Yesterday, a small section of Reddit was entirely focused on one story – how a YouTube video containing only the sounds of chirping birds was hit with a copyright claim. YouTube’s automated system flagged the content as belonging to music company, Rumblefish.

The video, uploaded by eeplox, which features him picking some fresh ingredients for a wild salad, with the faint sound of birds chirping in the background, has since received over 18,000 views.

As is the case with any incorrect copyright claim, YouTube user eeplox disputed it, but a Rumblefish employee somehow managed to review the video and still determine that the chirping birds belonged to the music company. Fortunately for eeplox, the vast, and highly unforgiving, community of Reddit rallied to his rescue, the story caught the attention of Rumblefish CEO, Paul Anthony, and the claim was removed.

As eeplox explains in the video’s description, the problem has been resolved, but Rumblefish was making money off of his personal video for a short period of time.

An Interview with Rumblefish CEO, Paul Anthony

We spoke to Rumblefish founder and CEO, Paul Anthony, to get the company’s side of the story. It isn’t clear how the video was flagged by YouTube’s system in the first place.

Paul says, “We’re pretty baffled on this actually. The YouTube content ID system identified a music composition from one of our artists and associated it with the video. We don’t have any visibility in to the inner workings of the YouTube system so we have no perspective there to share with you. It’s a weird use case though, that’s for sure.”

How the YouTube copyright claims process works

What Rumblefish does have access to is the process that takes place once a video has been flagged. Paul explains, “YouTube has a content ID system that identifies music and video content and associates it with its content partners, like Rumblefish.”

He adds, “When the system identifies a piece of content we get a message in our YouTube UI. Uploaders/users that believe a song has been misidentified say so by filing a dispute on the claim. We review each dispute individually in order to make a determination.”

Once the review has been completed, two things can happen, “We either release the claim because it was indeed not valid or re-instate it because we believed it was a valid claim. This is the part where we made a mistake with the Bird Song in addition to YouTube misidentifying the content…two points of failure there.”

In the case of eeplox, it would appear that the significant amounts of buzz generated on Reddit and Slashdot had the rights to his video reinstated as quickly as possible. So what would have happened under normal circumstances?

Paul explains, “We communicate with video uploaders daily. It’s actually very likely that we’d be communicating with them directly, if they reached out again and would have gotten to the bottom of this. It happens every day.”

Under normal circumstances, that don’t involve a buzzing Reddit thread, any YouTube user has two options available to them. They can once again go through the contact ID dispute process on YouTube, or possibly a more reliable method would be to contact Rumblefish at YouTubeContentID@Rumblefish.com. However, Paul was unable to give us a timeframe on how long this process would normally take.

While Rumblefish is reluctant to release any information on how many claims it receives through YouTube, Paul does tell us, “Across all services, clients and users – we have over 5 million videos online using Rumblefish music in their soundtracks. The ticker on our site gives an indication of the number of videos that have used one of our songs.”

The System is Broken

So what went wrong with this YouTube video in particular? According to Paul, “This happened because the video wasn’t reviewed thoroughly enough. The claim should not have been re-instated. It was clearly an oversight,a  mistake and that’s very upsetting to us.” He goes on, “We’re going to update our review process in order to do a better job at identifying content manually. We’re also looking into other software tools that can help us with content identification.”

It’s obvious that the system is broken. Between YouTube’s bizarre flagging system, and Rumblefish’s own manual review failing, clearly something needs to be done about it.

Asking Paul about what Rumblefish and YouTube are doing together to solve the problem, he says, “We’re continually working on how to do a better job together. The scale of the issue is quite large with YouTube dealing with billions of videos and claims and Rumblefish dealing with millions. We are constantly making suggestions to a very receptive YouTube regarding how to improve the process. They’re very engaged and always looking to improve their offering. Scale is a real challenge for everyone involved though.”

Putting out the Fire

But in the case of eeplox’s video, it’s Rumblefish that has caught most of the flak. Paul Anthony took to Reddit itself yesterday to explain the company’s position, and the post received over 1,500 comments. Paul says, “I believe in the community at Reddit. They can be just as brutal and irrational as they are intelligent, but the community seems to have good MODs and a community that, ultimately, wants to have a constructive discussion.”

The Reddit attempt may not have appeased all users, as some continued to attack Rumblefish with a vengeance, but at least something of a conversation was had.

Rumblefish has been in the business for a while, licensing music from independent artists for over 15 years, but there are obviously a few kinks that need to be ironed out in the system.

Speaking about the music industry, Paul says, “The great news is that the landscape is growing for all content creators, consumers and professionals alike. The bad news is that there are going to be lots of copyright car-accidents as the ecosystem of creators expands from professionals only, to all of us. Ultimately, a world with more creators creating is a better one, we all just have to be respectful of one another and cooperative. Better for all creators during the journey that way.”

Do you think Rumblefish’s explanation is sufficient? Let us know in the comments.