Multinational Corporation Picks Fight with College Student and Wins

Lefty snowflake owned by vague threat of legal action

Mo Black
Mo Black
Dec 5, 2019 · 12 min read
(Photo by Emre Kuzu from Pexels)

Bref.

On Monday, after more than a month of writing, research, editing, recording audio with a $20 Insignia microphone under a blanket, re-editing, fucking around with Open Shot, having Open Shot crash, and fucking around with Open Shot but doing Ctrl+S this time, I released my latest Treatise on my Medium publication, Mo’s Home for Treatise and Hot Takes: The Souls of Roach Folk.

The piece makes a pretty comprehensive case for why the anime Terra Formars pedals some pretty naked white and Japanese supremacy and an overwhelming hatred of black people, specifically Africans. It links the show’s ideology to imperialism, colonialism, and oppression past and present, and calls for all of us who are most threatened by Nazi bullshit to be more assertive if and when the communities around our hobbies defend fascism and other bigotry through their media.

It’s honestly one of my favorite things I’ve ever written.

For accessibility reasons, it also exists in audio form. Statistically speaking, the #1 way my writing spreads around is through emails and DMs. If something I wrote gets enough attention, it’ll attract Google traffic too, but, I don’t count on it.

(Asset mine)

I’m glad my stuff passes pretty easily by word of mouth, so to speak, but if I could crack into a market of people who don’t already agree with what I have to say, that’d be good too.

I’m quite the businessman, you see.

The essay includes clips from a song by Alpha Blondy: Bory Samory.

Sunday night I uploaded the video to YouTube and left it on private. I wanted to schedule both the essay and audio to come out at around the same time, since one links to the other and vice versa. I used the extra time to get some of my subtitles just right.

Fucking perfection (Asset mine)

So, it’s a few hours before this thing drops. I’m working on some homework or whatever. I tab over to my channel to fondly regard my baby.

Does anyone else do that? Just look at stuff they’ve made for no reason?

Anyway, I’m looking at it, right? And there’s a little bit of text under the video summary over on my channel that isn’t on the other videos. I didn’t get a notification for it. I wouldn’t have known it existed had I not gotten distracted from schoolwork and decided to check. There, in small, dull, grey text were written the words

Copyright claim

Alpha Blondy was born in a country called Côte d’Ivoire. They make a shit ton of cocoa (the stuff you make chocolate with), their soccer team kicks ass, it’s home to the most beautiful city in the world, and most of you probably know it as the country you get when you accidentally draw Ireland’s flag backwards (credit: /u/Ris19).

It’s like, over here. See? Told you.

Alpha Blondy is a reggae singer, much like Bob Marley, an artist a little more known in the West. Coming from a country with as much religious diversity as Côte d’Ivoire has, with the more rural Muslim-majority to the north, and the more industrialized, Christian population to the south (psst, guess where the colonizers used to spend all their time?), Blondy uses his knowledge of the Qur’an, the Bible, and the Torah to preach tolerance and religious cooperation in a country where tolerance and peace across religious and class lines tends to break down in times of economic distress.

Blondy’s Bory Samory is right in line with this kind of work. Sung in Dioula, Blondy’s native language and a language native to Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso, the song recounts the tale of Samory Toure (~1830–1900). Samory Toure forged the Wassoulou Empire of the Mande people (of which the Dioula are a part) in West Africa as a final military stand against the ultimate French colonization of the region. The Wassoulou Empire stood even as the Ashanti Empire directly to its east was consumed by British imperialist forces and colonial Ghana.

Samory Toure is mythologized in Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, and Burkina Faso, among other places as being symbolic as the fight against white supremacy and for African self-determination.

The song ends with a powerful appeal to pan-Africanism, as Blondy lists off a list of revolutionary leaders, among which are Martin Luther King and Malcom X, that have been killed simply for daring to fight for African self-determination. The song asks what black people, across time and space, have done to deserve the pain and exploitation they suffer and continue to suffer at the hands of white supremacy, and reminds us that, from his view, all people are equal under the eyes of God.

I figured, if The Souls of Roach Folk was going to be talking about oppression and white supremacy both past and present, there’s no better way to approach the subject than to hear about it from someone who had to live through the aftermath of the worst of it, in his native language. And, while I know I’m breaking the Self-Spoiler rule, a thing I made up not too long ago, it is important to understand to understand why this copyright claim is so ludicrous.

Let’s leave aside the part that my audio essay in no way poses enough of a financial threat to significantly cut into the profits of the song’s current owners, Wagram Music. Let’s leave aside the part where re-contextualizing specific lyrics of the song to match with the criticism of Terra Formars I try to lay out lands my use of the audio squarely within fair use. Let’s leave aside the fact that I personally translated Bory Samory into English for the purposes of the essay and that there’s a chance the song juxtaposed with this specific translation is my intellectual property anyway.

Alpha Blondy first released Bory Samory in 1984 (ooh spooky).

Wagram Music, a French company headquartered in Paris, the seat of French colonialist power, was established in 1998.

Fucking 1998.

The only reason French record companies have this much control over African art is because of French economic domination in West Africa. And the only reason why French multinationals and banks have as much control over the African continent as they do is because of the slavery, forced labor, and military conquest that the French took part in beforehand.

So a song, about anti-imperialism used for the sake of criticism in an essay about anti-imperialism, owned by a company that only owns songs like this because of neo-imperialism, which only exists because of the exact same imperialism this very song is meant to criticize, was flagged in a YouTube video that was only seen by one person (because it was marked private at the time) by a bot probably written by a team of people who can’t afford to make ends meet on the wage they get now.

The video was flagged to make sure some corporation gets 100% of the revenue from labor they did not do and a song they did not write, instead of the unbelievable profit they rake in now from other artists in France and in Africa that get paid jack all in terms of the compensation the record label gets instead.

My channel, has 50 subscribers. Five zero. 100% of $00.00 is still $00.00. In case billionaires can’t do fucking math, now.

I want to make it clear that I fully recognize that Wagram Music has legally acquired the rights to Bory Samory. I am by no means accusing the company, Wagram music, or its affiliates, of any legal wrong doing in any context. Despite my frustrations with copyright law, I ultimately seek to make sure my content complies with both legal expectations and ethical guidelines.

Also, for full disclosure, this is not a copyright strike. It’s a content ID claim. It does nothing for my channel other than make it impossible to monetize this video, which I’m currently too small to do anyway.

However, if I appeal the process and it doesn’t go my way, YouTube can decide I’m abusing the appeals process and give the channel a strike. If I fight Wagram Music and lose, I would, down the line, be opening myself up to the chance (however remote) of a lawsuit.

All I’m doing is pointing out the irony. It’s succulent.

I’d always heard that the YouTube copyright system is imbalanced in favor of the claimants, which are almost always large corporations, and that about the utter powerlessness you feel when it happens to you. But man is it way different to actually go through that alone for the first time.

The copyright system truly does put all the power in the hands of the corporations. As far as I can tell, YouTube doesn’t even make it obvious there’s a problem!

I, as an individual unable to afford a legal team, have to beg and plead to a company’s automated response system for the right to make art the way I want to. Even in the best case scenario, where they agree that my use of the song counts as Fair Use, Wagram Music gets to decide when to release the claim.

It’s of course in their monetary interest to keep it there forever, as to stop the growth and future monetization of my video.

Wagram Music can just disagree with my reasoning, regardless of the facts of the case and whether they happen to be in the legal right or wrong (And why wouldn’t they? Again, there’s nothing but upsides on their end) and force me to take action.

At that point, I’d have two options. I could stand my ground, without a lawyer. I could spend money I don’t have, time I can’t afford, and mental health I sure as fuck still need fighting a battle I’ll lose at the flick of a CEO’s wrist.

Or I’ll give up.

It’s a choice in the same way that all choices under capitalism are “choices”. There is no choice. I’d be forced to give up my artistic vision just to keep living life. Over, what? A minute and a half of audio from a song I found powerful and relevant?

I write in my free time because it makes me feel good. Because I like having something I feel like I’m good at. Because I like sharing the things I make with my friends. Because writing helps me process life. Because it helps me stay sane and focused.

The audio version of The Souls of Roach Folk isn’t going to be bringing in thousands of views anytime soon and that’s okay. Honestly. The audio is still kinda janky and half of this for me is just pushing the boundaries of what I think I can do.

Still, I’m fucking closer to getting a strike on my channel than I am to having 100 subscribers. It’s ridiculous. This has to be the most unfair power struggle I’ve ever seen documented in the history of YouTube. It’s laughably stupid.

I can’t even make art in my room by myself without the automatized jackboots of the corporate hierarchy busting down my door and breathing down my neck so hard I feel the spit roll down the small of my back.

In case it somehow wasn’t clear: YouTube isn’t a site that compensates creators for their labor, it’s a site that sells ad-space to billionaires and lets some of that profit trickle-down to the people actually doing the work that fills the site with content worth sticking around for.

What often doesn’t get brought up about YouTube’s copyright system is how psychologically manipulative it is. The system is designed to make it as unlikely as possible that whoever is being accused files a dispute:

  1. You’re not told when you a copyright claim on your video, and the indication is easy to miss. It doesn’t present itself as a warning or an error, and it’s impossible to find copyright information on the YouTube Studio mobile app, almost as if YouTube would rather you not notice.
  2. If you do end up noticing, YouTube immediately prompts you to cut or replace the offending footage.
  3. If you decline, YouTube sends you to a page with three brightly colored buttons that say things like “I don’t make money off the video” or “I have credit to the copyright holder”. You’re led to believe this starts the dispute process, but these only send you to YouTube’s FAQ page about how none of that means you haven’t infringed copyright. To start the process, you have to click a tiny link at the bottom that says you haven’t done any of this.
  4. You’re taken to a dull, drab looking page that recounts what Fair Use is and isn’t. The language is designed to make you question whether you even have a case after all.
  5. If you push through all that, you’re then given what is basically the space of a tweet to make your entire case…
  6. … only to be sent an email that lets you know that, even if everything goes right for you, the entity making the claim ultimately has the power to make you do whatever the fuck they want.
The order of these suggestions on YouTube’s FAQ page is kind of funny, isn’t it? (Source)

Fucking smash the fucking economic system that fucking allows billionaires to coerce artists into doing whatever they want by threatening their livelihoods and the lives of those close to them. Fucking smash the ideology that makes it impossible for art to exist unless the labor of the artist is stolen, commodified, and extracted for value. Apparently, no matter how small that value actually is.

Between YouTube’s staggering reaction FTC’s COPPA lawsuit, in which they push the responsibility of COPPA compliance onto creators who are least equipped to prevent their own content from being shown to children, to the platform’s recent clarification that it will happily terminate any account or channel that it deems to no longer be “commercially viable” (no matter how much the company insists that language that specifically mentions the platform’s ability to terminate individual accounts doesn’t refer to its ability to terminate individual accounts), there have been growing calls among Leftist content creators to boycott the platform.

I was always on the fence about it. Online boycotts don’t tend to “work”, lest we repeat the mistakes of the Epic Gamers™ who bravely stood up for the Hong Kong protesters by… cancelling their Blizzard accounts for a week and then making another one when it stopped being trendy.

I fully support the idea now, and I ask anyone who happens upon this tiny piece of Internet history to do the same. Not because such a boycott would get YouTube to listen they don’t give a shit. More because, if we can get this right, it’ll mean we can organize larger collective action against these online platforms. Actions that YouTube may have to listen to down the line.

December 10–13, 2019. Just don’t use YouTube. Go read theory like you’ve been meaning to. It’s literally the smallest praxis. Simple. Fun. S̶e̶x̶u̶a̶l̶l̶y̶ ̶s̶a̶t̶i̶s̶f̶y̶i̶n̶g̶.̶

If I catch any of you fuckers on YouTube between the above two dates will personally come to your house and 『 Ⓐ 𝑔𝑢𝑖𝑙𝑙𝑜𝑡𝑖𝑛𝑒 Ⓐ 𝑦𝑜𝑢𝑟 Ⓐ 𝑑𝑜𝑔 Ⓐ 』

You have been warned.


Words cannot expressed how shocked I am by this outcome.

Uh-huh.

I guess it ain’t so bad. I get to keep the video up as is for as long as my corporate masters allow. Truly, capital is generous and wise. Boot leather sure tastes mighty good today.

And look! The only catch is that it can’t be monetized in a select few regions of the wor —

Oh.

Mo Black

Written by

Mo Black

Leftist. Media analysis, fiction, and the art of writing the perfect story. YouTube: https://bit.ly/2tfI7pb || Support: https://patreon.com/moblack

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