I’m annoyed. I’m annoyed with YouTube, and I’m annoyed with Warner-Chappell, and I’m annoyed with a music industry made up of frakking corporate troglodytes.
A while back I got a message from YouTube telling me that a couple of my videos had been flagged by their clever-dick system as containing copyright material. On those two videos advertisements appeared. Now while I don’t like having ads on my videos (because I know I hate them when I’m watching someone else’s video with ads), I realise that was fair enough: the copyright holder wants a bit of ad revenue from the few hundred (maybe) people watching me play a song to which they hold the copyright, so they can put ads on the video. Fine. No worries.
Last night I noticed that at some point between then and now, Warner Chappell, the copyright holder for Hotel California, by The Eagles, has muted the audio to my video of me playing the solo from Hotel California.
So I look a right twat in that video.
My first thought was to dispute it. After all, it’s a cover, and one can play covers, right?
Turns out the answer to that is no. I’m not the first person to wonder about this, and some have asked the queyion online. Answer is that covers are not “fair use” under copyright law, and therefore remain subject to copyright requirements. What about cover bands??!! They’re playing in a bar or a club which pays licensing fees to ASCAP (I think), the copyright administering jobby, so composers get paid when their songs are played. All good, don’t get me wrong. They should indeed get those royalties.
However, all the aforegoing leads inescapably to one conclusion: Google/YouTube are a bunch of bloody stingey-arse cheapskates who are avoiding paying licensing fees to ASCAP. Consider: if they paid said licensing fees, we’d be able to play covers, and composers/copyright holders would get a share of any resulting revenue. We’re not allowed to play covers, ergo, YouTube do not pay a licensing fee.
Thy know damn well there are a lot of covers on YouTube. I figure they’re hoping that a few take-downs and mutings will keep the copyright holders happy, while they sit quietly back enjoying the fruits of having umpty-million cover videos (not to mention actual songs with slideshows) attracting lots of views.
So that’s why I’m annoyed with Google/YouTube. What about Warner-Chappell? Yes they’re the copyright holder, and yes they were perfectly entitled to put ads on my video. Hey, legally they were entitled to mute it as they have as well. The point is, first they tried the ads. Because I’m small fry with few views, they probably made no money from it. Instead of thinking “oh well that’s completely irrelevant then. We’ll leave the ads there in case, though”, they decided to mute it. Out of what? Spite? What do they gain? In a material sense what do I lose? They would get any ad revenue, not me. It’s just annoying and frustrating; no-one’s any better off.
Especially Google/YouTube, who are playing both sides: denying copyright holders their proper revenue by not paying licensing fees (i admit this is an assumption, but it follows logically: if they do pay licensing fees, surely they would not have to remove or mute videos), and they crap on users like me who just want to share and interact with others playing songs we love.