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
- 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.
- 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?
- 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
- I will probably have to wait another 30 days (or close to it) to find out what their response is.
- 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.
- 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.
- They can get my video taken down at any time, even if that request is illegal.
- 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 :)