Sampling Mumbo Jumbo: Minecraft YouTuber receives copyright claims on hundreds of videos in a matter of hours

Readers will remember that a few days ago Thomas Key, a JD student at Chicago-Kent Law School, discussed the pending CJEU referral on Pelham [Katposts here and here]. Now Thomas is back with yet another sampling story.

Here's what he writes:

Sampling Mumbo Jumbo: Minecraft YouTuber receives copyright claims on hundreds of videos in a matter of hours 

Minecraft Kat
In the early morning hours of May 19, 2019, popular Minecraft YouTuber, Mumbo Jumbo received a torrent of email notifications which alerted the YouTuber that his videos were facing copyright claims. The emails persisted until more than 400 videos were claimed; the claims were likely automated, coming from Warner Chappell Music at a rate of 30 claims per minute. Mumbo Jumbo initially disputed these claims, noting that he had a written agreement to use the allegedly-infringing intro song, Can't stop me by ProleteR. ProleteR, however, had sampled Gene Chandler’s 1967 song, Nothing Can Stop Me, which Warner Chappell owns; he did not receive sample clearance for use in online videos (perhaps not at all) and Mumbo Jumbo’s videos were claimed as a result. Now, Mumbo Jumbo must begin the laborious process of rectifying his catalogue of videos, one at a time

Mumbo Jumbo 

British YouTuber Mumbo Jumbo began uploading to the site in 2012; he has since amassed more than 3 million subscribers. His videos are based on the popular video game, Minecraft, which may have just surpassed Tetris as the highest-selling game of all time; he does “tutorials…to try and make you better, and hopefully give you something you can show off to your friends.” At the beginning of many of his videos, he featured four seconds of the song Can't stop me by ProleteR; at the end of his videos he featured a similarly short clip of another ProleteR song, April Showers. In the last two months his Minecraft videos (excluding his discussions of these copyright claims) have ranged from ten minutes long to three and a half hours long; although the use is miniscule in relation to both the original songs and the resulting videos as wholes, the use was flagged by YouTube’s Content ID system. 

Content ID 

Google addresses copyright claims on YouTube through a variety of tools. While copyright owners may file takedown notices directly, qualifying copyright owners, “like a record label” may take advantage of an automated service that seeks to identify content that incorporates the claimed work. The aptly-named Content ID will scan YouTube automatically for possible infringement, prompting the copyright owner with the option to block, monetize, or merely track the videos that the service identifies. Owners may also mute the sound in the video, geo-block the video, or restrict the devices on which the video can be viewed. 

In response, the allegedly-infringing creator may remove or replace the music (if applicable), agree to share revenue with the claimant, dispute the claim, or accept the claim and do nothing. Disputing the claim gives the original claimant 30 days to respond, otherwise the claim expires; if the claimant upholds the claim, they may either issue a takedown on the video subject to an appeals process. If a takedown is issued, the infringing creator receives a copyright strike; while YouTube states that these strikes act “as a warning,” they may affect a creator’s “ability to monetize” and prompt a 90-day ban on livestreaming and archived livestreams if the infringement took place in such a stream. 

Repeated copyright claims have more significant consequences: creators who receive three copyright strikes are subject to a permanent ban from future uploading, their channels are subject to termination, and their videos are subject to removal. Much like in baseball, three strikes means “you’re out!” After 90 days, copyright strikes expire if the infringing creator completes YouTube’s Copyright School; the program consists of a Happy Tree Friends animation focused on U.S. copyright law and a four-question multiple choice quiz regarding infringement and licensing. As Article 17 of the new Digital Single Market directive may require some degree of “preventative or repressive action regarding copyright infringement” on the part of Google, and as YouTube continues to grow, the efficiency and effectiveness of current copyright enforcement measures is in need of close examination. 

ProleteR’s Songs

ProleteR is a French producer, influenced by “old school swing and jazz with heavy hip-hop beats, and soulful electro.” Two of his works, Can’t stop me and April Showers were licensed for use by Mumbo Jumbo as intro and outro songs, respectively. Each song derives its title from a song which ProleteR sampled, the first from Gene Chandler’s Nothing Can Stop Me, and the latter from Teddy Joyce and His Orchestra’s March Winds and April Showers. While Mumbo Jumbo properly licensed his use of ProleteR’s songs for his videos, Mumbo Jumbo does not have clearance to use the underlying samples used by ProleteR for the same purpose. 

Although Warner Chappell has been accused of filing spurious copyright claims on YouTube, even when none of their work was incorporated in the allegedly-infringing work, ProleteR implicitly acknowledged his lack of sample clearance for use in videos with a recent change to his “about” section on YouTube. His description currently reads, “PLEASE DO NOT USE MY MUSIC AS BACKGROUND FOR YOUR YOUTUBE VIDEOS, Thanks for your understanding.” For Mumbo Jumbo, however, the damage is already done. 

Rectifying the Situation 

Initially, Mumbo Jumbo responded to Warner Chappell’s claims by filing individual disputes to many of the claims; upon recognizing that his license from ProleteR would not permit use of the songs without clearance for the underlying samples, he realized that merely filing hundreds of individual disputes would be insufficient. In order to rectify these legitimate claims, Mumbo Jumbo faces an arduous process which he describes, “myself and my girlfriend, Vicky have been going through all of my videos on the YouTube Editor and manually removing all of the intros.” Then, he must continue to file individual disputes for each claim; Mumbo Jumbo describes this process as taking one or two minutes per dispute, possibly totaling 12 hours. This is quite a burden for independent creators on YouTube who operate as a small business, particularly noting the automated nature of Content ID claims. 

In order to avoid copyright issues regarding using music in YouTube videos, Mumbo Jumbo recommends to other creators
Not only should you ensure you have complete rights to the music you are using for your videos, but also ensure that you ask about any samples that have been used. Otherwise you could end up in this situation (And you wouldn't want that).
He also recommends considering the possibility that the sampled work itself sampled another prior work; American rapper, Logic faced this problem when sampling Can I Kick It by A Tribe Called Quest, which itself sampled Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side. Although traditionally a concern for music producers, Mumbo Jumbo shows us that sample clearance has necessarily become the purview of YouTube creators as well. 
Sampling Mumbo Jumbo: Minecraft YouTuber receives copyright claims on hundreds of videos in a matter of hours Sampling Mumbo Jumbo: Minecraft YouTuber receives copyright claims on hundreds of videos in a matter of hours Reviewed by Eleonora Rosati on Thursday, June 06, 2019 Rating: 5

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