DMCA Abuse on YouTube, Punk Bands Targeted


In recent months there has been a slew of DMCA takedowns on YouTube affecting numerous punk bands.

Apparently SST Records, owned by Greg Ginn, has been utilizing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to claim copyright infringement on a vast number of videos that utilize brief clips of music from Black Flag, including skateboard videos made by fans. Well, gosh, that’s what copyright holders can do, though it does seem sort of mean.

SST has also claimed multiple copyright takedowns on bands that have nothing to do with SST, including X, Fear, Sin 34, Lower Class Brats, Puzzled Panthers, and the Adolescents. Also affected, videos made by fans under Fair Use, utilizing snippets of  songs.

YouTube user Creamy GoodnessX writes that SST:

have since admitted that they never even viewed the allegedly offending videos before issuing the strikes! Rather, they used automated software in their campaign, in many cases resulting in false DMCA takedowns of videos that were legitimately using copyrighted material under the fair use doctrine. Several users permanently lost their channels (i.e., termination), and others permanently lost special privileges like being able to upload videos longer than 15 minutes.

YouTube provides copyright holders with a Content ID program. YouTube account holders who use the software must submit title lists and audio files, as well as proof of copyright. The program can be used to:

  • Identify user-uploaded videos comprised entirely OR partially of their content, and
  • Choose, in advance, what they want to happen when those videos are found. Make money from them. Get stats on them. Or block them from YouTube altogether.>
  • Reduce Infringement. Educate your fans about your copyright preferences and prevent your content from being distributed on YouTube without your permission.
  • Fully Automated. Once you’re set up, Content ID will identify, claim, and apply policies to YouTube videos for you.

The DMCA takedown of “Democracy” by the Adolescents on Frontier Records, which also handles their publishing via Bug Music, indicated that a company called Love Cat Music had also claimed DMCA rights, along with SST. I wrote to Love Cat, which has only one punk band, Reagan Youth, in its catalog. Owner Randy Frisch replied:

i do not know why LoveCat Music is mentioned here.   Could be a mistake.

we have sent takedown notices with respect to other songs in our
catalog that we do in fact control.

But not this one

Is it possible that YouTube’s Content ID program is faulty and can’t tell punk songs apart? If so, major fail.

So I wrote to SST Record’s owner Greg Ginn and asked him about YouTube. At first he said

I don’t know much about YouTube.

Then I asked about fan videos being posted on YouTube. His response:

I then asked if he enforced copyright. He replied:

At times.


Greg did not write back, and blocked me on Facebook, making it impossible to contact him further. Ginn has been a brutal enforcer of SST’s copyrights, though oddly he showed disdain for U2′s when SST released Negativland’s single U2 (Full disclosure, I worked for a branch of SST Records in the mid-1980s. In 1991 I wrote an analysis of the U2/Negativland controversy for U2′s magazine Propaganda; when that piece was repurposed as a press release, I was paid. I know many former SST Records artists, as well as people affiliated with U2).

When a video is falsely DMCA’ed on YouTube, it is the responsibility of the real copyright owner to prove they are the rightful copyright holder. It can take up to 10 days for the DMCAed video to be restored.  Alerted to the Adolescents’ video takedown, Frontier Records’ owner and founder Lisa Fancher worked with YouTube, sending in the correct forms to restore the video.  Often bands do not know their videos have been taken down, or why, as in the case of Lower Class Brats:

How could they get our videos taken down off of YouTube and why would they do something like this? I am completely baffled…
I look forward to your reply, thanks….

Since it can take over a week to restore a video, DMCA-ing  a video is an effective means of harassment or of silencing speech, as seen during Anonymous’ Project Chanology when videos shot at protests and/or using Fair Use clips of Scientology videos, or the organization’s logos, were DMCA-ed.

If YouTube’s content identifying software is at fault for false DMCAs, then those using it should definitely alert YouTube about the glitches since it looks pretty creepy and bad to take down videos for which you do not own the copyrights. However, if  people are purposefully DMCAing  videos out of spite, and have a long record of false claims, perhaps YouTube should treat them with the same vigorous enforcement they show to copyright abusers.

YouTube’s PR department did not respond to my questions about the accuracy of its Content ID software, however they did say:

Unfortunately, in some cases, individuals abuse our notification process by submitting fraudulent claims.  When we become aware of this, we take action by reinstating the videos and/or accounts affected, and taking appropriate action against the individual responsible.

The PR person followed up to my questions about Content ID being possibly faulty with this:

You can read more about both of these things are our Copyright Center. Thanks!

Which is where I started in the first place.

Eggnog, Assange and Anonymous

Detail: Boucher, Toilet of Venus

I’m currently mulling intellectual property law, the importance of copyright, and Anonymous, all whom I respect.

Prosecuting a granny for downloading songs: You’re doing it wrong. One Huge Industry Giant wrote:

Headlines about a grandmother being fined hundreds of thousands of dollars did not properly present the big picture, and they were terrible PR for the industry.

He’s right.  (America and businesses based here being huge bullies over Wikileaks is another post for another time).

Some Anonymous are getting very DdoSy via Operation Payback which to me seems a bit misplaced and possibly short-sighted. And there is no way Assange is gonna distract from OpPayback, so give up that concept! There are reasons copyrights exist, these reasons are tl/dr, but copying without permission or pay is an uneven social exchange:

I’ll give you my Space Food Stick if I can crib off your math test

is making a deal; lifting off someone’s page without permission (or attribution, or a processed food snack) is cheating. Residuals and royalties from legal sales and downloads create income streams which allow for a vital economy through employment, purchases, use of services and other businesses, trickle down. As the writers’ strikes proved in Los Angeles, when creative income stops, the economy suffers. Badly.

The studios, at least in Bollywood who admits to it, hired their own private DDoS service, which went and boasted on their gig, hoisting themselves on their own petard, only to fall like a T. rex toe-walking Chihuahua. The RIAA, BPI, MPAA and US Copyright Office have all been recent targets. OMG, WTF!? Somebody crashed the Copyright Office.

First off:  Media interpretation of “Anonymous” needs to be flexible; heck Anonymous is flexible, fluid. Anyone can be “anonymous” online in certain areas of the web, when writing old fashioned letters, or checking on Prince Albert in a can. Princess Di made anonymous calls to a lover. Imagine if she’d been able to organize HRHOPA* on 4Chan…

There may be some Venn diagram spillover of unnamed Anon sets opposed to breast censorship in Australia and sets who think cULtz R cR33PY but never leave the house; sets who raid Second Life; and sets who show up IRL EGF (oh hai!). They may not all interact on 4Chan, either; it’s not like that is the only sandbox. (Trying to shut down IRCs was pretty bush league.)

Sonny Bono is an interesting case. While a Congressperson, he extended creative copyright, benefitting him as a songwriter and his heirs–and members of his faith/a huge corporation by maintaining certain Top Skeret texts as copyrighted. Then he hit a  tree while skiing which was really freaky. I am wondering if it is ethical for a Congressperson to bring forth a bill that directly benefits said C’member. I wonder if Congress is allowed to set forth a law, or the IRS to proffer a deal, which benefits a specific religion over all others.

(Granted, with pressure from congressmembers with ears to the bar and restaurant industry, the Sonny Bono bill was amended to include the Fairness in Music Licensing Act, which exempted smaller establishments from needing a public performance license to play music).

I have a solution to this whole copyright Bobby i$$ue:

Make the telecom companies pay for carrying the transmissions, not unlike radio stations.

According to U2′s manager, Paul McGuinness who I quote above and below, that isn’t an option, despite free content being

part of the commercial agenda of powerful technology and telecoms industries. Look at the figures as free music helped drive an explosion of broadband revenues in the past decade. Revenues from the “internet access” (fixed line and mobile) business quadrupled from 2004 to 2009 to $226bn. Passing them on the way down, music industry revenues fell in the same time period from $25bn to $16bn. Free content has helped fuel the vast profits of the technology and telecoms industries.

Tax the means of delivery!  Like taxing the ships that carry tea, rather than tea.

Oh noes, but if the telecoms don’t liek the tax, then what? They are the t00bs, both of them. Recent activity–against Wikileaks and by security teams (click the lings, plox)– has proven that the clouds aren’t safe either, so dream on over that model.

And while we are on the subject of copyright, for it was copyright what brought forth the Freeweb Cruise, could DMCA be cited on Wikileaks? But do we as taxpayers technically hold part of that copyright? I wonder if the American govt could collect a royalty from the telecoms for each download, link, etc to Wikileaks and share the revenue with the embattled free speech fighters… ??? Profit!

Also I see a whole micro-industry springing up around searching the cables for keywords, dates, concepts.

Will keyword search for giftcards

Full disclosure: I could never figure out how to use Napster, Kazaa, or Pirate Bay and sorta thought they were scary and germy, and like, hard to figure out. I have no clue how to use a torrent, but someone gave me some music once from one of those keychain beer opener things that plugs into the side of the computer. I style several EFG masks and have seen some amazing U2 shows over the years, some for free. I also wrote an essay once about U2 and Negativland; later I got paid for its use, which was kind cool.  And I am prolly gonna annoy a bunch of people with this essay, but really if you can’t speak your mind, what is the point of existing? We are communicating creatures, it is our nature.

*Her Royal Highness’ Own Personal Army

Late Night: Senate to Drop Ban Hammer on teh Internets?

The Internets. Both of them. This meme may become a reality…

We will support a free and open Internet.

That’s what Barack Obama told the United Nations. But then why is there a bill before the Senate Judiciary Committee that would allow the Attorney General to block certain Internet domain names from ISPs?

The bill S. 3804, the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) would create two blacklists of Internet sites “dedicated to infringing activity,” which is defined very broadly as any site where counterfeit goods or copyrighted material are “central to the activity of the Internet site.”

Heck, that could be eBay–I’ve seen some pretty bogus Marc Jacobs Stam bags on there, as well as faux Max Studio, BCBG  and Betsey Johnston dresses. And certainly YouTube could be considered such a site, though they do pull any video  which is flagged with a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) infringement notice. and other photo storage sites allow people to upload their photoshopped images, as of course does the monster shoop site

Anyway, one of the blacklists can be added to by the courts, the second by the Attorney General.  According to Demand Progress:

Internet service providers (everyone from Comcast to PayPal to Google AdSense) would be required to block any domains on the first list. They would also receive immunity (and presumably the government’s gratitude) for blocking domains on the second list.

Copyright is a tricky thing. The Associated Press says:

Associated Press text material shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium. Neither these AP materials nor any portion thereof may be stored in a computer except for personal and non-commercial use.

And that means if a tree falls in the forest and only the AP is there to cover it, does that actually mean you can’t mention the tree hitting the earth without violating the AP’s copyright, even if you blogged under Fair Use that

a mighty big piece of living lumber  was felled by unknown means, according to the AP

rather than

a tree fell in the forest

because that is “rewritten”?

So technically if you did blog about it, under COICA your site could be blacklisted by servers and basically disappear because you “violated” copyright by reporting news to which you didn’t have direct access. Unless you paid the AP. So news becomes proprietary information. And that means control of information and possibly no freedom of the press since unlimited access would be truncated.

Nowadays, copyright infringement is handled with lawyer letters, threats of lawsuits and actual court trials, where there is a burden of proof. Should this pass, the lights would go off on sites deemed violators. Demand Progress says:

This bill would bypass that whole system by forcing Internet service providers to block access to sites that are otherwise up. People in other countries could still get to them, but Internet users in the US would be blocked.

Blocked from entire domain names. Sort of like how the governments of Iran, China, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere block undesirable sites. Granted, because of copyright and licensing laws, when I was in Ireland, I couldn’t watch clips from The View on; when in Turkey, I was unable to listen to Coast to Coast on, so I wonder how many blocked sites would actually still be visible. And plus there are ways around that. Demand Progress claims that

if this law passes Internet traffic will be reconfigured to route around it. Companies will move their US servers and domain names overseas, Internet users will route their traffic through other countries (just like Chinese citizens have to do now!), and software will have to be reconfigured to no longer trust answers from American servers.

Demand Progress is concerned that this bill is the start of a slippery slope  and that with a little prodding from Teh Gubbermints  all sorts of sites could end up being banned, not only news, blogs, politics, and entertainment, but  porn and gambling, which is really what fueled the series of interconnected tubes.