A while back, I edited and uploaded what I thought was a fairly innocuous video to YouTube, called A walk on Dania Beach. You can see it below. It shows a few clips of the beach that I took during two walks with my wife. It’s nothing special, really. The quality of the video isn’t even that good, because the camera I used at the time compressed the video too much.
Because there was a lot of wind noise from the in-camera microphone, I muted the sound on some portions of the video, and used the stock surf sound that ships with iMovie (as part of iLife).
You may or may not know (depending on whether you use a Mac) that the sounds that ship with iLife are free to use as you like in your videos, podcasts, presentations, etc. You paid for them when you purchased the software. While their creators retain copyright, in essence, by purchasing iLife, you have gained a license to use them as you see fit in your work.
And so I do use them, all the time. Many of the videos I uploaded to my YouTube channel contain either a sound or a clip from the iLife library, in order to enhance the video’s presentation. So far, so good.
Imagine my surprise when YouTube promptly informed me that this particular video contained copyrighted audio, and that I was welcome to file a copyright claim if I wanted to dispute their findings. They identified two entertainment companies, Go Digital and WMG, as the potential copyright holders. I did file a dispute, where I stated that I didn’t use their content. It took a few weeks, but their replies were finally posted.
GoDigital confirmed its claim to the sound recording, and WMG agreed with my dispute. It’s interesting to see that WMG, the far larger company, agreed with me, while GoDigital, a company I’ve never heard of, maintained their claim… to what? That’s really the question I’d like to ask them, but I can’t, because this is as far as I can go with YouTube’s claim dispute process.
If you’d like to learn how YouTube identifies potentially copyrighted material (video or audio) in the videos its users upload to the site every day, Margaret Stewart, YouTube’s head of user experience, gave a talk at TED about that very subject in June of this year.
Now that you’ve presumably watched that video and you understand how YouTube scans and identifies potential copyrighted assets, I’d still like to find out exactly what GoDigital sees in my not-so-special video that it thinks it owns. The sound of the waves I recorded with my camera? The sound of the waves from the iLife library? The seagulls I recorded? The sound of the wind, also recorded by me? What is it they think they own?
If someone at YouTube’s user experience team reads this, please, either enlighten me, or introduce an extra step in the copyright dispute process that allows the user to ask what particular piece of content was identified as copyrighted, or allows the company to specify it directly when they review the dispute and decide it’s still theirs. Then, for those special cases like mine, where I don’t see how the content is theirs, allow me to request a third-party review, by a human at YouTube, someone who could have a look at the video and see what’s going on.