His teeth as he smiles / Are white and glistening

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 a fairly straightforward bit of officialese.

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 secondhand. 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 has 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.

Show 2 footnotes

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

22 Comments

Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Sam Smersh on Facebook
August 22, 2011 at 09:08 AM

Bloody hell! Keen to hear how reclaim progresses (which of course shouldn’t be necessary…), & which sounds damn near impossible…
I could imagine lawyers in US keen to launch a suit against y/t, google though..

Andrew B. White on Facebook
August 22, 2011 at 10:08 AM

[THIS VIDEO COULD NOT BE VIEWED IN YOUR REGION DUE TO COPYRIGHT RESTRICTIONS]

Steven Reid on Facebook
August 22, 2011 at 10:08 AM

YouTube always allows the owners to retain ownership of their work. But what they require in their terms of service is that you grant to YouTube a non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual license to freely sub-license, re-distribute, re-publish, monetize, and whatever they may want to do with your video. They’re basically requiring that you grant YouTube all of the same rights that you have with your video, short of turning over your rights to them.

Source: http://www.reelseo.com/youtube-copyright-ownership/

Sam Smersh on Facebook
August 22, 2011 at 10:08 AM

@Steven Reid: Isn’t y/t effectively saying that there’s nothing needed to be granted by Simon etc because they’re owned by WMG/SME?

Simon
August 22, 2011 at 10:08 AM
– In reply to: Steven Reid on Facebook

Steven, surely in these, and thousands of other cases, they’ve removed ownership from the owners and granted it to unauthorised parties.

Steven Reid on Facebook
August 22, 2011 at 10:08 AM

It looks that way and that is worrying I wonder how much other content they have laid claim to?

Logan McMillan
August 22, 2011 at 12:08 PM

Um…..the backing track is actually owned by Sony. Right? Different lyrics. But the same melody and exactly the same backing track. Thats definitely a breach of copyright. Or am I wrong?

Simon
August 22, 2011 at 12:08 PM
– In reply to: Logan McMillan

No, the backing track is owned by my company. Sony have zero to do with it. Sony have no contractual relationship with this track whatsoever – they’ve never issued it anywhere in the world and have no even arms-length relationship.

Logan McMillan
August 22, 2011 at 12:08 PM

Sorry – just read your bio now! 🙂

Simon
August 22, 2011 at 12:08 PM
– In reply to: Logan McMillan

No probs 🙂

Deleting Music: Not content to merely delete their own catalogue…
August 25, 2011 at 11:08 PM

[…] days he lives in Bangkok doing all manner of interesting things, but he still dabbles. On his blog this week, he talks about an email he received from Google… Last year – whilst hunting through junk – I […]

Matty
August 26, 2011 at 08:08 PM

The one thing I wonder, Simon, is this: you released How Bizarre by OMC and I understand that if you own the copyright to the track, you also own the copyright to the backing track, which makes that video perfectly legal. Now, How Bizarre was released on Huh?Records if I read your bio correctly. That must mean that you can still prove that you own the full copyright to the song. If you show/scan documents/contracts, whatever, to YouTube, shouldn’t it then be clear to them that Sony is lying to them? I mean, you must still have access to the legal paperwork from all the artists you signed over the years, right? On the other hand you are probably one of the few people with a channel on YouTube that actually has a past as a record label owner who understands copyright. The millions of other users don’t. And they don’t have the same knowledge as you do. So if this unashamed copyright claiming happens all the time, then in fact one of the biggest robberies in the history of man is a daily operation between YT and the “big five”. Please keep us updated on this Toy Love and Stole My Car issue. Last but not least: I still have a CD-single of OMC, called On The Run. It features an acoustic version of How Bizarre, which is great. Everywhere you search for the actual CD-single, it says “released in the E.U. and U.K. only” (guess where I’m located). I wonder why that particular CD-single wasn’t released world wide…

Matty
August 26, 2011 at 08:08 PM

Oh, and I almost forgot: how do you store all those countless masters from your Propeller years? How do you protect them from deterioration? Hopefully they’re not decaying away. I once read that when a few decades old master tape is used for a reissue again, they have to literally bake it in an oven before they play it again. Apparently this baking process more or less glues the magnetic particles back to the actual tape layer again. It says a lot about what happens to master tapes… I’m just curious!

Simon
August 26, 2011 at 08:08 PM
– In reply to: Matty

Hi Matty,
I’ve digitised everything I have, and store whatever masters I can in a dry environment. Unfortunately over the years a few have disintegrated, but a very few.
On The Run was released in quite a few countries – it was a German hit as I recall – but not the US for fairly complicated reasons do do with a breakdown in the relationship with Mercury amongst other things. I’ll update this when and if there is any news

3410
August 27, 2011 at 10:08 AM

It’s bullshit, I agree, but, putting aside the question of the functional fraudulence of the system for a minute, shouldn’t APRA/AMCOS or someone be defending you here?

Simon
August 27, 2011 at 10:08 AM
– In reply to: 3410

No, it’s not a publishing matter, it’s the sound recording they claim in both incidents. There is a history of this. Warners have a long record of claiming stuff they don’t own and YouTube simply ignore requests to resolve. More or less: we don’t matter and they (the big media corporations) do. And the more they claim, the more they get paid.

Matty
August 29, 2011 at 08:08 PM

Thanks for your reply, Simon. I’ll now cherish my On The Run cd-single even more. The acoustic version of How Bizarre on that disc is just fab. Maybe in a decade or two my my cd-maxi will fetch top money on eBay, hehehe… 🙂

Anyway, still I wonder what would happen if you actually show Youtube the undeniable truth about your copyright on How Bizarre, since you must still have access to all the contracts and judicial paperwork from those days I assume.

Last but not least you’re right by stating that it’s piracy. They blatantly and obscenely take what’s yours and claim it’s theirs. And IF Youtube and the ‘big five’ work together on this, well, then it’s organized crime.

And I wish life could be / swedish magazines… – The Opinionated Diner
September 11, 2011 at 08:09 AM

[…] UK/NZ music commentator, writer and academic Andrew Dubber ran my blog post, on YouTube,  a couple back here on his Deleting Music pages. The header was humbling but I’m glad it was picked up. There are […]

Matty
September 12, 2011 at 06:09 PM

Sorry to bother you with this again, Simon, but the whole story on the copyright theft of OMC’s How Bizarre in this article has been on my mind for quite some time now. The other day I saw the movie “Middle Men” and at a given moment in the film, the two main characters are driving their car while How Bizarre is playing on their car stereo. Since it is clear that your copyright in the YouTube debate wasn’t acknowledged, I wondered how OMC’s How Bizarre ended up in that film. Were you approached for it? Did you get paid for the use of the song in the film? Or does this have nothing to do with copyright or not? (You can see the tracklist for the soundtrack here and here).

Simon
September 12, 2011 at 08:09 PM
– In reply to: Matty

Hi Matty, yes that and many other uses are all fine under the terms of our deal with PolyGram

Matty
September 13, 2011 at 05:09 PM

I see… So if licensing tracks for compilations and/or soundtracks takes place as it’s supposed to be, then it’s even more astonishing what happened with the copyright claim on Youtube. If anyone wants to license How Bizarre, they know where to find you; if you upload the track -whether it’s the original or tongue in cheek version- yourself, then all of a sudden they don’t know who you are and claim the copyright of the song. I don’t know what this world is coming to.

Copyright as Theft « Workers Party (NZ)
April 29, 2012 at 08:04 AM

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