Can You Own the Copyright to Bird Songs?

Can You Own the Copyright to Bird Songs?

In today's world, content producers have to tread carefully lest they infringe on someone else's copyright. YouTube uploader, eeplox, thought he had taken every precaution when he decided to post a video about how to pick a wild salad. Imagine his shock when he found out that his video had been removed on the basis of a copyright claim from music company Rumblefish.

YouTube uses an automated system named Content ID that takes audio and video samples from new content and matches it with samples provided by copyright holders. Apparently the bird songs that can be heard in the eeplox's video matched compositions whose copyrights are licensed by Rumblefish. There are only 12 notes in western music so it is probable that the bird's song might match some string of music created somewhere. But does that constitute a copyright violation?

Obviously the user appealed the removal. However, he was given a notice from YouTube stating "All content owners have reviewed your video and confirmed their claims to some or all of its content.” End of discussion. No further course of action possible.

The wording of the statement is quite interesting. It states that "All content owners" have viewed the offending upload and confirmed that their copyright has been violated. Is it not strange that the person who made the original claim of copyright violation is allowed to also be the judge in the matter?

We understand that YouTube, by virtue of its popularity, is extremely chaotic and hard to police. We also understand that the presence of the big players from the music and movie industry has played a part in YouTube gaining this popularity. Their co-operation would naturally necessitate providing them with certain assurances over the protection of their copyright.

But due to the ad revenue sharing schemes, YouTube has also become extremely attractive to honest small-time content producers. Keeping that in mind, giving those who cry "copyright violation" the final say in the matter and the power to block audio, run ads or permanently remove content seems a bit excessive.

Source: eeplox, YouTube and Arstechnica


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