In our fast-moving social media universe, many times music fans do not stop to think about the implications of posting a mislabeled audio or video content to YouTube or SoundCloud. Whether simply excited about hearing or a song or thinking they helping an artist as a super-fan, they might take a part of a song from another performance, such as a DJ mix, and upload that song again. Not under the original artist’s name and song title, but the name of the artist whose mix they stripped it from. In the process, Mr. or Ms. Super-fan has confused other music fans, as well as the digital systems that track the public performance of songs in these services by labeling the song incorrectly.
While there are some systems in place to recognize the audio fingerprint of a song, if a song has never been fingerprinted, it will not exist in the various databases of all fingerprinted songs, which there are many. The song could be in one, but not the other. Therefore, it cannot be identified by the digital systems in place to decide who is the correct artist.
In addition, that person would have also added the metadata for the song, including artist name and song title. Every time someone else ripped the audio from YouTube, inaccurate metadata will come along with it. As the song then spreads virally through file sharing networks, it may end up in databases for companies promoting music for play in retail stores. Or, the song may get played on radio. Each time, reporting the performance of the wrong artist and title back to a performing rights organizations like ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, or SoundExchange. Today, there are tens of thousands of mislabeled songs and millions of dollars of royalties sitting in bank accounts, which never make it to the artists who deserve it, because of these meta data issues.
Long time DJ and dance/electronic music producer, Johnny Vicious, recently took to Facebook to state his frustration with a system that sometimes penalizes artists, before correcting the record. Many times after it’s too late.
Some time ago, a YouTube user, 3nt3rZz, ripped the song,“Ecstasy (Take Your Shirts Off)(Remix),” originally produced by Johnny Vicious, from a DJ set by Tiesto. That user has been inactive on YouTube for 2-years, but before his account went dormant, he posted the song both with the wrong title, which he spelled Extacy, and he incorrectly attributed the artist as Tiesto. At the time of this writing, the original YouTube video for the song racked up 34,447 views. The one with the mislabeled song title and artist name has, well…4,218,890 views.
That is a huge discrepancy.
Here is the incorrect version uploaded with the wrong title and artist name.
Here is the original version, with the correct title and artist name.
The only way to resolve these issues is to tell YouTube of your copyright complaint through an online form. In order to file a complaint. you must be the rights holder or a representative of the rights holder. If you are an artist, but the rights holder is the label that acquired your song, you may no longer have the right to issue the takedown (depending on your agreement with the label, unless you share rights). The label is the one filing the complaint. If the label no longer exists, then whomever acquired the label catalog can file the complaint.
For many artists, this is frustrating, because they won’t see any of the revenue from a song with 4M views if the meta data is wrong. And, once the royalties are distributed, it’s most likely difficult to get them back. There is a lot of work involved with YouTube and Tiesto’s publishing company to fix the issue. While he may inadvertently benefit from the mistake, it should still be fixed.
Unfortunately, in today’s world of social music, many artists and labels not only have to make, promote, and distribute their catalog, they also have to police it too. That can take up more time and energy than most of us realize. There is no easy fix and to attempt to educate the masses on the proper tagging of uploads is, well, futile.
As we continue to further develop these online services, the hope is that songs are tagged correctly using identifiers, like ISRC (International Standard Recording Code), and those tags will help control the flow of revenues to the correct rights holder. However, we are a long way off from a global system, so for now, policing your catalog is the cost of doing business as an artist or label today.
Of course, even ISRC will have its problems, because not every song in every system will have a code assigned to it. Someone has to go back through tens of millions of songs and apply ISRC or replace those without ISRC with a digital copy that contains the code. In many cases, songs may have multiple codes assigned to them by both the label and the artist and those codes may conflict. There is a lot of work to be done, but don’t hold your breath, because we’re not there yet.
UPDATE – November 13th, 2014
After a little investigation, here is how a copyright owner can ensure that his/her work is properly identified, even if it is mislabeled by any user.
According to Google’s support forum for YouTube, a copyright owner with “substantial” works existing on YouTube can apply to be included in their ContentID program. That copyright owner would then submit all works through ContentID. Those works would be fingerprinted and can then match any existing or new uploads to the system, even if they are tagged incorrectly or mislabeled by YouTube users. The copyright owner would receive notifications for each incident and be able to make a determination on how to handle it – whether to issue a takedown or something else.
Here is a link to the form for copyright owners who wish to apply to the ContentID service.
First, check the criteria to make sure you qualify.
Also, SoundExchange does not collect a performance royalty for the artist from YouTube, Vevo, or any other video service. SoundCloud only collects for artists at digital radio, such as Pandora or 8tracks.
For those artists that need a service to help them collect royalties from YouTube and other video platforms, former TuneCore founder and CEO, Jeff Price, is a co-founder of Audiam, as service which helps artists collect royalties from video platforms.