I had posted a video on YouTube. I received an email reading as follows:
Your video, “A Bit About Laura Woodcock (2 of 3)”, may have content that is owned or licensed by SME. As a result, the video’s audio has been muted.
Visit your Copyright Notice page for more details on the policy applied to your video.
– The YouTube Team
I went to the video in question and, sure enough, I saw a banner with this message:
This video previously contained a copyrighted audio track. Due to a claim by a copyright holder, the audio track has been muted.
It went without saying that I was grateful for the opportunity to post any videos at all, free of charge, and share them with my friends, even if doing so did produce revenues for YouTube. That said, I was not too happy with this situation. I had other links pointing to this video; I had devoted a lot of time to the preparation of this video; and now it was essentially useless.
The video was about my mom. She died in 2008. I had posted it in 2009. I no longer had the raw materials, the video and audio clips and photos, that I would have needed to recreate the video without the offending audio track.
The track in question was “Old Friends” by Simon & Garfunkel. It has not been a particularly popular song. It was the B side of the “Mrs. Robinson” single in 1968. That was 45 years ago.
I used “Old Friends” because it was exactly on point for the photos collected into that video. But I did not use it in one piece. It was broken into two separate parts within the video. The two parts did not contain the full song. The video’s title and description did not indicate that listeners could find the song there.
There were no indications that anyone had actually bothered to download the audio track from YouTube and piece it back together so that they could have their own copy of “Old Friends” – instead of spending the $0.99 it would cost to download it from Amazon.
It had been 3.5 years since I had posted the video. At this point, it had a total of 62 views. It was the middle one of three in a series: the full video about my mom was too long to post in one piece. Several of the old neighbors and family members who had viewed the series had found it moving and had thanked me for posting it.
It appeared that I could not reply directly to the YouTube email: the email address was firstname.lastname@example.org.
The email’s link to the YouTube Copyright Notice Page led to a page that confirmed that “Old Friends” was an offending video. It also noted, however, that there was a second offending song: Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young.” I had not expected that. The “Forever Young” excerpt ran for a total of 37 seconds. That was only slightly longer than the free listen that one could obtain from Amazon.
YouTube’s Copyright Notice page gave me an option of removing the music – which, as I say, was central to the video. Without it, there would be just a stream of silent photos. It would be better to remake the video. The problem there was that I had not been too familiar with the technology when I made the video in 2009, and all I had kept was a highly compressed FLV version, which may have been what YouTube required at that point. Re-editing with that would give me a degraded video. I would also lose any other audio that was mixed in with the songs.
The Copyright Notice page also gave me Acknowledge and Dispute options. I moused over the Dispute button. The tooltip said, “I believe this claim is not valid.” Well, it may not have been. If I’d had the money and lawyers controlled by SME, I might have been able to dispute at least the claim that the 37-second Dylan excerpt was beyond Fair Use. Indeed, if I’d had the recording industry’s money and lawyers, I might have been able to persuade a judge that SME’s behavior went so far beyond petty – a 45-year-old B side, used in fragments! – as to be vindictive. Or perhaps I could have just bought a congressman instead. But since I did not have those kinds of resources, it appeared that Dispute was not a likely option. I did click on it anyway, to see where it led. It gave me this list of choices:
I believe this copyright claim is not valid because:
_ I own the CD / DVD or bought the song online.
_I’m not selling the video or making any money from it.
_I gave credit in the video.
_The video is my original content and I own all of the rights to it.
_I have a license or written permission from the proper rights holder to use this material.
_My use of the content meets the legal requirements for fair use or fair dealing under applicable copyright laws.
_The content is in the public domain or is not eligible for copyright protection.
I could see where this was going: it was just a kind of FAQs. The page allowed only one choice, so I clicked the first option. Sure enough, I got this: “Buying a song, CD, DVD or other piece of media doesn’t give you authorization to post that content on YouTube. The content owner still has the right to choose where it is distributed.” I didn’t try all of the options that might have applied; I skipped down to the one about fair use. That led to a five-minute video on copyright on YouTube. The key language from that video, of course, was this: “If you are uncertain as to whether a specific use qualifies as a fair use, you should consult a qualified copyright attorney.” But if I wanted to blow hundreds of dollars, why not just hire someone to write a song and remake the video about my mom – the one that had 62 viewers over 3.5 years?
There was probably a controversy underway somewhere, in which some brave soul was perhaps trying to change the law. Having had prior exposure to the legal system, I knew that getting involved with something like that would be a good way to waste a lot of time; the system was generally unresponsive to the needs of (indeed, extremely abusive toward) ordinary individuals. Among the countless illustrations of that principle, the process of researching this very issue exposed me to the story of Joel Tenenbaum, on whom the courts imposed the lifetime burden of a $675,000 fine for sharing 30 songs — right in the tradition of a system that would put someone in prison for life for stealing a pair of socks. Not to mention that the lawyers getting rich from this sort of thing can be among the scummiest of all human beings; the difference is that they know how to prey upon others legally.
So I had certain feelings about the prospect of using the courts to achieve anything. Meanwhile, another possibility was to participate in a Boycott Sony Music Entertainment (SME) effort. Beyond that, product disappointments and other frustrations had evidently produced a substantial “hate Sony” sentiment. Perhaps at some point I would discover some practical link between such sentiments and SME’s approach to my use of “Old Friends.”
But for the time being, with respect to this video, it seemed that I could basically like it or lump it. Liking it meant that I would spend the time to edit and upload a revised and inferior video in place of the one that 62 people had viewed. I did not like that. So it seemed that I had to lump it. I was not too sure what that meant, but in this case it seemed to mean that I would look for other places where I could post the original video.
Alternatives to YouTube
A search led to various webpages listing services that, like YouTube, would allow me to upload and share videos. The lists I consulted were on webpages at Mashable, Westhost, and The Top 10s. Among the various services they listed, my finalists were Vimeo, Veoh, and DailyMotion. Those may actually not have been the best sources for this purpose, but reading the brief blurbs on those lists led in these directions.
As I was looking through those lists, I realized that SME might have its computers policing these well-known video hosting sites as well. If so, there would be another question: were these sites on the same terms with SME as Google/YouTube? It seemed that SME and Google might be corporate buddies – that YouTube might even be helping SME, in ways that some other video hosting sites were not.
So one option was to go with another video hosting site, like the several just listed, and see what would happen. Another option was to upload the video to a file sharing site, and let users download it in order to view it. This would not be as convenient as YouTube-style streaming video, but it would presumably avoid the problem of automated file scans; I doubted that SME would have arrangements resulting in scans of the contents of private file sharing accounts.
But would file sharing work for a video? This particular video was a smallish, highly compressed 43MB. I knew that some sites were now offering multi-gigabyte storage, so I figured size was not an issue here. A search led to lists of popular file sharing sites. The eBizMBA list named FilesTube, 4Shared, MediaFire, RapidShare, Box.net, HotFile, zShare, Uploading, DepositFiles, and FileServe as the ten most popular. The Hongkiat list named Streamfile, Pando, Wikisend, PipeBytes, MailBigFile, 4Shared, SendThisFile, Files2U, Driveway, and MediaFire. TopTenReviews named Egnyte, YouSendIt, ShareFile, SendThisFile, SugarSync, DropSend, Onehub, Adobe SendNow, Box.net, and TransferBigFiles. TechnoBuffalo listed Pirate Bay, MediaFire, KickassTorrents, 4Shared, Uploaded, Torrentz.eu, isoHunt, Putlocker, ExtraTorrent, and Rapidgator.
In other words, these lists did not have much overlap. Possibly they were defining file sharing in somewhat different ways. I did notice, though, that 4Shared and MediaFire were on three of these four lists. So those would probably be among the first I would look into if I chose the file sharing route over the video streaming approach. Further notes on this topic would have to await further experience.