Facebook Is Aggressively Ripping Down Cover Videos (Thanks to the Idiots At Universal Music Publishing Group)

Sarah Facebook Cover

When will the music industry learn?

Clearly never. Universal Music Publishing Group (among others) are now aggressively issuing takedown notices to Facebook for cover videos of their songs. Facebook complies with these DMCA notices and removes the videos immediately with a scary notice to the offending party stating “it is our policy to terminate the accounts of repeat infringers when appropriate.”

Let me get this straight, these exact tactics the major publishers and labels pulled in 2007 – 2011 on YouTube, which completely backfired, they now think are a good idea for Facebook?  Hell, why stop there?  Why don’t you start suing music fans again like you did back in the early 2000s?  That worked so well. Go start suing grandmas and tweens for illegally downloading music again. Great strategy.

+Fans Aren’t Going To Pay For Music Anymore. And That’s OK

Back in the early years of YouTube the majors were playing whack a mole trying to get YouTube to remove every single fan video that used any piece of their songs – completely ignoring the fact that this was far better (free) promotion than they could possibly pay for and was actually driving more people to buy their artists’ music anyway.  Eventually, the majors completely changed course and allowed the infringing content to stay up on YouTube.  YouTube created Content ID which helped track down their works to place ads on and start earning on.

LA based, indie singer/songwriter, Sarah Hollins was a recent victim of Universal / Facebook’s intimidation campaign when they removed her cover of DNCE’s “Cake by the Ocean” – 8 months after the fact, mind you.  Was her video ‘stealing’ views form DNCE’s official version?  Hardly.  She had only about 500 views on her video (contrast that with the 300M+ views the song has on YouTube).

When she logged onto Facebook, she saw this:

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What’s Universal’s play here?  Get all the videos off of Facebook because they can’t earn their paltry $0.001 per play they’re earning off of YouTube views?

Oh, they missed this one.  Better go yell at this kid, Universal.  Tell him Facebook will delete his account because he is infringing on copyright! What a criminal this according player is.

Yo, Joe Jonas, are you ok with the actions your publisher is taking? If not, speak up!

Hmm, maybe, the smart move is to win more listeners over to the song by allowing all covers so they’ll go buy the song on iTunes (which will earn them $0.91) or stream it on Spotify – which will earn them $0.007 or so.

Or not.

Universal has decided that the best move is to intimidate emerging artists who are honoring their songwriters with cover versions.

But Facebook is also at fault here too.  Why haven’t they come up with their own version of Content ID like YouTube has?  And create a video monetization possibility.  This would solve everyone’s problems.

Don’t throw the law at me.  I know the law.  But, newsflash, the laws will NEVER catch up to the rapidly evolving musical and technological landscape.  Yes, technically, artists need synch licenses from the publisher to release a cover video.  But, the industry (more specifically, Larry Mills with We Are The Hits) has worked this out for YouTube.  We Are The Hits enables any artist to legally post their covers to YouTube.  So, why hasn’t Facebook come up with this tech yet?  Or if they have, what’s the hold up?

+It’s Time To Completely Rethink How Songwriters Are Paid

Can David Benjamin at Universal Music Publishing Group please explain himself?  Seriously, why are you ripping covers down?  What’s your play?  Do you have one?  Or, are you employing the same idiotic tactics from a decade ago thinking this time around will be different?

Is this a negotiating tactic with Facebook to get them to monetize?  Or an attempt at higher rates?

Instead of ripping down videos via DMCA takedown notices, why not work with We Are The Hits (for Facebook like you already do for YouTube) so you have a record of all the covers out there using your music?  Since WATH posts the videos directly to the creator’s account, you could add whatever extra info you want (link to iTunes / Spotify or even edit the videos and include your own customizable preroll ads).

Do I want songwriters to get paid? Of course! I am a songwriter. Songwriter royalties are pathetic.  And I have proposed a completely new way to get paid a lot more – spoiler alert, it has nothing to do with ripping down unauthorized Facebook covers of emerging artists.

It Is Time To Completely Rethink How Songwriters Get Paid

But this has nothing to do with getting songwriters paid.  This has everything to do with major publishers and labels shortsightedness and complete inability to navigate the new music business.

I continue to be surprised by how stupid the major publishers and labels can be.  You’d think they’d learn from all of their mistakes dealing with the new technologies.  But no, they continue to employ failed strategies that only hold progress back and do absolutely nothing to benefit the artists and songwriters they claim to represent.

For fuck’s sake guys, emerging artists’ cover videos will ONLY HELP your songs.

Seriously though, please, anyone, explain yourself.  What’s your play here?

 

Ari Herstand is the author of How To Make It in the New Music Business, a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter and the creator of the music biz advice blog, Ari’s Take. Follow him on Twitter: @aristake

39 Responses

  1. Frank B

    “Back in the early years of YouTube the majors were playing whack a mole trying to get YouTube to remove every single fan video that used any piece of their songs – completely ignoring the fact that this was far better (free) promotion than they could possibly pay for and was actually driving more people to buy their artists music anyway. ”

    Laughable statement…. Has anyone shared with you the trends for SALES (as in BUY) for the last decade… I will save you the effort of looking it up…

    Shawn Mendes breaks 120k for number one.
    But then number ten is 13,261.
    Ouch.
    9,500 gives you number twenty.
    3,973 is number fifty.
    2,489 for number one hundred.
    And if you have 1,083 friends, you can chart in the top two hundred.
    Adele breaks 9 million (US only).
    An astonishing feat.
    Would be about 15 – 20 million, back in the day.
    3,900 gives you number one Heatseeker.
    218 charts you.

    That and a cup of coffee in from streaming revenues is what songwriters allowing (or being forced to allow) social media web sites like youtube and facebook has received from the concept of letting others post your music for free.

    Facebook is free to call up Larry Mills at WATH. They likely don’t want to set the precedent for paying something they make money off of for free right now. Easier to follow the youtube business model of wack a mole than pay songwriters for the use of their work to generate ad revenue…. Standing up for Facebook is really sticking it to the man Ari….

    Reply
    • I read every word

      Huh?

      “But Facebook is also at fault here too. Why haven’t they come up with their own version of Content ID like YouTube has? And create a video monetization possibility. This would solve everyone’s problems.”

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        Facebook should come up with a system to pay artists, but that is not the Music Industry’s fault. Facebook needs to take it’s billions of dollars and put it to use to protect songwriters and artists.

        Reply
  2. Anonymous

    Would it make any difference if users posted the cover version to Youtube, and the post the Youtube video to Facebook, rather than posting the video to Facebook directly? Or is UMPG issuing takedown notices in both scenarios?

    Reply
    • Dae Bogan @ TuneRegistry

      “Would it make any difference if users posted the cover version to Youtube, and the post the Youtube video to Facebook, rather than posting the video to Facebook directly?”

      Possibly. YouTube has a “through to audience” clause in its agreement with performing rights organizations that extends their grant of performing rights to third-party websites that host embedded YouTube videos. This means that websites do not have to adhere to DMCA for YouTube videos are already earning performance royalties via ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. (It’s important to note that other video hosting platforms, such as Vimeo, does not have a through to audience clause).

      That being said, I am not sure if this happens when posting a link on Facebook, which may be technically different than posting iframe code of the YouTube media player.

      Reply
      • kayPink

        it’s a mechanical royalty payable whenever a file is downloaded/streamed. Wherever the content is housed, that source is required to observe copyright law. Posting a link is posting text, not content. When you post on youTube, youTube pays. When you post a link on FB to a youTube source, youTube still pays.

        Reply
    • Rish ap Wiliam

      UMPG will usually be monetizing on YouTube, which would propagate through if the video is embedded on Facebook.
      The kicker is that Facebook de-prioritises YouTube videos, so the chances of the video showing up on other Facebook users’ feeds is minimal – they would have had to change their preferences to always show updates from that artist/page, which is rare.
      This article also doesn’t cover the face that Facebook’s Rights Manager (their version of Content ID – VERY basic) also scans live streams, so in theory even if an artist plays one cover in a live stream they broadcast the live stream could be terminated.

      Reply
  3. T-bag

    Can anyone post or point me to a link of an income stream comparison before and after napster? Or streaming? How much did you make before vs how much now?

    Reply
  4. Versus

    Universal is in the right here.
    It’s called intellectual property for a reason.

    “Hell, why stop there? Why don’t you start suing music fans again like you did back in the early 2000s? That worked so well. Go start suing grandmas and tweens for illegally downloading music again. Great strategy.”

    It is a great strategy; it’s called enforcing your intellectual property rights, which any industry based on IP rights must do if it is to survive.

    The mistake was inconsistent enforcement and disproportionate fines. Bur reasonable fines and penalties for infringers are completely justified.

    Reply
  5. Versus

    “emerging artists’ cover videos will ONLY HELP your songs.”

    Ah, the old “you’re being paid in exposure” argument. Not good enough. Pay for the work.

    Reply
  6. Mlm

    This has to do solely with performance rights. Facebook refuses to obtain the necessary blanket licenses from ASCAP, BMI, Sesac and Gmr, so they’re not paying performance royalties. This isn’t an issue on YouTube.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      Agreed. For those musicians who want to share videos of them performing cover versions, the solution is to post your video to Youtube, and then post that Youtube video to Facebook. Youtube has PRO licenses and ContentID, which allows the copyright owners to receive compensation for use of their song. Facebook doesn’t. UMPG is in the right to takedown videos that are posted directly to Facebook, that don’t go through Youtube.

      Reply
  7. anon

    This is exactly what needs to be done. IP owners should be enforcing the DMCA and taking down everything that hasn’t been licensed. Don’t sue grandmas and teens, go after the platforms and their business model.

    Why would Facebook ever create a content id system if they have no business interest in doing so. Aggregators like Facebook and YouTube are building empires off stolen IP – block everything and make them come to the table.

    Reply
  8. Todd

    One thing is TRUE in the article.. the Music business was unprepared for
    how fast the digital world moved into use. BUT.. lets make one thing CLEAR
    NO ONE is paying for ALL the music they get. That in turn is KILLING the
    music scene.. Slowly turning off possible GREAT musicians because there is
    not a clear way of making a living anymore.. Everyone is getting music for
    FREE and EVERYONE is complaining that new music is getting worse.. and
    if FOR SURE is. but.. YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.. There must be a change and an effort to find a way for Quality musicians to make a living.. and NOT just put out music to have it stolen. Or..the next 10 years will be the WORST music in our lifetime. But were all ready being musically dumb down. so.. maybe no one will be educated enough to know any better..

    Reply
  9. Christy Crowl @promusicdb

    “But this has nothing to do with getting songwriters paid. This has everything to do with major publishers and labels shortsightedness and complete inability to navigate the new music business.

    I continue to be surprised by how stupid the major publishers and labels can be. You’d think they’d learn from all of their mistakes dealing with the new technologies. But no, they continue to employ failed strategies that only hold progress back and do absolutely nothing to benefit the artists and songwriters they claim to represent.

    For fuck’s sake guys, emerging artists’ cover videos will ONLY HELP your songs.”

    I see both sides of this argument really well. In my opinion, there’s a layer to this that nobody talks about and that’s the fact that an artist/songwriter MAY NOT WANT OTHER ARTISTS to be covering their songs out there in the world, especially if the cover artists are using it as a tool to gain recognition for themselves, and not the original artist and/or songwriter, which let’s be honest, is the reason people do it. Sure, it’s flattering to some I’m sure. But, where does the creator’s wishes come into play in this digital world? Maybe the cover video is of bad quality and reflects poorly on the original song, what then? And did the cover video artist ever buy the actual song from the original artist/songwriter? (Like you mention that others will that see the cover video) And lastly, IF THE COVER ARTIST WAS USING THEIR OWN ORIGINAL CONTENT, this wouldn’t be an issue.

    In this instance, it seems as though Universal is enforcing its Intellectual Property Rights, while they still have them. And even if it is a legal strategy, I think it’s appropriate to make known that you need to think twice and do the right thing before just doing a cover video of someone else’s work and throwing it up on a digital platform to gain recognition for yourself.

    And really, what “progress” are you referring to? It doesn’t seem that there’s “progress” if all new artists can think of to do for recognition is recording cover videos of songs of other artists (who have put in the time and effort in their career) and posting them on a digital platform.

    So, no, that doesn’t seem like real “progress” to me. If new artists were posting original content, none of this would be an issue, except for the fact that the rates are low to begin with, and that songwriters need to be compensated in a timely and right-for-value fashion.

    Lastly, I’m a little sad that arguing about the rights of and doing a story on cover video artists is even a discussion. Why is there even an entitlement attitude to cover songs on video and put them up on YouTube? Sure I know it’s technically legal in the right performance situations… but, why isn’t it more about striving to be your own voice as an artist and contribute something NEW to the music economy?

    I hope that’s food for thought for some folks out there.

    Reply
    • Sarah Hollins

      I totally understand the sentiment of artists not necessarily wanting people to cover their work; however, the current trends are the current trends and there’s no going back from it. Artists as high up the food chain as Justin Timberlake cover other artists during their live shows and even covered artists for their upcoming movie soundtracks. Prince himself has covered other artists live and he’s the most notorious for not wanting his own work covered. It’s just the tide that we’re all rolling on at the moment and when you want to be a part of the business and a part of the moment, you ride the wave in your own style and with your own vibe.

      I personally find it cool if other artists cover my own original work because it means that my song resonated and had an impact. Shows like American Idol and The Voice are basically cover shows. The fans love it and they demand it and want the same from artists, like me, who they enjoy listening to. It becomes another facet of their experience with an artist. I have fans who love my original material but also have a slew of requests. I like to honor their wishes. I used to typically upload my covers to YouTube but then Facebook wouldn’t let YouTube videos play directly on their site which meant that people weren’t viewing it and these uploads were a waste of time. This is why I uploaded them directly to Facebook. I clearly will not be doing that anymore.

      I am a singer-songwriter who has been writing my own material since I was 12 years old. I continually put out new original material and am currently working on an EP of songs that I have written and will actually be including a cover on that as well. Self funded, (and Kickstarter funded) indie projects typically take much longer to create because of the smaller budgets. During this time of creation, I (and many other artists like me) like to release covers to keep our fans happy and interested while they wait for the new music. Sure, we sometimes like to send out little snippets of what we’re working on; but sometimes that can be hard to do since the songs aren’t fully finished or realized or perhaps we want to debut them in their completed and intended form. Putting out cover material helps us do that.

      Also, there’s a reason why most bar bands play covers, most wedding bands play covers and requests, and most bands that play corporate or private events play covers. People want to hear songs they already know, but in a different way. Like I said, it’s the tide we’re rolling on and criticizing indie artists for playing the game and trying to make a career by being smart is ill informed and closed-minded.

      Music would be stagnant and irrelevant if it never grew and evolved and if we were all only listening to the same things that our parents did or were making it/promoting it in the same way they all did it back in the day. Times and cultures change and you either change with them or get left behind. I personally love listening to old Aretha Franklin tunes, various jazz standards, and classic rock staples, but I also love the innovation and bravery of Frank Ocean’s brilliant new record, the cool and clean tones and arrangements of LANY, and the new Kings of Leon single, “Waste a Moment” just to name a few. You can enjoy the classics and the “way things used to be” while also living in the present moment and enjoying the new flavors music has to offer. It doesn’t make you a sell out, shallow, or one of the mindless masses. It makes you a true lover and champion of art, no matter what period in which it’s made.

      Reply
      • Richard D

        Hi, Sarah –

        I see that you would feel complimented if anyone were covering your music. I don’t know if anyone is (meaning no offense by that) but I think that at this stage in your career you have nothing to lose if someone does because any attention is better than none. Fair enough. But you also make a regular point of posting covers of other people’s music, so you have an interest in that being okay and unrestricted, because you have something to gain by it, right? You place a value on their music because it’s more compelling to put up than your own. (And please don’t be mad – if Justin Timberlake covers someone, it’s because he thinks the song suits him better than something he might write for himself or have written for him.) One flaw in this article is that the author insists that covers are good for the original artist, but I think a citation is needed.

        But there are two points here: One, you choose to think it’s cool to have people cover you. Good for you. What if I don’t want that for my own work? And two: Do you think money doesn’t change hands when a cover is done elsewhere? I wish you success in your career – and at some point you may come to rely on it as your only source of income. I hope at that point you are able to be as willing for your material to be free to others. But I can’t honestly imagine how you will unless you have no other choice because you’ve given up all rights to your work.

        Good luck.

        Reply
        • Allan Olley

          Note that you are responding to a response to a post by Christy Crowl who was saying that money is not the only issue, if that is so then the fact that covering music is usually payed for is insufficient to justify it. Even if wedding singers, bar bands and so on are usually paying licenses for the songs (or the venue they are playing at pays) that does not preclude that they are not covering them in a crappy way that reflects badly on the original artist, so a stop should be put to that too I guess (if we accept the premise that objecting to covers is about more than money).

          The reason that Sarah Hollins brought up all those examples of cover music is to demonstrate that if artists are so opposed to covers, not because of money but less tangible reasons, then they are fighting against a trend that goes far beyond the ease of internet videos and that almost all artists are part of.

          Now I think what your post suggests is you disagree with the original post and that money is pretty much all that intellectual property can secure and once there is enough money flowing you can’t really complain about covers, which is an understandable position and not one that the post you replied to denied. So you seemed to me to reply to an argument that was not made (by Sarah Hollins at least) which I find weird.

          Reply
      • Versus

        So: Do the writers and publishers get paid when these major artists cover their songs live?

        Reply
        • IYI Bashar

          Yes. The venue (like Facebook) is hosting a public performance of a work so they need a public performance license from BMI, ASCAP, SESAC and/or GMR. In the case of BMI-Live a royalty will be directly distributed to writer if a set list is filed. If not it the fees collected are distributed on a statistical basis. It’s not perfect but there is a royalty.

          Reply
  10. Dylan Robert

    Fans can cover my music all day longas long as Facebook gets a license. Every other business that publicly performs music gets a license. Facebook is 200 billion business. They can’t afford a license? This is 1999 thinking in 2016. Zuckerberg has $40 Billion dollars what a greedy asshole.

    Reply
  11. This is STUPID

    Same thing happened to me. That freakin UMG submitted a request to Facebook to take down my cover video of Applause by Lady G. Damn. Don’t get their point. -_____-

    Reply
  12. Anom Nom

    What about covers and remixes on SoundCloud and having those links posted on FB?

    Reply
  13. Rish ap Wiliam

    One thing that UMPG may not have thought through is that by taking the videos down, in theory they can’t be monetized in future. As far as I’m aware Facebook is experimenting with monetization primarily in the US, and the Facebook Rights Manager can be used to simply identify content (unless UMPG are manually scanning for content) to which a policy could be applied in theory at a later date.
    I would understand this policy if the artists were generating a revenue from the content, as was the case with YouTube until ContentID reached a certain level of sophistication, but at the moment the artists are not generating any revenue, and with the way Facebook works, unless you save a video/post it’s almost impossible to find one even from a few hours ago unless you liked the page or are friends with that person. It’s not like YouTube where you can easily search or check your history, or covers might come up as suggested videos etc. (although this does happen on Facebook but tends to be from the user’s content).
    Facebook has also undermined it’s advertising offering by not being transparent and applying YouTube’s metrics as to what constitutes a played video, so advertisers are suspicious that they will get charged for ads where the user really isn’t engaged. Facebook have a lot of trust to re-build here.
    And finally, there’s the fact that Facebook doesn’t have a subscription offering, which may be the long term play of UMPG and others. YouTube Red is being rolled out and if publishers want they can only have their content available on YouTube Red, which would mean that the content which is already on YouTube is only available to subscribers of YouTube Red or Google Play (sub to one and you get the other). The revenue here is much higher than ad driven YouTube, and with more and more people using ad blockers it’s a guaranteed income – something businesses can plan against. Ad blockers are killing websites and will do the same for free video/music unless they are reigned in. Imagine if you could add a device to your radio so that all ads were silenced…

    Reply
  14. Kimberly

    My daughter’s band’s (some members Are still in their teens) posted a video of a Maroon 5 cover in April, had less than 200 views and they got the same notification today. Thank you UMPG for sucking the ambition and life out of young artists!

    Reply
  15. Alley

    Hi. My son received the same warning on two covers he posted. The covers that were uploaded directly to FaceBook (not to YouTube) are the ones that got identified as infringement and were taken down by FaceBook. The videos that were uploaded directly to YouTube first, and a copy of the URL only shared on FB were not / have not been taken down. So, are videos that he uploads to YouTube first and then copies the URL to the YouTube be at risk (pulled) too?

    Reply
    • Geraldine

      Such a shame. Rebecca James music is an emerging singer songwriter in the UK , she recently posted an Ariana Grande cover on her facebook and its been removed really quickly ! She racked up almost 75 000 views in just a few days. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2yoRRQbxLY

      She had amazing comments on there, a lot of people saying she was better than Ariana so was a huge boost for her, but its been removed. Checked lots of other singer songwriters covers and they are still there. How come Universal got to hers so quickly !

      Reply
  16. Dibakar Bala

    obviously there’s no doubt about the fact that people behind facebook are no fools. so i would say it’s better to trust the process of evolution in the world of music and look towards a brighter future.

    Reply
  17. Robin

    i dont want any credit or something… i made a cover of a song i like and sang to the karaoke its not even the original song it was a track from youtube and i made a video and i sang to it…. ThANX to [email protected] to rip this off my FB page i am saddened. i dont get any payment here or i am not doing this to steal i titled the video too saying the artist name and the song name plus mentioned my name to it saying a cover done by me…. now is that stealing huh is that making profit…. this is bullshit… i am pissed and upset at the people who are ripping the people with covers and at FB too….

    Reply
  18. Shawna

    Huh, I just had this happen to me. For a song that Universal doesn’t even own. And all I got was a contact-info-less form letter from David Benjamin’s email when I tried to contact him about it. Not cool.

    Reply
  19. Adam

    I manage digital content for an app that actually HAS RIGHTS to use the UMG content, and have come into work today to all of our accounts shut down from these peanuts clicking “report” on all of the content.
    Seems as though it’s not just regular users being harassed.
    The amount of times I have submitted the same email with a letter of confirmation that I can use the content legally is ridiculous. It’s every few weeks between UMG and Sony. It’s pretty crazy that someone can just go around clicking “Copyright infringement” on whatever they want, when they have no idea about it themselves.

    Reply
  20. Doug & Pauline Larson

    That is such bs of them, shame on Facebook, they shouldn’t do that, .covers do soo much for the person that is performing it and the band that made the song. Rediscovery is such a huge inspiration. We need this, so the music doesn’t die

    Reply
  21. Vince

    My facebook account has been disabled because 3 of my cover videos uploaded 8+ months ago all got reported within a month timeframe. Wish I got a warning before this happened. Trying to appeal 🙁 I’ll never upload a video of me playing piano or flute on facebook ever again. I’ve lost contact info of so many of my friends.

    Reply
  22. Elle S

    I just received a scary Facebook infringment letter from David Benjamin as well for my cover of “Send My Love (To Your New Lover) 🙁

    Reply
    • Vince

      If you have any other covers I would delete them now. My FB is still disabled and FB hasn’t replied to me yet. Desperately need my account back 🙁

      Reply

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