Extreme Takedown: YouTube Edition

Many times, videos posted on YouTube are removed whenever anyone from a record label to a TV network to the National Football League can claim copyright to anything that infringes on their intellectual property.

But what if a record label orders an instructional video that has no music on it to be taken down? I mean, it’s bad enough that Universal Music Group [UMG] can lay claim to Zoë Keating’s works even though she never signed a deal with them. Now, there’s Warner Music Group [WMG] taking down a video posted on YouTube by one Teresa Richardson in which she teaches crocheting, and has been seen over 50,000 times. Did Ms. Richardson ever sign a deal with WMG? Highly doubtful, since that video had no music on it, but that matter was eventually resolved, and her video was posted back on YouTube.

As for UMG, they apparently haven’t learned from their Zoë Keating mistake. Now, they’ve recently ordered a takedown of a video by a rap act that isn’t actually signed to their label. Granted, this is a more interesting case because it involves the unsigned act, After the Smoke, recording a “beat,” then shopping it around before drawing the interest of a rapper named Yelawolf, who then recorded his own words over this beat just as he got signed to UMG.


But then Yelawolf’s track got leaked, After the Smoke never got credit, then recorded their own track over the beat they themselves recorded, and that version was the one that got taken down because, UMG assumed, Yelawolf got to it first. According to Techdirt’s report, it turned out that neither UMG nor Yelawolf had officially licensed the “beat,” but when After the Smoke’s complaint to YouTube resulted in them claiming UMG “owned the track,” the label realized what they made a mistake and backed off.

Accounts like these are part of what happens when major record labels that complain about Internet “piracy” decide to become pirates themselves by staking claims to material that isn’t really theirs to begin with. And it’s no surprise that UMG and WMG are among the best at bogus extreme takedowns. Some of their past efforts were enough to put them in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s “Takedown Hall of Shame.”

The EFF explains in its “Guide to YouTube Removals” that all it takes for a video to be removed is if the video you upload has a “Content ID” match with any claim of copyright ownership, such as for a few seconds of a song. Since the computers, and not human beings, can spot the matches, mistakes like the ones I mentioned above can and do happen, and trying to dispute it can be a burden, even if you know you’re right.

As Eric Limer put it in his Geeko System blog, in which he mentions other questionable YouTube takedowns, the current US digital copyright law, DMCA [Digital Millenium Copyright Act], is so broken that there are no repercussions for anyone who submits a YouTube takedown that turns out to be wrong, and that had SOPA/PIPA been passed, or if it ever does get passed, chances are that entire websites, even YouTube, would be blocked as well.

There can and should be ways to stop online piracy, but a system that allows for false accusations without penalty of perjury is not the way to do it. Do you think there should at least be such penalties for a wrongful YouTube takedown?

Main Image: TakeDown by ~7uu ©2010-2012