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How I made a YouTube copyright claim disappear

NekujaK

Searching for the Lost Chord
I've uploaded a ton of original music to YouTube over the past 10+ years and never had a single copyright problem... until now. This weekend, YouTube's automated Content ID checker hit me with a copyright claim when it found an alleged melody match in a small portion of my new song.

This upset me and resulted in many hours spent researching and trying out different upload experiments until I happened to stumble upon a way to make the copyright claim, which was bogus to begin with, go away!

Here's what transpired - I'll try to be brief and concise, but no promises...

THE COPYRIGHT CLAIM
After my song finished uploading, YouTube issued a copyright claim that states: "Štrajk Milencov - video uses this song's melody" The area of infringement in my song was identified as 2:55 thru 4:16, which is my song's rideout. The rideout contains several repetitions of the song's hook and then fades out over an instrumental.

THE PENALTY
The copyright claim rendered my video ineligible for monetization, which I don't care about, since I'm not a YouTube partner and don't earn money from videos. However, of much greater concern is preserving my ability to sell the song and indemnify music publishers from potential copyright actions, so it was imperative I find a proper remedy.

TO DISPUTE OR NOT DISPUTE?
I decided not to dispute the claim, because if the copyright owner disagrees with my dispute, they can simply force a takedown and I'll get hit with a full copyright strike. Rick Beato recently ran into a similar situation concerning fair use.

I was willing to take whatever steps were necessary to alter my song, but first I needed to understand the nature of the claim, and so the research began...

THE OTHER SONG
According to the claim, the rideout of my song allegedly contains melodic elements from a 1991 song called "Štrajk Milencov", which is by Czechoslovakian artist Pavol Habera. I've never heard of the song nor the artist. In the copyright claim, YouTube has this definition: "The melody is the words and music written by the songwriters and composers." Okay, so let's have a look at the words and music of "Štrajk Milencov"...

THE WORDS
Not surprisingly, the lyrics to "Štrajk Milencov" are entirely in Czech! But there's not a single Czech word in my song. Even if the Czech lyrics are taken phonetically, they don't resemble my lyrics. And when running them thru Google Translate, which I admit delivers a very crude translation, the subject matter of "Štrajk Milencov" is entirely different than my song, and there are no similar phrases.

Clearly any alleged infringement is not based on the lyrics. But let's review: YouTube's own definition states that melody = words and music. But whatever, onward we go...

THE MUSIC
Listening to "Štrajk Milencov", both my writing partner and I could not hear any identical melodic content, and we're usually pretty good at spotting things that sound like other things. The closest we could find is a descending sequence of 4 notes that occurs at the end of each line during the rideout that's similiar to, but not exactly like, a repeated descending line in our song. Ultimately we were baffled, and couldn't spot any obvious infringement.

I needed to understand exactly what was being flagged in my song, so it was time to start poking YouTube with different sized sticks...

THE EXPERIMENT
I proceeded to upload more than a dozen altered versions of my song to YouTube, sometimes uploading just the offending rideout section, sometimes the entire song, all with various parts of the vocals included or omitted, etc. in an effort to identify the offending melody line. What I discovered instead, is a Pandora's Box full of peculiar behavior by YouTube's Content ID system...

BIZARRE FINDINGS
When I uploaded just the offending segment of my song (2:55 - 4:16), it would pass with flying colors - no copyright claim! Even though it contained the same exact content that triggered the intial claim! Huh? :shocked:

The only time YouTube seemed to issue a copyright claim is when I would upload the entire song.

In one of my experiments, I removed the first verse entirely, thus shortening the overall song by about 1 minute. When I uploaded this version, it passed - no copyright claim! Even though my allegedly offending rideout was still fully intact. Huh? :shocked:

What's also weird is that my rideout simply repeats the song's hook, which appears several times throughout the song. It's the hook, after all. Yet YouTube doesn't have a problem when the hook appears elsewhere in the song, only in the rideout, and only when that rideout starts around 2:55. Huh? :shocked:

I felt like I was trapped in a Esher painting, but then I began to glimpse a way to make sense of it all...

IT'S ALL ABOUT POSITION
Based on the evidence from my experiments, it seems that position plays a huge role in YouTube's Content ID evaluations. A copyright claim would only be triggered when my rideout started around 2:55. That same exact rideout appearing at other times did not trigger any claim. What the heck is going on? :shocked:

It turns out the rideout in "Štrajk Milencov" also starts around 2:55, and even though our melodies are not identical, YouTube is apparently detecting some kind of similar cadence or repetitive pattern that it considers infringement. BUT ONLY when the rideouts of our two songs are lined up at approximately the same time. If I shift my rideout earlier or later, the copyright claim goes away! :shocked:

I think the emphasis on positional matching is designed to prevent people from posting songs that aren't their own. Positional matching is an easy way to spot an uploaded Beatles song, for example. But when it comes to checking original works for infringement, it's a pretty useless method, and in my case resulted in a false positive. It flagged my song because by sheer coincidence my rideout happened to start at the same time as a rideout in another song.

BUT WAIT, IT GETS WEIRDER :faint:
As part of my experiments, I tried reducing the overall length of my song by about 15 seconds, ending the song at 4:03 instead of 4:16, and guess what!? No copyright claim! Even though my rideout still starts at 2:55 and all the allegedly infringing vocal lines are still completely intact, YouTube now thinks it's fine (which it is, and always has been).

So basically, I was able to remove YouTube's bogus copyright claim simply by reducing the length of my song by a few seconds. Well that sure makes a lot of sense...... NOT!

SO WHAT DID WE LEARN?
Based on the results of all my uploading, it seems YouTube's Content ID system triangulates song length, positional matching of passages, and rough pattern matching of phrases, plus whatever else, to determine if a copyright claim is warranted.

This system works great to spot uploads of identical songs, but is totally unreliable for identifying actual plagiarism in original works. And yet, that's how the system is being used in the music industry.

CONCLUSION
While I found this entire ordeal enlightning, it was also incredibly frustrating and pointlessly time consuming. Aside from the irritating fact that YouTube slapped me with a false positive claim, the situation became even more ludicrous when I was able to nullify the claim simply by lopping off a few seconds at the end of my song.

But it is what it is. So if you find that YouTube has leveled a spurious copyright claim against your original work, try shifting things around a bit or altering the length of your piece. It might be all that's needed to get around YouTube's deeply flawed Content ID checker.
 
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YuHirà

Member
I decided not to dispute the claim, because if the copyright owner disagrees with my dispute, they can simply force a takedown and I'll get hit with a full copyright strike. Rick Beato recently ran into a similar situation concerning fair use.

A copyright seems very frightening but actually, as Rick Beato explained in a video, few people know that you can also dispute the copyright strike with a counter notification if you are sure you're right. The YouTube rules stipulate that "the claimant has 10 business days, as required by copyright law, to reply to your counter notification. They’ll need to respond with evidence that they’ve taken legal action to keep the content from being restored to YouTube". It means that the claimant has to take legal action to maintain their claim after you dispute it for the second time. Of course, most of the time, they won't take any legal action, which means that the counter notification is not as risky as we would think for our channel.
 
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NekujaK

NekujaK

Searching for the Lost Chord
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A copyright seems very frightening but actually, as Rick Beato explained in a video, few people know that you can also dispute the copyright strike with a counter notification if you are sure you're right. The YouTube rules stipulate that "the claimant has 10 business days, as required by copyright law, to reply to your counter notification. They’ll need to respond with evidence that they’ve taken legal action to keep the content from being restored to YouTube". It means that the claimant has to take legal action to maintain their claim after you dispute it for the second time. Of course, most of the time, they won't take any legal action, which means that the counter notification is not as risky as we would think for our channel.
Good to know. In my particular situation, I needed a resolution right away because the song is currently being pitched to several publishers for film/TV, so I don't have the luxury of waiting many days for a claimant response. But what you point out is useful when posting music on YouTube for long term exposure.
 
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NekujaK

NekujaK

Searching for the Lost Chord
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Did you create a YouTube content ID?
No, but I'm curious to know how this would've helped my situation. My understanding is that creating a content ID simply enables YouTube to include my song in its checks of other content on YouTube, to potentially spot other people uploading my work. I'm not sure how it would've helped in the situation I described. In fact, I don't think YouTube will create a content ID for a song that's been flagged with a copyright claim, like mine was.

But I have no actual experience creating a content ID, so please feel free to offer more information. Thanks!
 

SteveC

Active Member
No, but I'm curious to know how this would've helped my situation. My understanding is that creating a content ID simply enables YouTube to include my song in its checks of other content on YouTube, to potentially spot other people uploading my work. I'm not sure how it would've helped in the situation I described. In fact, I don't think YouTube will create a content ID for a song that's been flagged with a copyright claim, like mine was.

But I have no actual experience creating a content ID, so please feel free to offer more information. Thanks!
I only claim the YouTube ID at my aggregator. When I do this, anybody can use my music but I get the money. I think, the claim you described should be no problem if you have your own claim.
 

Stephen Limbaugh

le nouveau 36 rue Ballu
Not like anything is going to happen because Google owns the DOJ and congress, but their contentID committed a 17 US Code § 506 felony…
 
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