YouTube's Automated Copyright Video Scan Appears Broken

Martin Brinkmann
Feb 27, 2012
Updated • Jan 1, 2013
Google, Youtube

Imagine the following scenario. You film how you are collecting ingredients for a wild salad, and upload the video to YouTube. You then get a copyright claim later on stating that the video contains copyrighted music from another company, even though there is no music in the video other than the song of birds.

You can refute that claim, but the company YouTube has identified as the copyright holder can refute that. When this happens, companies who claim they have the rights to the video can do a number of things, for instance ad advertisement to the videos to generate revenue, or display a link to the song's iTunes page to get viewers to buy the song there.

This story happened to a YouTube user, who posted about it on the YouTube support forum.

I posted a video which is basically just me walking and talking, outdoors, away from any possible source of music.

And apparently youtube identified my video as containing copyrighted music from a company called rumblefish. I filed a dispute, and now I'm waiting for said company to respond to it. Is this a freak occurrence? I feel pretty violated by this, a mysterious entity claiming to own my content and apparently profiting from it with ads.

There are birds singing in the background in the video, could they own the rights to birdsong?

And here is the video to watch.

A Reddit thread is close to breaking the 1000 comment mark, with some YouTube users chiming in stating that they had the same experience. One user's footage of him riding a motorcycle with no sound other than that of the engine was disputed as well by YouTube's automated system. And while it is possible to dispute the claims, it does not necessarily mean the end of it, as companies have the power to confirm they own the copyright. If they do, YouTube will believe them and not the disputing user.

YouTube uses an automated system to detect copyright infringement to appease rights holders. This system should not be confused with DMCA notices, as they would require the copyright holder to send a notice to YouTube to have the contents taken down. The automated system uses a content ID database that tries to match contents of all videos that get uploaded to the database. If a video is flagged this way on YouTube, its current monetization method is removed from it. The uploader now has the option to refute the claim, but even if that is done, YouTube waits for the company to respond to the claim as well before they are acting on behalf of the uploader if the claim was made in error.

One issue that make occur at this point is that copyright owners may confirm ownership without viewing the video at all. If that happens, the uploader's only chance is to contact the copyright claiming company directly to ask them to ask them to release their claim.

With false positives generated by the system, would you say it is time to change the detection algorithm or process completely? Or do you think it is necessary for YouTube to have such a system in place?


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  1. Pat said on June 13, 2023 at 3:06 am

    For Version 116.0.5817.0 (Official Build) dev (64-bit), Chrome Refresh 2023 has an option to enable omnibox at the same time.
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