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My mix, recorded on the 4th, published on the 6th, and unavailable until the 14th due to a mistaken copyright claim.

Automating copyright without verification is nonsense.

So it turns out Automatic Content Protection Systems are a pain in the butt.

I’m sure, to a degree, they help copyright holders police content, but I can’t imagine the engineering undertaking to gather and then analyze all new content uploaded to a system and then compare this against a database of, say, all the copyrighted music in the world.

Worse still, it’s a waste of time for users and copyright holders alike when there are false positives, especially if there’s no verification procedure in place.

For example, a sensible system may look like this:

  1. Content is flagged as potentially copyright infringing.
  2. The alleged copyright holder is notified.
  3. The copyright holder then has the option of making a claim against the copyright.
  4. This claim request could then remove the allegedly infringing content from whatever site it’s on, until such time as the content poster verifies they have the rights to share the content.

Now, let’s consider Soundcloud. Their process is currently as follows:

  1. Allegedly infringing content is found within minutes by their Automatic Content Protection System and removed immediately, no questions asked.

So, I’m a paying Soundcloud user. I pay a borderline exorbitant $13 Canadian per month for my Nathan Lee account. I’ve had three of my mixes taken down as a result of the work of the Automatic Content Protection System.

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As a paying customer, I’m left wondering:

  • Are the labels whose tracks are part of Soundcloud’s Automatic Content Protection System paying for the service of providing their tracks to analyze against user uploads?
  • Or is this some kind of legal consideration and Soundcloud is taking on this responsibility so they don’t get sued by copyright owners? In which case, the cost of this “service” is being passed on to paying Soundcloud users.

As far as the mixes I had removed, the earliest two were because I had included parts of tracks copyrighted by Universal Music. I didn’t bother to follow up with Universal, thinking I’d get lost in major label bureaucracy.

But this past week, I uploaded a track which was recognized as copyrighted by a smaller EDM label. I figured I could reach out to them and get a response pretty quickly about what’s involved with licensing the track in this mix that caused the takedown.

To my surprise, the first response was this:

Thanks for getting in touch but this is not our record to block.

Yikes. What then? I followed up asking if I could use the label contact’s name to dispute the copyright block. A few emails later, I heard from another contact at the label, who said:

I’ll get soundcloud to unblock it asap & remove our claim against the song itself. We ingest our compilations into Soundcloud, hence why it’s matching against that track. Obviously it’s not our track so we’ll get it removed.

Yikes again. Several emails later it turns out a little overzealousness on the label’s part is preventing good music from being shared with the world for no good reason.

What a waste of time for all involved, including the engineers building this ridiculous automated system, the labels who claim and then have to disclaim music, and Soundcloud users, including pro DJs, who get sucked into this licensing drama.

In fact, I’m not even sure there’s any reasonable claim against posting mixes (Mixclouddoesn’t have this issue, touting “No Takedowns”), but I’m not sure, so I tried to play by the rules only to find that it’s no sweat to inadvertently claim copyright against music you have no rights against. Amazing.

Next, I figure I might as well holler at Universal Music and see if I can get two more mixes up on Soundcloud so I can keep paying Soundcloud $13 a month to maybe share some mixes with a few folks. Fun!

And, for Soundcloud, it goes without saying, automatic content detection should not lead to automatic content removal. Confirming with the “rights holders” that the content in question is an issue would be nice so everyone doesn’t waste their time reversing an error preventing content from being shared. Putting the burden on Soundcloud and the uploader to prove rights, in this particular case, has been a fool’s errand. About 8 minutes to have the mix taken down, and 8 days to get it back up again.

Humanist. Facilitator. Work @sayyeahto. Play @ineedsugar. Give @weareto. Lover of music and @mukasaland.

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