Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Odd Case of Content ID

By now many of you will have heard of Google unleashing a metric shit ton of Content ID notices for Youtube content, specifically videogame related content.  What has happened is that the larger Youtube affiliates and the Multi Channel Networks -- the big guys - are suddenly being scanned for potential matches. As a result, many, many gaming-related channels are suddenly being hit with dozens, hundreds or even thousands of Content ID match warnings. For commercial channels, this can mean loss of revenue, ads being placed in videos, etc. As you can imagine, Youtubers are freaking the fuck out over this.

Chrontendo is not a monetized channel, so this particular change doesn't affect me. It is quite obvious that Youtube is gearing up to make some changes in the way it deals with monetized content. However, there are some rather bizarre things about these Content ID notices. First of all, the notices are being issued overwhelmingly to gaming channels. Also, a number of videogame companies, Capcom, Valve, Naughty Dog, and others are making statements saying they are not behind the notices.

What seems to be driving the notices is not the game content specifically, but instead, the music. A lot of reports are coming in from a digital music distribution company called Idol. Several little known music companies seem to be popping up in the content claims, and some of these claims are pretty unusual. Take for example this video, from the Youtube user, Gopher, who gives examples of the claims he's been receiving.

One of the claims is about the Billie Holiday song "Crazy He Calls Me." The message states that the recording is administered by one "Pirames International SRL." This is some sort of music company based in Milan. Their website is pretty barren. Their LinkedIn profile claims "1-10 employees," and they have a Youtube channel which focuses mostly on Italian artists, though I see Marilyn Manson and Amanda Palmer listed as well. It seems odd that Marilyn Manson's new album would be handled by this tiny little company in Italy, but the US it was released though an indie label, Cooking Vinyl, so its entirely possible Pirames is Manson's Italian distributor. But what about the Billie Holliday song? "Crazy He Calls Me" was recorded for Decca, and I'm pretty sure those recordings are currently owned by Universal. Since Universal is a huge, multinational music company that controls a sizable portion of all the music in the world, it is pretty unlikely that these Pirames guys ended up with the rights to that song.  The other song, by Eddy Christiani is listened as being from APM Music, a large licensing company. Presumably they are the ones who licensed the song to Bethesda for use in the game, so this one makes a bit more sense. Though Eddy Christiani, a Dutch musician, recorded that song in 1948, meaning it would have been in the public domain in Europe when Gopher made that video. (I think Gopher is based in Europe. Not sure how international copyright law would factor in, since Youtube is based in the US.)

The pattern seems to be content being flagged not by the owners of the music, or the game publishers, but the music licensing companies. What strikes as strange is the utter triviality of these content claims. How much value does a few moments of background music in a Let's Play video have? Very little. Yet much more valuable properties are flagrantly being posted on Youtube without the rights-holders' permission.

Unless the artist is Prince, this sort of thing is common on YT.

What's my connection to all this? Well, I received a Content ID notice for the F.E.A.R. video I uploaded in my last post.  The supposed rights holder was, again, some obscure music company. The artist/song in question pulled up absolutely zero matches in a Google search. The company's website didn't give much info on what sort of musical services it offered.  But the crazy thing was this: the part of the video in question did not really contain any music. The only sounds were in-game footstep sound effects. There was also some kind of barely audible ambient background drone that may have been considered as music.

For those who are hit with a Content ID match, Youtube has an option to remove the offending music. I did this, and I far as I can tell, the only thing it did was remove around 1 second of that background drone. If you watch the updated video now, it's not even noticeable. It's after the part where I jump out the window, right the before big explosion starts, right at about 14 seconds in. Listening to the original video, I'm not even sure anything was removed, as the background noise can't be heard as clearly in the YT video as it can be in the original video capture.

Incidentally, I had received an earlier content match with Chronturbo 4, during the Blazing Lazers segment. This was completely legit, as it flagged the footage from the Gunhed movie. In that case I disputed it as fair use, and the flag was removed.

Obviously the recent round of Content ID matches is causing a number of uploaders to sweat bullets. As for myself, I'm pretty baffled that as someone who's video consist mainly of copyrighted images and sounds, the one troublesome match I've received was on 2 seconds of background sound effects.


ShaneWM said...

Weird! Glad to hear that so far this doesn't seem to be impacting Chrontendo in any serious way. :)

Jason said...

Definitely odd that I can find entire movies, music albums, and TV shows (all against copyright) on Youtube, but a second or two of background noise is just too much for these companies. Just doing a search for "full movie" comes up with a lot (for example, 10 Things I Hate About You, which sounds fitting for the MPAA/RIAA...). Glad to see Chrontendo is still good! (Although I could still get it from Internet Archives anyway, right?).

Unknown said...

Ya 60 FPS is the way to go anyway. You wouldn't watch a Hollywood film at 12 FPS? Why watch Videogame footage at 30?

GarrettCRW said...

I use my YouTube channel at present to upload random little bits and pieces of video for my website (, if you'll forgive the plug). First, it was an intro video from Disney's Limited Gold line of VHS/Beta video tapes (mainly because it was that old, not on YouTube, and downloads of it and a couple of sound files the pirates glommed onto had nearly crushed my monthly bandwidth cap for the site). Then, when I took it upon myself to expose how awful Rhino (and later Shout! Factory's) DVDs for Sunbow's Hasbro toy-based cartoons were, I uploaded matching videos for a Jem episode recap and an act of a Transformers episode that had differences too big to illustrate with screen shots.

Quite some time ago (a good year, at least), Classic Media (who has no connection, and never has had any connection to Sunbow) flagged the broadcast video for the Transformers episode. I appealed on fair use, noting their lack of grounds to flag it in addition to my commentary rights.

Now, while checking to describe the prior flag, I find the video has been flagged again, by Hasbro, even though all the other videos are still up (though with notes that I "may" have stuff on it that's owned by a third party).

Unknown said...

It's an interesting situation. On the one hand you have people who are trying to protect IP. This is nothing new it's been going on since the late 90's. And you have so much information that there is no way to keep the Internet in check, the IP holders don't have the resources to manage the Internet. It is just impossible. So they look to computing power replace actual humans. They have been doing this for over a decade. Just the technology is improving. But it's not there yet.

For instance it used to be just searching text and flagging keywords for review. I remember around 2000 trying to sell some import Saturn games on EBay. They have a strict no selling modded consoles policy. So to try to make my item sell to a wider audience I mentioned that I would tell the buyer how to mod or play the game on a US Saturn. Well eBay took my item down for there partner content protection program. Just for mentioning it. So I revised my auction to say that it could be played on a modded US Saturn but didn't offer to tell the person how. It still got taken down. I finally had to sell my games with no mention of being able to play on a US machine and it passed. Technically I wasn't breaking ebays rules selling a modded console. I was just selling an import game. But they didn't have the manpower to research the matter. They just sided with the company.

What's going on with YouTube is similar. The lat few years the big thing Google has been working on in his area is automated content identification. Kind of like the Sound hound app. It looks at the file and matches the contents against a database. Which content holders can have there works added to and automatically removed. Well the problem is there is so much stuff getting flagged,MIT would take amgovt sized beurocracy to sort out what is fair use and what isn't. So the system without humans is not perfect. Until they have terminator level AI, this still isn't going to work. But it keeps Gooogle out of lawsuits for hosting copyrighted material. And it screws consumers when things are flagged in appropriately. There was an article this week how a game developers own videos for their game where getting flagged. They responded that they owned the content as they made the game, but it was still getting taken down. That kind of situation is horrible. And now I'm sure IP holders, however small are jumping on the bandwagon to attempt to squuze ever more revenue from these automatic content review systems. And I imagine there are just not enough people to verify these takedowns are legitimate to review them all. And no company is going to hire a team of people just to scour the Internet for IP violations. Even with the power of computing , the task is just too big. And broadcasters are going to ere on the side of IP holders to avoid lawsuits.

Luckily the Internet is still too big to police as Copyrighted works are available all over the net and no way has been found to shut them down yet. For Christ sakes they haven't even figured out how to shut down the Pirate Bay yet. So YouTube is kind of a victim of its own success, to be a legal legitimate business they have to follow the rules. I'm just glad other avenues exist. And I imagine if it got really bad someone would figure out how to alter code the scanners look for to fool them to not ID the content. Yet another battle in the war for information wanting to be free.

Chris Sobieniak said...

Sorry about the problems you're having. Hopefully we'll see new episodes next year. In the mean, enjoy this video from an arcade in 1989 that had a Galaxy Force environment cab!

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