8 January 2018Copyright

YouTube white noise video hit by five copyright claims

A ten-hour YouTube video of white noise has been hit with five copyright claims, according to the video’s uploader.

Australia-based Sebastian Tomczak, who posts music and sound-related videos under the pseudonym ‘ littlescale’ to several platforms including YouTube, confirmed the developments on Twitter.

The claims include two on behalf of White Noise Sleep Therapy, with El Muelle Records, Rachel Conwell, and Silent Knights being the other claimants.

The video was uploaded in July 2015 by Tomczak, who teaches in the Elder Conservatorium School of Music at the University of Adelaide.

Tomczak told WIPR there is “something absurd” about white noise being copyrighted. “Previous copyright claims were against original works where I could prove that I had created them by providing the source files.”

White noise is the fuzzy, static sound often associated with a loss of signal on TV. According to the US National Sleep Foundation, it can be used for people that have difficulty sleeping as it can drown out background noise in the house.

Tomczak added that YouTube has now released the copyright claims on the video. “Even without releasing the claims, the impact was minimal as I do not make much money from YouTube at all.

“However, if I were to be more reliant on YouTube monetisation, this type of spurious claim might be a real issue. So I think that the Content ID system should be changed.”

Videos that get uploaded onto YouTube are scanned against a database of files that have been submitted to the platform by content owners, who decide what happens when a video on YouTube matches a work that they own.

Under YouTube’s policy, it states: “Content owners can set Content ID to block material from YouTube when a claim is made. They can also allow the video to remain live on YouTube with ads. In those cases, the advertising revenue goes to the copyright owners of the claimed content.”

Content ID claims can be disputed.

Claims like this are not uncommon. In 2015, WIPR reported that an hour-long video featuring the purring of a cat on a 12-second loop violated a copyrighted music composition called “Focus”, the rights to which are administered by record company EMI Music Publishing and collecting society PRS for Music.

“Anyone can create a copyright sound recording by recording noises—they don’t need to be musical or of any particular quality,” Phil Sherrell, IP and media specialist and partner at Bird & Bird, told WIPR.

“What seems to have happened here is that others who have created videos containing recording of white noise have uploaded them to YouTube, and registered them under YouTube’s Content ID System. They have then been automatically alerted by the system that someone else (the YouTuber, Mr Tomczak) has uploaded a recording with an identical audio ‘fingerprint’.

“The system is designed to catch people copying music without permission, but it seems that the technology can match any sound,” Sherrell said.

He said that just because Tomczak’s recording sounds the same as the previous recordings of white noise doesn’t mean that he will be liable for copyright infringement.

“If he didn’t copy the previous recordings and instead created his own white noise to record, then he should be fine.”

Simon Jupp, associate at Taylor Wessing, added that there are different courses of action to take depending on the circumstance if you receive a claim similar to this.

"In many cases, if the publisher removes the work immediately then this may resolve the dispute," he explained. "In more serious cases, the copyright owner may seek damages or a contribution of the legal costs it has incurred.

"However, the publisher will not want to remove the work or pay damages if there is no valid claim. If the publisher has created a different recording of the same type of noise then they will probably have a reasonable defence. If they have copied another recording then this may be problematic."

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More on this story

13 February 2015   A purring cat has fallen foul of YouTube’s copyright management system, Content ID, after two parties claimed that they own the rights to the sound.