My Parody and How To Avoid YouTube Content ID Detection

My most recent video “Parody” is about the frustrations of copyright trolls on YouTube. This video is now the subject of an ongoing battle with copyright trolls on YouTube. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so annoying.

Based on Pharrell’s “Happy”, I thought it would be safe under the Fair Use Act as a form of commentary on the legal hurdles of the song and any other major label tune. It turns out that’s not the case. Even though I’m complaining about the copyright of the song, monetizing the track means they can still claim the melody (I guess?) and they can take it down if they want to.

One of the most frustrating things about Content ID, which is YouTube’s content and metatag crawler, is that the appeal and dispute is set in increments of 30 days. 30 days to acknowledge, 30 days to appeal, 30 days to wait for the claimants response to your appeal. Of course they always wait as long as they can to respond, or if they know they can’t refute the dispute, they don’t ever say that. They just let it lapse, which takes, you guessed it, 30 days.

In the above video, since I’m not commenting on the song directly (I’m making fun of the dumb lines and non sequitur metaphors, but I’m not specifically stating they’re bad) and I’m not specifically refuting the heart of the work (my song’s not called “Crappy”, which would be a direct response to the theme of “Happy”), I’m probably just out of luck.

Three things you can do to avoid Content ID on YouTube

  1. Record every part yourself. If you re-record every part yourself, especially if each track is distinctly different (as they are here since I do them all vocally instead of using the same instruments as the original), Content ID will have a difficult time recognizing the similarity to the original.
  2. Don’t tag your video with identifying content. If you put the name of the artist and/or song in your video tags, Content ID will flag you even if you don’t have any content in your video. What’s hilarious about this is that, in your appeal for an erroneous identification, there is no option that simply states “This video was mistakenly flagged”. Seriously. Their system makes constant mistakes, but they refuse to admit it. Weird, huh?
  3. Don’t put the name of the artist and/or song in your video title. Same as with the tags. Since Content ID isn’t good at identifying your song if you re-record all the parts, it will use your video title to try and see if you’re using copyrighted content, even if you aren’t.

You’ll notice these tips will negatively affect your search results in a big way. This is certainly not accidental. And if you’re doing a straight cover, odds are it will still catch you on word recognition in the lyrics. But I believe the above is correct because, after watching this helpful video directed at videogame reviewers, I avoided the above three steps and had no problematic claims on my video. They want you to think their crawler is some uber-accurate identigod, but mostly it just reads whatever you type in your description, tags and titles.

It wasn’t until about a month after the initial release and my social media views were drying up that I added the tags and extra info in the title mentioning the words “Pharrell” and “Happy”, after which my video was quickly hit with three different copyright claims. I’ve successfully disputed two out of three claiming the Fair Use Act, but unfortunately EMI Music Publishing/CASH/UMPG Publishing has chosen to reject my dispute and reinstate their claim. The page in which this all happens looks like this:

I have now re-appealed my dispute, which is identical to the first one and which I adapted from the video linked earlier. It reads like this:

This recording is a parody and form of commentary and critique and uses no source material from the original recording. As an acappella recreation the audio is transformative and by sending this very notice becomes relevant to the critique of the piece and its legal status inherent in my parody. The video and audio were created entirely by myself on my own property. My parody is considered Fair Use by both YouTube and Federal Copyright Law. A Fair Use parody does not legally require the copyright holder’s permission, and I have every legal right to upload original content in the form of a parody. For further proof and information on Fair Use, please refer to: http://www.copyright.gov/legislation/dmca.pdf and additionally http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S521VcjhvMA&t=14m16s Thank you for taking the time to verify the clips to see that my usage does not violate copyright.

Five reasons this sucks hard

  1. I will probably have to wait another 30 days (or close to it) to find out what their response is.
  2. Their response is literally at their whim. They just click whatever they want and aren’t accountable for their choice at all, even if it’s illegal.
  3. If they reject my dispute, even if their rejection is illegal, I get a strike on my YouTube account. Three strikes and they delete your account.
  4. They can get my video taken down at any time, even if that request is illegal.
  5. We are all arguing about, literally, nickels and dimes here. I make almost no money off of ad revenue because I’m just not popular enough. These arguments are entirely for the principle of the thing. I just hate to watch bullies win.

Parody is going to reach 1,000 views faster than any other video I’ve made. That isn’t much to them, but it’s huge for me. Just let me put up my video and not have to deal with these jerks who are making the most ironic copyright claim in history. Thanks for reading, and I hope you learned something. Or, if not, at least enjoy the song :)

Go Embrace Release by Lindsey Lollie

A new video from choreographer Lindsey Lollie and dancer Jordan Saenz with music by me. Every sound you hear is sourced from samples of Lindsey reciting the three title words and manipulated using things like EQ, resonators and about three tons of delay. Enjoy.

Rarely seen Bill Hicks interview on Austin public access channel

“There’s no difference between good music and good comedy. It’s entertainment. And entertainment is suspension of time and space, so that you realize your true nature, which is spaceless and timeless.”

Rarely seen video of the prophet himself on a tiny public access channel in Austin. He had just had his big break, a standup routine he filmed for David Letterman, censored from the episode. He had announced his retirement from American comedy clubs. At the time this video was filmed, he had known he had cancer for nearly five months. He never mentions it.

Mexico, an original song and a cappella music video

First of all, I don’t know if we, as a species, will ever truly figure out how to spell “a cappella” in a way that we can all agree upon. I’ve chosen the proper Italian, and will probably take a hit to my search results because of it. Which is fine; it’s about attracting the right search queriers, not the most. Also “queriers” shouldn’t have a red line under it, Google. For shame.

There are a lot of exciting things going on. I’ve been enjoying running my YouTube channel, and will eventually do a post about what I’ve learned. This site is also in dire need of a redesign due to that and also just because I’m tired of this one. It should help me get excited about posting more again.

Speaking of segues, here’s an original song I wrote and recorded as an a cappella multitrack music video. The song’s called Mexico. More soon!

The Gender Dictionary According To Facebook – an explanation of all 55 new gender options

So, Facebook just did an awesome thing: they added a “Custom” option to the Gender options for your profile. To change yours, go to About, then click Edit under Basic Information and select Custom, then type in one of the below choices (or anything else under the sun)!

I’ve compiled a list of all the options that pop up when you start typing a letter and will give an explanation of each one. Maybe one day we’ll live in a world where “Male” or “Female” isn’t even an option any more, but until then, we’ve got awesome platforms like Facebook. Keep up the good work, you creepily invasive social network you!

Many definitions derived or directly lifted from Wikipedia or the Gender Wiki.

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All-vocal beatbox cover of Before I Ever Met You

If you remember way back in 2013, I wrote about one of my favorite new artists Banks, who at the time was just blowing up around the intertubes. Well, not to say I didn’t tell you so, but she’s just been signed to Warner/Chappell (Facebook link), and to celebrate the occasion I did a beatbox cover of her song!

There will be some changes around here in the coming weeks, and after that I will start updating more frequently again. Some incredibly exciting projects will be under way and I couldn’t be more excited. In the meantime, go follow my personal label Hodgepodge Records on Facebook and Twitter, subscribe to me on YouTube to follow all these videos, and get ready for some gamechangers! Much love.

An Iranian Dismantling a Nuclear Bomb on U.S. Soil

Multi-faceted artist Saba Alizadeh has created a piece that combines his unique visual aesthetic with sound and theater, and the result is a stunning, politically charged work with heart-wrenching subtlety.

I am a half-Arab who looks American. Saba is an Iranian who looks Arab. And in this experience, I am struck by the powerful marriage of visuals and experimental sound to arrive at the piece’s central theme. He sits in full protective gear, complete with surgical mask and safety goggles, and gets to work. As the piece progresses, the lights turn off and a wonderful dance of light and sound commences. We watched him build the thing ourselves, but still the context is inescapable. He hugs a lamp to his chest, using light sensors in his circuit to tune it to the drone, and makes it sing.

Don’t think here about modes, harmony, pitch, or meter. Do think about structure. Think about an Iranian holding a bright light to his heart, and what it means when we realize that the context of that performance, simply because he is an Iranian on U.S. soil, is… different. And art exists to point out differences in a way that makes them not.

The piece ends with darkness and the familiar Morse code plea for help. Some people might hear a bunch of squeaks and bleeps and might even scoff at calling this music. But, as for this reviewer, I nearly cried.

Saba will be performing at Seyhoun Gallery in West Hollywood on Wednesday, October 30th at 8 p.m.

My beatbox cover of Billie Jean

This summer I’ve done a couple of sort-of-almost-professional beatboxing gigs, and I loved it so much I’ve been inspired to do a few videos on my YouTube channel. I hope to do these on a regular basis from now on. Here’s this week’s video, a cover of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean using only a microphone and a Boss DD-20 Giga Delay. It’s gotten over a hundred views already, which is awesome. If the interest keeps up, I hope to create a real channel, with subscribers and consistency and everything. Enjoy!