Anyone who has ever interacted with YouTube knows about copyright notices. Whether you are a content producer who has had a video muted because there was music playing in a room during an interview with a company that sells speakers, a musician whose music is being used without permission or a user who has encountered ads for music in the video, you likely have some experience.
What most people don't know is that there are companies who represent audio copyright holders on YouTube. These companies scour YouTube looking for audio that infringes copyrights held by their clients. This is great for artists of any size, from local indie to international superstars. It is no wonder a number of these companies have emerged to help artists monetize their music on YouTube.
From time to time, however, these companies can get a little over-anxious. For example, this week, a company called Adafruit that produces Arduino-based products posted a simple video. It was basically an Arduino spinning to the song "America the Beautiful." YouTube copyright protector Rumblefish took issue with the music used and filed a copyright notice against Adafruit. YouTube contacted them to inform them that they could not monetize the video and Rumblefish could run their own ads on the video.
The problem? Rumblefish has no rights to the music. As it turns out, the song "America the Beautiful" is no longer protected by copyright. It was recorded at another time when copyright laws had fast expirations, and it has expired. Of course, just because a song has lapsed doesn't mean a particular recording can't be protected. Unfortunately for Rumblefish, the recording used here was by the US Navy Band. Since the Navy is a government organization, their recordings are all public domain.
Clearly Adafruit has disputed the claim. They chose the song and recording specifically because it was entirely in the public domain, so this is quite a shock. It is not, however, the first time Rumblefish has made a ridiculous claim. In 2012, a video of a guy walking in a park and eating leaves had a takedown notice because Rumblefish claimed to own the birds chirping in the park.
Perhaps YouTube should have a better process for verifying claims before taking down videos or issuing copyright notices.