YouTube Content ID Under Fire As False Copyright Claims Abound

False copyright claims on YouTube videos, such as a recent claim from Rumblefish against a video with sounds of chirping birds caught on camera, have people questioning the effectiveness of YouTube's Content ID.

A few days ago a YouTube user, eeplox, uploaded a video he made of himself going on a nature walk to pick some dandelion greens for a salad.  The video contained no added music or sound effects—just the sounds of nature and chirping birds picked up by the video camera.  However, much to eeplox’s surprise he received a copyright notice—apparently music company Rumblefish claimed to own the copyright to the “music” aka chirping birds in the video and eeplox was informed that they would be putting ads on the video to profit from his use of their track.

The video owner, eeplox, explains in detail what exactly went down on the video page on YouTube:

“Basically, their system identified this video as containing copyright infringing music owned by Rumblefish.  They put ads on it, with the proceeds of the ads going partly to Rumblefish, partly to Google.

“Since there’s no music in my video, I disputed the claimed copyright violation, and Rumblefish was sent a link to my video to check it and see if YouTube’s automated system had made a mistake.”

What’s really crazy is that apparently Rumblefish “checked the video, and told YouTube that there was no mistake, and that they do own the music in the video.”  Eeplox posted about the issue on Slashdot and in the YouTube Help Forum and the story quickly went viral, thanks to Reddit.

After the online buzz started growing, “Paul,” a representative from Rumblefish left a comment on the Reddit thread about the incident:

“We (Rumblefish) didn’t claim it as anything actually.  The YouTube Content ID system, ID’d the song and associated it with one of our artists / labels.  I found out about this a few hours ago, watched the video myself and there was clearly no music in it at all…only birdsong.  I hit up the right person on our team to remove the claim and it was removed earlier tonight.  We don’t know why YT claimed birdsong as one of our artists songs.  It’s confusing.”

While it is fishy that Rumblefish stood by the claim when eeplox tried to dispute it, as he alleges in his video description, Paul of Rumblefish also brings up a good point with the fact that YouTube’s Content ID is an automated system.  Content ID’s mistake, in this instance, not only was annoying for the user who hadn’t actually used any copyrighted material, but it also made Rumblefish look bad.

And this isn’t the only instance of something like this happening.  Far from it, in fact.  Lots of people came out of the woodwork to tell similar stories on eeplox’s Slashdot and YouTube Help Forum posts, as well as on Reddit.  One user says that he received a copyright claim on the motorcycle sound in this video, another says that he received a copyright claim thanks to a short Garage Band sound byte of ocean waves found around the 9:35 mark in this video, and the list goes on.

An article from Nancy Messieh of The Next Web takes a look at some of the different arguments and viewpoints expressed in the comments on Reddit about the issue.  One of the biggest issues seems to be that a number of users seem to believe that the claimants in these false copyright claims “have learned to game the system,” making claims against user’s videos so that they can monetize them.  One commenter that Messieh quotes says:

“I experienced this in one of my videos.  My video has no background music at all.  Just my voice.  The complaint is not from Rumblefish though, it is from Music Publishing Rights Collecting Society.  As you can see, it is a generic name.  I believe they’re gaming the system to earn money from your hard work.”

Now I’m a little bit torn in this situation.  Content ID has done, and continues to do, a phenomenal job in helping content owners discover the videos in which people have used their copyrighted content so that they can take action (be it monetizing or removing the content completely), and with over 60 hours of video being uploaded and scanned by Content ID per minute, it’s hard to expect the technology to be perfect.  That being said, it’s unfortunate that users that haven’t broken any laws have to deal with the hassle of disputing false copyright claims and that claimants are having to take the heat for these claims, which are oftentimes automated by YouTube.  Here’s hoping they can do something to prevent situations like this.

What are your thoughts?  Have you ever received a false copyright claim?  Do you think YouTube should be held responsible for these mistakes?

Image credit: Kevin A Smith via

Megan O’Neill is the resident web video enthusiast here at Social Times.  Megan covers everything from the latest viral videos to online video news and tips, and has a passion for bizarre, original and revolutionary content and ideas.

Publish date: February 28, 2012 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT