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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Hullaballoo over Universal Music Group (UMG) copyright claim on my music

Hi all! A few days ago I wrote a note on my Facebook page about my frustrations over a copyright claim on my music track, by Universal Music Group. I was angry with UMG that they took my music track (as incorporated as background music in their audio-book release) and wrongfully put that music into YouTube Content-ID for their monetization, but most of all because when I disputed the claim and explained the situation, they rejected my dispute and upheld their claim. I was upset, and I wrote a bit of an angry rant on my Facebook page.

By the way, here is the music track in question: ("Kingdom of the Persians").

The fact that my Facebook rant "went viral" was a complete surprise to me. I usually get like 15 likes when I post something :-), so I was unprepared for the deluge of shares and comments, and completely surprised that my case made the front page of Digital Music News, Torrentfreak and other popular websites. I was offered help, money and crowdfunding by people who wanted to help me get a good lawyer, and I was contacted by volunteer / non-profit lawyers offering their help and support. Wow! All this support was of course much appreciated, albeit a little bit overwhelming. My "case" was on the front page of several popular websites and was the basis of discussion forum threads with hundreds of replies (none of which I took part in).

The issue is now resolved and I have to move on. I've got a lot of work to do. For reference, here is my original Facebook post:
Can I just state publicly that I hate Universal Music Group (UMG). For the second time now, they have hijacked my music and claimed ownership of it in all YouTube videos that include my music, thereby monetizing my music.

UMG, or somebody who produces content for them, have apparently picked up my music track "Kingdom of the Persians" as stock music / library music and used it as background music for an audio book. They have then released the audio-book on CD (fair enough, if they have paid the license fee), but they have also put the audio-book into YouTube's Content-ID system, which creates a digital audio "fingerprint" of the music, and then proceeds to sniff out any YouTube videos that contain this audio, for the YouTube system to then send a "Copyright notice" to the Youtube video uploader, telling him that his video "contains music owned by UMG", and then put advertising on the video, for which money is paid to UMG.

One thing would have been to have done this unwittingly, by mistake. But I have "disputed" the claim on YouTube, written an explanation and told them about the origins of this music -- then waited the FULL 30 DAYS that the claimant has to process the dispute, only to be told that UMG have reviewed the dispute and UPHELD their claim!

The only reasonable thing to do here, for me, would be to hire a top lawyer to go after them legally. But realistically, it's like $350 per hour for a lawyer and a 3 hour minimum for a case, so I'm looking at over $1,000 just to get something started. I feel powerless and I'm left to watch my music being raped by a media giant, who sits behind closed curtains, ignores the rightful owner of the music and just goes "Nah, we'll take it anyway". Screw you, Universal Music Group!

This is the second time they're doing this with my music as well. They did the same thing also with my other track, "The Desert Nomads".
And here is the follow-up I posted a few days later, when the issue had been resolved:

Hi all. As an update to this situation, I am happy to say that the Universal Music Group claim on my video has now been released.

I have not had any communication with/from UMG, but what seems to have done the trick is that I used the "appeal" process at YouTube after I was told that my original dispute had been rejected by UMG. Going through the "appeal" at YouTube is a pretty scary process, because YouTube uses some very strong language to warn you that you may face legal action and/or your YouTube account may be shut down. I did it nevertheless, I was that hell bent on getting UMG to stop monetizing my music and claiming ownership of it.

After a couple of days, I received notification from YouTube that the UMG claim against my video had been released. I think that the "appeal" process is the only thing that UMG takes seriously, because the way it works is that, if they still want to uphold their claim on the music, they have to issue a legal DMCA takedown notice and provide legal argumentation as to why they own the rights to that video/music. Obviously they could not do that, because the music was composed by me, and it was very easy for me to prove that. So it appears that, when they saw the appeal, they released their claim.

I'm still angry with UMG over their handling of this. First of all, they used non-exclusive stock music (which in this case happened to be composed by me) in a product and then entered that product into Content-ID at YouTube. This is explicitly against YouTube's Content-ID policy, which clearly states that in order to use Content-ID, you must fully own the content exclusively. Which they didn't. Admittedly, anybody can make a mistake like that, and I wouldn't have made a noise about it, if they had then released their claim when I disputed it and explained the situation. But they didn't. They waited the FULL 30 days that they are allowed in which to respond, and then they upheld their claim. That's when I got angry.

I don't know if UMG ever even looked at the dispute. Quite possibly, it is their policy to always allow the full 30 days to pass, and then uphold their claim, no matter what, knowing full well that the "appeal" process is so scary. In my opinion, this is speculative and legally questionable. Right now, they are probably monetizing hundreds of thousands of videos that contain audio that doesn't belong to them at all, deliberately and knowingly. It's the second time they've done this exact thing with my music (first, with my track "The Desert Nomads" and then with "Kingdom of the Persians"). And, as one guy commented on this thread, these are the same guys crying so loudly about people copying their music.

Thanks for all your comments, shares and support in this matter! Much appreciated!