takes away the ads and therefore any money that clip would be earning, which would be fine if Content ID weren’t such a tin-eared agent bent in favor of the recording industry.

YouTuber Adam “The Alien” Manley ran up against the idiocy of Content ID twice in the last week, with multiple music publishers claiming that his recent rendition of “Silent Night” violated their copyright, in spite of the fact that the song, an English version of a nearly 200-year-old German Christmas carol by Franz Gruber (not to be confused with another Yuletide figure, Hans Gruber from Die Hard), has been in the public domain for more than a few years.

According to Adam, he received a Content ID notice almost immediately after posting his video to YouTube. It stated that “One or more music publishing rights societies” claimed to have the copyright for a song that predates the Civil War.

And of course since Content ID is a shoot-first system, Adam’s clip was no longer being monetized while he appealed the copy-bot claim.

BUT he was given the opportunity to allow his video to keep making money if we was willing to let the copyright holders to share in the revenue.

So not only was YouTube willing to accept that multiple groups could all rightfully claim copyright, and thus automatically de-monetized the video, it was willing to let those same multiple entities share?

Adam appealed and the claim was quickly dropped.

Then he woke up Monday morning and received a second notice. This one was also from multiple alleged copyright holders, but at least it was more specific, naming BMG, Warner, and Universal as the claimants.

Writes Adam:

“As one might imagine, it is immensely frustrating, even angering, to have fraudulent claims made on the same video two days in a row. I had assumed that disputing the first claim, with its vague insinuation of multiple parties claiming the song, that dealing with it once would mean it was dealt with. But it seems that any time I sing a Christmas carol, I will have to expect a horde of false claims.”

And so he once again filed an appeal with YouTube. BMG responded quickly, dropping the claim, as Adam had not secretly signed a recording contract and made an album of Christmas carols. But neither Warner nor Universal had replied as of Christmas Eve, and the video still appears to be de-monetized, meaning Adam has made virtually no money from the nearly 30,000 views the clip has received.

And it could continue that way, since Content ID gives copyright claimants 30 days to respond to disputes.

Let’s just put this plainly: Content ID is broken, and it will likely only get worse as copyright bots learn to detect even the faintest hint of infringement.

The bots won’t get better at distinguishing between someone singing a public domain Christmas carol and someone wrongfully using a recorded version of that carol because it’s in the publishers’ best interest to bully YouTube users into believing they have violated copyrights, even when they haven’t.

Why do the publishers get 30 days to respond but the video uploader loses his right to earn ad revenue immediately? It’s not like the monetization money was going directly into Adam’s bank account with each video view. The system could just as easily have continued to run the ads while Adam’s appeal was reviewed. If his appeal was successful, he gets the money. If not, it goes to the copyright holder or just to YouTube.

[via BoingBoing]