Tumblr Is Now Blocking Uploads of Infringing Content…

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The technology exists, so why not use it?

Effective immediately, Tumblr has started blocking uploads of unlicensed music, while suggesting legal alternatives to users.

Songs are identified using fingerprinting IDs. The move is part of a major shift in how Tumblr approaches copyright, which also includes three-strikes account removals.


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As part of the new, three-strikes policy, any user with three uncontested incidents over an 18-month period grounds for account removal.  That resembles a longtime channel removal policy by YouTube, based on repeated DMCA complaints.

Make no mistake, Tumblr is still relying on DMCA protections, which force copyright owners to specifically request takedowns for every violation.  But moving forward, Tumblr’s newer terms will dramatically reduce the onerous takedown demands that the DMCA requires of rights owners.

A majority of Tumblr users are either teenagers or twenty-somethings.  The company was acquired by Yahoo in 2013 for $1.1 billion.

19 Responses

  1. jw

    This has actually been going on for a while.

    Soundcloud does the same thing.

    • Vail, CO

      I think it was first tested in December to see how many people it would piss off.

      • jw

        To be clear, this only stops users from uploading the files, they can upload the file to another host & still post it to their Tumblr. (Supposing Tumblr doesn’t automatically suggest a viable alternative.)

        • Willis

          There’s only so much they can do. At what point is it the responsibility of other parties to foot the expense of this (or the consumer to stop illegal acts)?

          • jw

            What’s interesting is, regarding files referenced from a non-tumblr server, that the file name isn’t enough to reliably identify an infringing file. And, for all Tumblr knows, the user could be linking to a perceftly legal file on the artist’s official website. The only context Tumblr has in order to make a copyright decision is whether or not the user has permission to upload the file to Tumblr’s servers. It’s inconceivable that a blacklist/whitelist could exist for every song. Moreover, to properly identify the song, the file would have to be downloaded to the Tumblr servers for analysis, which could conceivably be a violation in & of itself.

            All of this necessitates human oversight, & consequently the DMCA, which puts the responsibility on the rights holder (who is the only person who can reliably determine in which contexts the files are legally & in which they are illegally hosted). So there’s your answer, imo.

            Regarding the responsibility of the consumer him- or herself, apparently Tumblr decided that the “I have permission to upload this file” checkbox wasn’t enough, so I’m not sure any honor system is really practical. Not in the context of Tumblr, at least, which exists in large part to share copyrighted content.

          • FarePlay

            There will always be scammers who will find workarounds to cheat the system. Whether it is Medicare or music. What does have value is putting out the message that it’s wrong. We have lost an entire generation, who may never understand the concept of contribution and that’s just an unfortunate reality.

            But the days of militant piracy are waning, not so much for those who grew up with it, but for the next generation coming up, the generation embracing Tumbler. The individual who responded to JW about Tumblr testing the waters, makes a good point. Five years ago Tumblr would have been vilified for coming out against piracy.

  2. JTVDigital

    “So doesn’t YouTube using that technology to block infringing songs from entering its network in the first place?”: because when the content is monetized via Content ID, there is no reason to block it.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      That’s a good point, perhaps the bigger issue around YT isn’t illegal uploading but monetization of what is claimed.

      • jw

        Agree that the solution on YT is monetization, rather than banning.

        But as someone who uses Tumblr regularly, it seems really bizarre to hear that called “illegal uploading.”

        An mp3 uploaded (or even referenced from another server) is the most nondescript way to post a song. Soundcloud & YouTube both offer much more visual presentations, & are less likely to get passed over in a Tumblr feed. It’s also much more work, because you have to add the metadata (including artwork) manually. So it’s kind of a last resort. (Well Spotify is truly the last resort, because not everyone can play a Spotify track.)

        Furthermore, the player on Tumblr is very primitive. You can’t make playlists of songs you’ve saved, the way you can on a site like YouTube, you have to play each track manually. So I think it’s much more of a discovery-oriented platform than a site like YouTube, which is trying hard now to be their users’ cloud library. I don’t listen to songs on Tumblr I’m already familiar with. And I don’t return to songs to listen to them, because, frankly, it’s just not a great platform for listening to music, compared to youtube/soundcloud/spotify/itunes/almost anything else that was designed for or has been tailored towards that purpose.

        The purpose is discovery. Tumblr is more about the feed, & content constantly crossing your dashboard… YouTube is more about having everything all in one place, & you go there to search for things. If I discover something on Tumblr, I’m going to go straight to Spotify to add it to a playlist, or write down a note to find it on vinyl, or what have you.

        I guess my point is that not all uploads are created equal. I’m all for pointing posters to “legit” versions (provided there’s not a sacrifice in quality), but if the user is uploading as a last resort & it keeps a user from being able to share a song, I think that’s net-negative for the artist.

        Maybe a positive side effect would be that if people start embedding Spotify songs in lieu of uploading mp3s, that could potentially spur Spotify signups. But that’s at the expense of artist exposure.

        • Anonymous

          “it seems really bizarre to hear that called “illegal uploading.””

          That’s just because you’re a thief, jw.

          • Anonymous


    • Versus

      Yes, there is reason to block it, if, for example, you consider YouTube’s pay-out rates to be pathetically low, non-transparent, and completely variable.

      So it should be an opt-in situation, where YouTube only allows content which IP owners have specifically opted in to allow it use. But even an opt-out would be fine, if it were easy to manage from the IP owner end.

      The DMCA takedown system is clearly too onerous on IP owners, and has no penalties to infringers.

    • Obie

      “Pretty sure this is going to break the internet.”

      “Break the internet” is a motto of Silicon Valley morons.

    • Obie

      “Pretty sure this is going to break the internet.”

      “Break the internet” is a motto for Silicon Valley morons.

  3. GGG

    Imagine if they blocked copyrighted photos and gifs too. Tumblr would basically cease to exist.

  4. FarePlay

    Google / YouTube are coming under lots of unfriendly fire and I think it is going to get worse. I’m not sure YouTube is immune from a class action suit from content creators after learning more about their deal sheet.

    My point. Yahoo and Bing, as small as they are, are the only possible contenders to grab some market share from Google. If Yahoo provides positive alternatives for creators they may just be able to gain some traction. Tumbler is a logical place to start.