Sony are hassling Youtube users

Sony are hassling Youtube users


norman lebrecht

February 13, 2017

The Korean pianist Hai-Kyung Suh came to London last month to record videos at Henry Wood Hall, including this Mozart Fantasia.

Barely had the video gone live on Youtube than Sony Music Entertainment issued an opportunistic takedown order, claiming the video was the work of Lili Kraus, who died in 1986.

Apparently, this is common practice at Sony. The companyy recently blocked a Valentina Lisitsa video, falsely claiming it was the work of Glenn Gould.

Lisitsa wrote: Here are 90 seconds Sony Music Entertainment claims is an EXACT match to Glenn Gould’s rendition of Bach Partita #2. So exact, that they have blocked mine in 244 countries. Repeatedly.

What you hear is not a humorous “shred”, it’s two soundtracks superimposed – mine and Gould’s.

I synchronized the beginning of the clip exactly from where the claim starts. Does SME and Youtube’s ContentID really think it is identical? As you can well hear, the tempo is not the same the rhythm is not the same…. The clip gets out of sync from the very first second. It gets “together” for a moment somewhere in the middle.

I hope this example will be of use for those youtubers who fight daily to remove abusive claims placed by big corporations. And I hope someone gets sued so the abuse stops.

Anyone at Sony care to comment?


  • Ungeheuer says:

    YouTube is slowly but surely losing its mojo. Although still hugely popular, it is only a matter of time before they go all-paid. I think the days of free riding will be drawing to a close especially as music publishing houses and artists press on for royalties. Still, what is up with the record labels releasing all this free content in the past few months? Often they break up and slice albums as if they were pop tunes, polluting search results with all manner of unwanted stuff. It’s a royal mess at the moment.

  • James says:

    It’s not like there’s a bloke at Sony comparing uploads to YouTube with the Sony catalogue. It’s machine-matched and that’s clearly an inexact science, particularly for classical music (try matching classical music on Shazam, for instance).

    Many labels contract the admin of this process to third-party vendors which act with all the finesse of bad debt collectors. While, understandably, labels have the right to protect their IP, it is incredibly frustrating because – as well as examples like the one above – these orders frequently involve music that has been correctly licensed and which then requires a one-size-fits-all appeals procedure for tracks that have been bought and paid for.

    • TonyF says:

      There should be “a bloke” at Sony monitoring their correspondence before it causes damage to innocent parties.
      Sooner or later someone will sue them for wasting others’ time on this garbage.

      • James says:

        Sure it would be nice if that bloke did exist but with 300 hours of video uploaded to YouTube each minute, that’s not a realistic expectation. As to suing them – I’m guessing they’re well insulated by the terms of service.

        • TonyF says:

          I am no lawyer, but Sony’s actions here certainly look daft and unprofessional, if not unlawful. If the boot were on the other foot and I were trying actively to suppress one of Sony’s releases by saying falsely that I owned the copyright, Sony’s legals would jump on me like a ton of bricks before I could blink.

  • Jeffrey Biegel says:

    I remember Hai-Kyung very well from Juilliard when she studied with Sascha Gorodnitzki, who, with Josef Raiff and Adele Marcus were the popular students of Josef Lhevinne keeping the traditions alive. She was always deeply focused in her respect for style, sound and phrasing. It is indeed a pleasure to hear her here!

  • Robert Hairgrove says:

    It has happened to me on dozens of occasions. Every time it happened, I filed a copyright dispute, and every time it was honored.

    On the surface of things, it appears that no malice is intended, and it is just an annoying technical glitch. On the other hand, from the moment the notice is filed until the “offending” user has filed a dispute, YouTube will place ads on the content which generate revenue for them, and for the accusing company, even if monetization was not activated for that video clip. I find this practice most of all to be extremely questionable.

    • Bo says:

      Same here; happens all the time.
      I’ve had live recordings with claims from 3 different companies several times, claiming that the one person they can see playing is 3 different persons.

  • Robert Hairgrove says:

    In connection with these copyright claims, I still find this quite funny:

  • Keith Spillett says:

    Well, I know this was Hai-Kyung playing, because I was one of the cameramen!

  • Charles L. says:

    This isn’t a big deal. I’ve been posting my own performance videos for over ten years. Youtube puts one of these silly copyright claims on almost every one. Of course they’re spurious, and of course they’re automated. I just click the “dispute claim” link, sign my name, and I’m done. The claimant has 30 days to respond. Most release the claim instantly, and probably with an automated system without human involvement. If they don’t respond it’s released automatically after 30 days. I’ve never had a dispute that wasn’t released.

    But what about my poor video, languishing for 30 days under the horrible thumb of corporate greed? Depends on the claimant. In most cases my video is left as-is without restrictions, but the claimant “monetizes” my video, meaning they get the ad revenue, small as that is. If it’s a German claimant, such as DG, though, the video will be blocked in Germany.

    • John Thomas Dodson says:

      Yes, but what happens when you dispute it and they STILL claim it to be their recording? This has happened to me. I have a Beethoven 1st excerpt which they claim is Michael Sanderling. Aside from the musical difference you can clearly see both me and the orchestra in the video and Sanderling looks … a bit different! If I lose the second round Youtube says it can strike my video channel.

      Anyone have a suggestion? It’s ridiculous!

  • Stephen Limbaugh says:

    This is what is happening:

    Youtube has a program called “Content ID.” It permits content creators to upload audio and video to that program and then an unsophisticated algorithm monitors all video uploads for similarities in the audio and video.

    The issue at hand is that public domain works, such as classical music, are being uploaded to “Content ID” by Sony/ATV, Warner/Chappell, and smaller orgs like Merlin Network. Nobody is scouring Youtube for classical music or classical music recordings, BUT the algorithm is.

    I’ve had correspondence with Sony/ATV and others’ legal departments and when I informed them of this they flipped. They flipped because their ignorant interns who uploaded all of their recordings of public domain works into Youtube’s Content ID program, which automatically puts copyright claims on those public domain works, has caused them to commit a felony (by US law).

    Every once in a while, something slips through, or someone on the video side of Sony Ent doesn’t remove the portion of the audio where a public domain work is being performed.

    For companies like Merlin Network, who just coax unwise artists into submitting their recordings so they can “collect” the royalties, they automatically submit, without human review, those recordings to Content ID.

    My public service announcement to classical musicians everywhere who have suffered undue copyright claim abuse: your situation is actionable.

    • Robert Hairgrove says:

      I think it is more complicated than that because there are two separate issues involved here: (1) copyright on the music itself, and (2) performing rights. A recorded performance can still be protected under applicable laws, and this is where YouTube and content mgmt. companies are messing up. As far as audio performance is concerned, the software they use apparently cannot distinguish between different performances of the same piece.

      It was even a little amusing to me when they had pegged one of my clips as having been performed by Emil Gilels — I felt quite flattered!

  • Axess2084 says:

    I upload guitar covers to YouTube. I don’t monetize my channel and I don’t care about making money from it. I know they’re not my songs and I feel privileged to be able to play along with them.

    Then, along comes Sony. They SELECTIVELY copyright claim some of my videos and not others. I’ve searched on YouTube and I noticed that some people uploaded EXACTLY THE SAME recordings I did and didn’t get claimed – while some did. I don’t get it! WTF is going on with this BS?!?