I remember when I first started playing music with my band a few years ago. We started out like most; playing a bunch of covers until we could find a sound that we thought would best suit our styles. As the singer of the band, I had the brilliant idea to cover Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees.” Yes, I know. Let’s just say I’m an ambitious singer. Somehow the cosmos lined up and it turned out to be one of the best covers we’ve ever done. I immediately uploaded the video to YouTube as I couldn’t wait to show everyone my best Thom Yorke impression. I went back to YouTube to check my views a few days later, like any narcissistic singer would, and saw this message, “Your video may include a song owned by a third party. For example, this might be a song playing in the background or someone performing a song.”
What does that even mean? I just wanted people to see my pitchy falsetto work. I then learned a quick and unexpected lesson about copyright and something called the and their “Content ID program” from YouTube. Recording yourself straining to hit the notes of the masterpiece that is “Fake Plastic Trees” doesn’t necessarily mean you can upload it to YouTube and share it with the world. Legally, you may need permission from the owner of that music. Since I didn’t have Thom Yorke or Jonny Greenwood’s personal e-mail addresses, I settled for a quick acknowledgement of my copyright infringement, and luckily the content wasn’t deleted.
Copyright laws give exclusive ownership of musical content strictly to the creators – and, rightfully so. Why should I get all of the glory for covering a song without at least acknowledging where the original content came from? It happens every day. Some musicians and bands even go so far as to make money from someone else’s work without ever getting permission from the writer or composer. Through YouTube’s Content ID program, copyright holders are better able to keep track of when, where, and how their compositions are being used on YouTube. When music is used in a YouTube video, even in the background, the song or songs are checked against a database of files that content owners have submitted. If there’s a match between your video and any of those files, then you get a notice like aforementioned one about misuse of a song owned by a third party.
I got to keep my cover, but that’s not always the case. What about those people adding music to their wedding videos? Or those people soundtracking an important corporate presentation? For some, the outcome may not be as forgiving. It’s ultimately the content owner’s decision whether or not the content stays on YouTube. Some owners may choose to let the video remain as long as the viewership statistic revert back to the original content. Others may block said video. If I had composed a song and other people were performing it, I’d like to think that I’d have the final say in how my intellectual property would be used. One solution to that problem is the online platform, Muserk. There’s virtually no escaping the reach of Content ID, so Muserk has created a way for those wanting to set their videos to music to do so legally. I can’t imagine anyone would want to play Russian Roulette with their wedding video to see if whether or not a third party content owner will motion for the video’s removal. Muserk lets you create and share fairly so you won’t have to worry about that