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Chris Feldbacher
Chris Feldbacher

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Facebook and YouTube bots block classical music artists for copyright infringement

Recently, musicians have begun to complain massively and quite actively about the blocking of video recordings of well-known classical music on YouTube and other social networks, such as Facebook. They are blocked due to copyright infringement, but the composers who wrote these works died hundreds of years ago. The problem lies in the imperfection of content recognition algorithms used in modern services. Why is this happening and what to do about it?


A few weeks ago, Adrian Spence went live on Facebook to show a recording of a performance by the Mozart Trio, also known as the Kegelstatt Trio. At least he tried to do it, but suddenly something went wrong.

The COVID-19 situation is increasingly forcing classical musicians and organizations to go online. However, there they are waiting for another, but no less faceless adversary: bots protecting copyright. More precisely, content identification algorithms that scan content through social networks and identify records that violate copyright.

 When COVID-19 abruptly interrupted the concert season, Spence began a weekly streak to fill the gap. These broadcasts, even with their modest virtual attendance of around 100 viewers each, were essential to support Spence's Santa Barbara chamber ensemble and audiences.


But only until that last moment, when online listeners began to disappear one by one.


Minutes after the concert started, Spence received a notification from Facebook that his video - the original performance of Mozart's 1786 hour work - somehow contained one minute and 18 seconds of someone else's work !!


Every active user of social networks has probably met these bots if they have ever blocked videos from the gym or from karaoke, due to the flagrantly illegal use of some playing song in the background.


These often overzealous algorithms are especially well suited for dealing with the sonic characteristics of pop music. They are trained on a myriad of “reference” recordings from record companies and rights societies.


At the same time, it turns out that the perception of automated copyright systems is not true when it comes to classics that have unique characteristics - both in terms of content and context. After all, classical music exists as a vast, repetitive repertoire of works in the public domain, distinguishable only through nuance and variation in performance. In other words, bots are not very attentive listeners.


After deleting the video, the only recourse for Spence was to enter into legal proceedings with Facebook through the appropriate form. Then began six hours of useless chats with various representatives of the social network. It took nearly four days to clear up the false claims.


Since then, copyright cancellation has become part of Spence's daily routine. Email correspondence was an obscure system of disputes.


Meanwhile, the story continued: recently, YouTube blocked a live broadcast of the ensemble, which was broadcasting a recording of Carl Nielsen's wind quintet - the video received five automatic copyright statements from various record companies at once. It got to the point that instead of music, a warning message appeared in the broadcast window, which explained the lack of video.

Oh yes, the times when you could take any track you liked and put it into your own videos are long gone. YouTube, Tiktok, Insta and Facebook are tightening the screws tightly: they block videos, music or even accounts, making it difficult for affiliates to drain the already difficult process. Of course, today there are still loopholes and free stock music, but copyright is making itself stronger and stronger, sipping thousands of pieces of content from social networks every day. Today we will talk about how to legally bypass copyright and push your video to YouTube or any other social network.

The struggle for copyright has been going on for decades. And in the days of offline, the issue was decided by money between the studios and was not available to the townsfolk. With the growing popularity of social networks, you could find any suitable track for your video, download, edit the video, post it on YouTube or Instagram and enjoy the likes. But now, services like YouTube are trying to cover up the rear and prohibit content with other people's music.


We are all a little Adrian Spence

The impossibility of broadcasting the performances of classical music performers was not only faced by the head of Camerata Pacifica. According to The Washington Post, an identical case happened with the pianist, teacher and composer Michael Sheppard, and there are many other examples of this war with the algorithms of YouTube and Facebook.


Sheppard broadcast live a performance of Beethoven's sonata, but the social network blocked the stream. In the description of the problem, it was said that the rights to approximately 150 seconds of the video belonged to Naxos of America.


The incident forced him to contact the technical support of the network, and in his message he wrote: “Beethoven died in 1827. His music is very popular. Please unblock it. "


Sheppard has encountered similar social media behavior before. Algorithms of popular resources have repeatedly blocked his broadcasts of performances of works by famous composers of classical music: Chopin, Bach and Faure. In some cases, live broadcasts continued, but without sound. The musician even had to post his message directly to Naxos of America on Twitter. The company responded to Sheppard's appeal two days later, claiming his videos had been unlocked.


The algorithms for combating illegal content used in Facebook and YouTube are really far from perfect, despite the fact that YouTube recently invested about $ 100 million in their development. A striking example is the situation around musicians and blogger Sebastian Tomczak, who posted on YouTube 10-hour recording of the most common "white noise". He received many notices of copyright infringement in 2018, although the video itself was posted on the service in 2015. Here's the story.

We hope that the owners of world famous sites will be able to solve these problems in the near future.

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