Warning: Universal Music Is Ripping Down ALL Facebook Cover Videos

Image: Girl singing with 'banned' symbol over it. Universal Music Publishing Group is actively ripping down Facebook cover song videos
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Uploading cover song videos to Facebook?  You might want to stop doing that.

Last year, Universal Music Publishing Group, the largest publisher in the world, started ripping down Facebook cover videos.  Long story short: Facebook and UMPG couldn’t agree on a royalty agreement for the songs being covered.  So the big guns were pointed at everyday Facebook fans singing songs from their favorite artists.

Now, those guns are getting even bigger, with UMPG waging an all out assassination against Facebook cover videos.  And, the accounts that contain them.

So why can’t Facebook and Universal work it out, instead of terrorizing confused fans?  That’s a good question, though for now, you might want to stick to YouTube (which does have licenses).

Artist vs. publisher vs. fan…

Basically, a ‘cover video’ refers to any performance of a song already written and copyrighted.  So, if you pick up an acoustic guitar and perform ‘Thinking Out Loud’ by Ed Sheeran, that’s a cover.  The only issue is that UMPG owns the copyrights to that underlying song (which consists of the notes and lyrics).  So they can legally rip it down if they’re not receiving payment for it.

Ed Sheeran Desperately Trying to Repair Fan Relationships as Facebook Rips Down Cover Videos

The only other problem is that Ed Sheeran actually wants you to cover his music.

Because if you’re covering ‘Thinking Out Loud’ and sharing with your followers, you’re probably a pretty huge fan.  Which means you’re likely to buy valuable stuff down the road, like concert tickets, albums, and t-shirts.  All of which may explain why Ed Sheeran has stepped in to reinstate deleted videos and personally apologize to fans.

But UMPG doesn’t like that.  So Ed Sheeran is fighting with them, and whoever else owns the song.  Actually, we’re not even sure who’s ripping down what anymore, as other major publishers seem to be getting involved.

Make sense?  Not to music fans.

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“It’s a COVER and yet I’m being threatened.”

Now, this is about to get seriously ugly.  As Facebook struggles to hire the right lawyers and sign the right deals, it’s becoming a bloodbath out there.  Suddenly, we’re starting to hear from more Facebook users with ripped-down videos and penalized accounts.  UMPG looks like it’s stepping up the assault, with videos from other artists getting yanked.

That includes Rihanna, who may get involved following an incident involving fan Christina Hall.  “I was just notified that I committed copyright infringement on my latest cover of ‘Unfaithful’ by Rihanna,” Christina wrote DMN.

“I love music and it’s my dream to make it in music one day. But having my videos taken down is very discouraging and frustrating because it’s a COVER and yet I’m being threatened.”

“This is horrible and I feel bad for every struggling singer who is dealing with copyright on their covers.”

Facebook: “Our policy is to delete the accounts of repeat infringers.”

Hall received a complaint from UMPG executive David Benjamin, passed along by Facebook.  The message firmly states that a specific video was removed, while warning that others should proactively be removed as well.  If other violations are found, the entire account can be nixed.

Earlier, an Ed Sheeran fan had her account suspended, with her cover video removed.

“These are the messages I got,” Hall continued.  “I was even threatened with not being able to post on my own Facebook if I was accused of copyright again.”

Fun stuff!

More as this develops.

33 Responses

  1. Remi Swierczek

    Universal SHOULD RIP OUT THE MUSIC SUICIDE WISH from the minds of confused management!

    $300B music business is obvious to any logical outsider.

    Pursuit of $25B streaming and advertising MUSIC TOMB, we hope by 2025, is beyond INSANITY. We are witnessing MUSIC INDUSTRY SUICIDE at UMG request.


  2. ©

    Remi, you stole my business and I take this very seriously! I can guarantee even more too, the industry is LEAVING $400 BILLION just on the TABLE due to not using MY INSTANT MOMENT MONETIZATION!

  3. Paul Resnikoff

    This is sad, two major companies can’t work something out, leaving the artists trying to clean up the mess.

    Reminds me of another group of people that can’t work things out (in Washington).

    In both cases, you’re the one paying for it.

  4. Anonymous

    This is a bad situation. The immediate solution is simple: don’t post cover versions directly to Facebook. Instead, post the cover version to Youtube, and then share the Youtube video to Facebook. Youtube has licenses in place. That will keep you out of trouble.

    The problem is that Facebook isn’t going to tell you that. They see Youtube as a competitor. They only care that they are DMCA-compliant. I think it’s horrible that Facebook is punishing these fans by threatening to delete their accounts. Fans should not be punished for Facebook’s lack of proper licensing. They just need to be educated on the correct way to make those cover versions available so that right owners get properly compensated. And if Facebook wants people to share videos that contain music, they need to get licensed.

    • Dr. Jules

      Not only are fans being targeted, small time musicians earning a little extra income, or perhaps their only income, can be destroyed by this if there facebook accounts are taken down. Some musicians get lucky and get big music deals, others struggle at the bottom and are frankly being pissed on by those who made it and promote their music. I had a cover of Boys of Summer blocked by universal, on Facebook and on Youtube (U.S. only). The version was nothing like the original, half in German, and had a lot of original video content. With a few changes I could actually make it my own song, in fact I may do that, and turn it into a song ripping into universal music for being so petty and pathetic with malicious effect.

  5. Fred

    How about they go after and secure proper artist compensation from the likes of Spotify and Pandora? Instead of wasting their time on people singing in their bedroom!!

    • Tony (working artist)

      It’s the people in their bedrooms who usually can’t afford the legal staff.

  6. Sandra B

    “It’s my dream to make it in music one day,” she says. That is exactly the point. She wants to use other songwriters’ property, theirs and others’ hard work and money spent on marketing etc, to get attention and make money herself for her benefit. Write your own songs, then, or pay for that song covered like copyright law requires. Copyright protections are to encourage people to create original work by allowing them to earn money from all uses of it — or to let others use it how the owner wishes — and not to let other people use it for them to make money from it now or in the future. Publishers protect that because they pay a lot of money to songwriters and work hard to help them make money to earn a living. Very few songwriters are recording artists so they don’t make money from other stuff.

    • Anonymous

      no, Not really, she is using other artist to learn and improve her singing. She is becoming an artist because of the songs she loves and sing. The way you describe it, NO ONE SHOULD SING, unless they wrote the song. That’s not the way it works, you learn music by using other people’s music.
      when you are famous, you should be famous for what you wrote, but while you are learning, you should look up to people who inspire you.

      • Tom C

        Exactly! How many artists didn’t perform cover songs in bars etc before they became famous? Learning covers and performing them is part of what keeps music alive; it benefits everyone.

  7. Goethe

    In addition Google and YouTube are also meddling with any non-left-wing media sources in an attempt to dominate and control their own political agenda, ideology over the public. Won’t work.

    TRUTH IS: no one can ultimately control the Internet, not Universal, Google or YouTube, no government nor financial institution. You have a Pandora’s Box in an authentic sense. Entire industries have already fallen or transformed under this paradigm and it’s only getting started.

    If YouTube becomes too restrictive, people will simply go elsewhere and Universal will be chasing them FOREVER.

  8. Versus

    The “fans” need to be educated in copyright law and the procedure to do a cover version. You are using someone else’s intellectual property.

    Don’t like that deal? THEN WRITE YOUR OWN SONG.

    “Ed Sheeran actually wants you to cover his music.”
    Then he should either let his fans know how to do it properly, or take it out of copyright and put it in the public domain.

    • King Sholomo

      No no no need boy. Ed Sheeran should sing and so should his fans. He shouldn’t be an IP teacher. This issue will be resolved quickly once Facebook properly licenses he music. I wonder when that happens if the artists will be properly paid from the labels. My guess is no

    • King Sholomo

      You must be in law school albeit not a good one. Educate the fans on Ip law? Lol. I really hope you’re under 21. Wasn’t this the argument used in 2001 against Napster? How did that pan out?

  9. VallinSFAS

    Just post the LINK to YouTube, or Soundcloud, or Tumblr, or Google+, or WordPress-la-la-la…

  10. Jonathan

    Small mistake here- a song does NOT simply consist legally of the notes and lyrics. There is a third element: the chords. It’s the difference between singing the melody and lyrics to Happy Birthday over the appropriate chords, or the chords to the Darth Vader theme from Star Wars- the latter wouldn’t sound correct, now would it?

    • Marc

      Sorry small mistake here Jonathan…
      Chords are NOT copyright protected!
      Online melody and lyrics are.

  11. Alec

    I wonder how this affects people who do cover videos via live stream on Facebook. Anybody have info on that? Anybody at DMN know anything on that one? I have a friend who regularly gets on Facebook live stream to take requests and cover music for his friends and fans. Those live streams stay get posted to his page permanently after being live. Is that a concern? Also, do we know if it’s strictly music owned by Universal that’s being pulled down? Or are all the major publishing companies about to get in on that? Also, what if you’ve secured the appropriate license to cover the song? Is there a way to properly indicate that and avoid this issue? Would love your thoughts, DMN!

  12. Anonymous

    Here’s a question – what about cover videos that are published on YouTube, but then shared on Facebook (instead of organically uploaded on Facebook). Is that getting flagged as well?

  13. Britt

    Universal Music isn’t just ripping down covers. I’m active duty military, stationed in Texas. My husband is stationed in Alaska, and we have been separated for over a year. We recently met in Seattle for one day in order to fulfill a dream of mine: To see Coldplay in concert. I took a 30 second clip of one of our favorite songs and shared it will my <200 Facebook friends. The band encouraged phone use during their concert. I figured a short clip would be fine. I wasn't using it commercially or making any sort of profit from a 30 second clip…similar to ones found on Coldplay's social media websites. Anyhow, received the threatening notification from FB today regarding David Benjamin's complaint. It's nice to know they're attacking the little people who are simply trying to enjoy the music of some of their favorite bands with no malicious intent…

    • Melanie

      Hi Britt,
      I went to a Bruno Mars concert recently and also have the same problem, but with Twitter instead of Facebook. Do you know if its possible to appeal the post or would deleting the posts work? I’m also scared for my Facebook as that has happened to me before.

  14. Wendy

    Does anyone have any updates on this. Have just had my sons second cover ripped down 🙁 They are less than a minute long and he is only 12 years old.

  15. Joseph D

    My personal account was disabled a couple weeks ago permanently over this and Facebook denied my appeal to have it reinstated.

    I’ve been a member of Facebook for 12 or so years and have recorded numerous covers on both piano and guitar. When I received the first post block over a cover I did 6 years ago I honestly thought it was just an error and will admit that I did not take any action to go through any of my videos and remove them. After the second post block from another cover from years ago that I did, that is when I went through what I believed were all of my videos and deleted any covers of songs that I believe would have been an issue however having been on Facebook for a long time I had amassed a large collection of videos and must have either missed one or it was not visible in my history as I received a 3rd block which ended in my personal account being disabled.

    I’m now just going to the mat and warning other musicians and artists that if you’ve been warned once already you really need to go through and delete all your videos with any copyrighted songs no matter how small because repeated strikes will definitely risk you losing your account while Facebook and the recording industry is on this nonsense.

  16. SajulMusic

    Is it now allowed to upload cover videos on Facebook cause Facebook signed a deal with Universal Music in December and with Sony in January?

    • SajulMusic

      (I wrote an email to Universal Music with this question last week but they didn’t answer yet)

  17. ZJS

    UMG/ Facebook is now blocking my music that I own the rights for and wrote, I only use Facebook to promote my music, now that I have my songs being released by UMG, My songs are being muted. This is devastating because all my music is there. Why have Facebook.