I had an email from Google.

I get quite a few emails from Google — most are either one or more of the var­i­ous alerts I find so handy to keep me feel­ing in-touch with the world with­out hav­ing to make the extra effort to hunt, or notes telling me that some­body new — at least half of whom I don’t think I know — has added me to a Google+ cir­cle. This, of course, adds some social media vari­a­tion to the end­less requests from peo­ple I’ve never heard of want­ing to add me as a friend on Face­book, or the ‘fol­lowed’ advice telling me I’m now haunted by a mar­ket­ing or travel advice bot or, and this hap­pened last week, an account owned by a trac­tor fac­tory on Twit­ter (the first of which is ignored, the sec­ond of which is blocked — I’m not ardently crav­ing ‘fol­low­ers’ nor ‘friends’).

Then, I still belong to Old Friends, but the only noti­fi­ca­tion I seem to get from them is when one guy, with whom I went to board­ing school and haven’t seen since, end­lessly changes jobs.

He’s now the ware­house man­ager at a trac­tor fac­tory in Perth so there may be a link.

But, yes — a let­ter from Google sat in the junk mail. Well, not Google, per se, but YouTube, which is a Google under­ling of course.

It was fairly straight­for­ward bit of official-ese.

It told me that I’d breached copy­right, and under the DMCA I was in minor trou­ble. The offend­ing video was this one:

Yep, that’s Toy Love. They were a New Zealand band of some import who released one fairly influ­en­tial album back in 1980 — but of course any ardent New Zealand music fan/buff/follower/addict/trainspotter knows that. The album was released via WEA Records Ltd. — now Warner Music New Zealand — on a label called DeLuxe owned by a guy called Michael Brown­ing, the for­mer man­ager of AC/DC. The other major act on the tiny label at the time was INXS.

[An aside: this post is yet another rant about things copy­right related — if such irks it may pay to stop read­ing now.]

Time passed and the Toy Love album was deleted. In fact it was deleted for years. Decades. It went for big money sec­ond hand. Toy Love had no com­mu­ni­ca­tion from DeLuxe, and the whole own­er­ship of the album was up in the air. In the early 2000s the band finally man­aged to get the rights back and reis­sued the album, licensed to Fly­ing Nun Records. Fly­ing Nun, in 2005, became a sub­sidiary of Warner Music Group, admin­is­tered by Warner Music New Zealand. The copy­right in the record remained with the band though. In 2010 Fly­ing Nun went back into local hands and with it went the rights to dis­trib­ute that album.

[Another aside: Michael Brown­ing still has, via a murky Aus­tralian com­pany (who also saw fit to issue a boot­leg of the NZ punk album AK79 under the title Aus­tralian Indies Vol.1 a few years back), an un-remastered shock­ing qual­ity copy of the orig­i­nal Toy Love album listed for sale online — avoid it and buy the band’s ver­sion if you are inclined.]

Last year — whilst hunt­ing through junk — I found a disc of old punk video footage. Amongst it was the video in that YouTube clip. I con­tacted the band mem­bers and, with their approval, uploaded it. I guess I thought I was in the clear. Noth­ing on that video actu­ally came from the album, and even if it had done so, I had writ­ten approval from the band, who now own the copy­right in all recordings.

Warn­ers have never owned it. Ever. Never.

Unfor­tu­nately Warner Music Group don’t see it that way. With­out any proof, legal right, paper­work or sub­stance, they’ve claimed the rights to that (and another sim­i­lar Toy Love video uploaded with per­mis­sion) and, accord­ing to the let­ter, they have the right now to run adver­tis­ing with the video if they want. In other words, they’ve stolen the clip’s copy­right from Toy Love and are now assert­ing a right to profit from some­thing they don’t own.

Piracy is a good word for that. It has cur­rency these days.

Any­one who’s been pay­ing atten­tion in recent years knows that the big labels — Warn­ers are the worst — have done this to thou­sands, per­haps hun­dreds of thou­sands of videos, almost ran­domly it seems. They claim enough, they get to keep a per­cent­age I sup­pose — and get the per­for­mance fees spinoff.

So, YouTube have a process to deal with that, they claim. You can write and con­test pirated or dodgy claims like this and they say they will look at it.

Yeah, sure.….

I’ve already been through that and know how it works — or more, doesn’t. At least not in favour of the smaller copy­right owners.

Here’s another video:

That’s a cool, funny, video — made as a school project by some stu­dents in Hamil­ton — to the par­ody tune, Stole My Car. Now Stole My Car in itself is a grey record­ing. It’s a par­ody of OMC’s How Bizarre — yes you knew that — cre­ated by a guy at a radio sta­tion in Rotorua in 1996. It was a mas­sive air­play hit all over the world, fol­low­ing How Bizarre’s trek around the planet — it was a top ten air­play record in Queens­land in its own right– but was never offi­cially released any­where. 1

I own the copy­right in the audio — 100% unen­cum­bered — and, given that visu­als are lifted from the game Grand Theft Auto, owned by the indie Rock­star Games that com­pany could per­haps make a claim on those. How­ever, they, to date, haven’t done so.

I liked the video so much, and I’ve always loved the par­ody, that I uploaded it to my small YouTube chan­nel. All cool — or it should have been.

I received a let­ter from Google/YouTube. Sony Music had made a claim on the audio. They owned the rights to the record­ing I was told.

A mis­take I guessed.

I filled out the cor­rec­tion form and sent it off to YouTube. They own no part of it I explained.

The response was:

All con­tent own­ers have reviewed your video and con­firmed their claims to some or all of its content:

  • Entity: SME  2  Con­tent Type: Sound Recording

I looked at this and tried to work out what this meant.

It came down to one or more of the following:

a)Sony Music are mis­taken
b)Sony Music are lying
c)YouTube are mis­taken
d)YouTube are lying

I fully under­stand that this is a minor nothing-blip in the copy­right enforce­ment mael­strom, being that the mas­ter record­ing was prob­a­bly iden­ti­fied by an algo­rithm that was not as clever as either Sony or Google thought it might be and that a) was the rea­son this clip was tagged. That led to c).

How­ever, my big­ger prob­lem was the sec­ond claim by YouTube that ‘All con­tent own­ers have reviewed your video and con­firmed their claims to some or all of its con­tent’. Given that Sony played no part in releas­ing this any­where on planet earth, and have no jus­ti­fi­able claim to any part of the sound copy­right, I’m very doubt­ful that, at any time, ‘All con­tent own­ers have reviewed your video and con­firmed their claims to some or all of its content’.

It is, bluntly, a lie by YouTube. It’s d). SME did not review the video and did not con­firm anything.

It’s bull­shit. Brazen, open and unashamed.

Yes it’s a small thing, but once again it’s theft of a copy­right. The copy­right I own has been com­pro­mised, and cour­tesy of YouTube’s lazy lie (and I think it is just a lazy lie rather than some grand con­spir­acy), handed to a third party who do not own it.

There are 5 more videos on my chan­nel on which sim­i­lar claims — all bogus — have been made. I only have 15 videos up there, so that’s about 50% of all videos I’ve uploaded that have had part of the copy­right stripped from them whether it be lazily or with mali­cious intent — the end result is the same — by Google. I have no say in whether adver­tis­ing is run with them, and — worse — Warner Music, Uni­ver­sal Music and Sony Music are all get­ting paid each time they are played.

Mul­ti­ply that by the num­ber of videos on YouTube (and the meet­ing I had with a cou­ple of indie label own­ers recently where we all asked “Have you ever had any money from YouTube, despite being duly reg­is­tered to receive such?” “No”, “No”, “No” — major labels DO get YouTube monies — large monies) and it adds another dimen­sion to the unpleas­ant conundrum.

Grand Theft Video indeed.

  1. It was, how­ever, widely boot­legged in NZ, Aus­tralia and Canada/US
  2. Sony Music Enter­tain­ment

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