Youtube, Copyright, DMCA and AdRev

CopyrightThis morning I got a copyright claim notice from Youtube about a video I created using a song from a Digital Juice library.

That sounds worse than it is. First, I used the content legally. I purchased the right to use it in this fashion. So the claim will eventually be dismissed.

Second, even if I did “steal” the song, Youtube won’t pull it, they just place advertisements on the idea and give the money to the people who own the rights to it.

It’s annoying because I didn’t use it without having the right to do so. And now, for a while at least, I won’t get the revenue (however small) from any advertising on that video. It’s also annoying because the claim came through a very slimy company called AdRev. And a concern because Youtube takes copyright violations very seriously from it’s partner channels.

AdRev is a company that exists for the sole purpose of generating advertising revenue from Youtube content. Their selling point is that they can help content creators to monetize use of their content on “unauthorized, unofficial, and fan videos using your music.”  For a cut of the revenue, their computers scour the massive content on Youtube for music that matches their client’s library. Then they exercise their Digital Millennium Copyright Act  (DMCA) muscle and inform Youtube that a copyright infringement has occurred, and they would like to collect the money from any advertising on that content.

They do not contact the Youtube channel first, they just hijack the ad revenue, forcing the channel owner to prove they did not steal the content. In this (civil) case, guilty until you can prove your innocence. This isn’t the first time I’ve had this same company file claim (erroneously) on a video. Every time I have been able to get the claim removed. But it’s a hassle.

While legally they do not have to contact me before filing a claim, ethically, they should. It’s a slime-ball maneuver to steal my ad revenue this way. It’s not like I’m taking radio hits and using them as music beds. These are royalty-free, buy-out music tracks that are designed expressly for use in projects and videos like this one. It is highly likely that anyone using them will have the license to do so, because they are created and sold for this purpose.

I have mixed feelings about the DMCA in that, as a content creator, I’m glad that I can easily dispute the use of my copyrighted work. I do not like that without a hearing of any kind, companies like Youtube will immediately divert the ad revenue from a given video to the people claiming to own it. In my case, we’re talking pennies. But this is big enough business that companies like AdRev exist. They make enough from this sort of thing to keep on doing it.

A larger concern for me is that I am a Youtube Partner, and in order to maintain that status (and access to higher dollar ad sharing, etc…) I have to stay in good standing with Youtube. Part of that means no copyright violations. I don’t make the huge money from Youtube video ad revenue. This video won’t pay out a whole $1 in the month this dispute will last. But it’s still something from the effort involved in creating the content.

I know I didn’t violate copyright. But now I have to send proof that I can use this music track the way I did.

Youtube always initially sides with the people making the claim. They will immediately divert any revenue, or place advertisements on any content with DMCA disputes. They do not want to get sued by content creators, music studios, movie studios, etc… The last thing Youtube wants is to be thought of as place where people can violate copyright law. They are super strict, and err on the side of “don’t sue us”. That’s great if you have had your content stolen. Bad if someone makes an invalid claim against your content.

How do I get the claim removed?

This time was a bit different than previous claims, since the company I bought the music license from has undergone some changes in recent years. Previously, the simplest way to get the claim removed was to contact the rep for the music company, and they contacted AdRev to get the claim cleared. Since Digital Juice has switched to a subscription model, I am not sure how much action they will take on “legacy” customer’s behalf. I decided to attack this from 3 directions.

I gathered the details of the purchase (dates, order ID, etc…). I emailed Digital Juice’s customer service, filed a dispute with Youtube over the claim, and emailed AdRev directly. In all three instances I outlined the facts, and provided details about when I purchased the license for the track and copied the end user agreement for the content which says I can use it this way.

So, this can play out 3 ways. Digital Juice may contact AdRev and get them to remove the claim. AdRev may process my complaint and remove the claim. Or, after 30 days, Youtube should resolve the dispute in my favor.

UPDATE: That was quick.

Email from AdRev saying the claim was released. And an email from Digital Juice saying that the claim from Ad Rev is not from them, and they provided me with documents proving they own the song, and that I can use it.

It all sounds very fishy to me. The claim was removed.

I sent this reply to AdRev:

“Just so you know, Digital Juice provided me with information proving they own this copyright, and no one else. And they were not the ones who hired you. Someone is using your company to file fraudulent and inaccurate infringement claims. You guys should look into that. “

AdRev responded with “the claim is now removed” again.