A glimpse at some of what I’m dealing with in maintaining our online presence
UPDATED JAN 6, 2021
This may seem esoteric and of little interest to the community of Holy Trinity. I might have agreed 10 months ago before we really posted any online content other than on our website. However, communications and technology tasks have often fallen to me and so I wound up in the world of Youtube content and automated copyright claims.
At first I didn’t understand the claims and had to do some homework. After I got over the initial shock, I didn’t think too much about them. The odd time something was actually under copyright, I did nothing. I let the Youtube system do its thing. However, many of the claims were for works that I knew to be in the public domain. I found Hymnary.org very useful in confirming this and in providing evidence for the dispute.
As time went on and the claims continued, I started to become quite annoyed with the amount of time taken up by disputing copyright claims on public domain work. At this point I started logging the time spent. I’m not exactly sure what percentage is claimed, but I estimate it to be somewhere in the 10-15% range.
Till this week, it was merely a nuisance as the copyright owners always capitulated. However, this week two rights holders decided to have a more serious go at me.
There are two corporations who have denied my claims of public domain use of music: Hexacorp and BMG. The two melodies being claimed are Angels from the Realms of Glory (used in Christmas Story) and Alleluia, Sing to Jesus (used in Love Divine). In both cases the claims made are that the video uses the song’s melody.
Regent Square is the melody name given to the tune we use for Angels from the Realms of Glory. It was written in 1866 by Thomas Smart and published for the first time the following year.
Hyfrydol, is an exceptionally famous melody used for many things. It was not the original melody for Love Divine (Charles Wesley, 1747), but it may be the most famous. It was written in 1830 by Welsh Composer Rowland Hugh Prichard and first published in 1844.
It is entirely possible that both of these companies have specific recordings of these songs for which they own performance rights. However, the claims being made are to ownership of the melody, which they clearly do not and can not have. This would be bad enough if there was a mechanism by which to hold them to account. However, there is none. The cards are pretty much all held by these big rights companies. The threat is all on the video creators. These companies face no repercussions for claiming public domain works and there is nowhere even to report this.
In trying to find an avenue to meaningfully address this injustice, I have done extensive searching online. It has only confirmed my suspicion that this is an utterly unaddressed problem with no clear path to resolution. In a case that touches on Fair Use rather than public domain, NYU School of Law ran afoul of the system and even with all their legal acumen could not find an official avenue to address the problem.
Issues with automated copyright claims and the issue of so-called “Copyfraud or Overclaiming” are laid out very clearly here by iRights, a German-based digital rights advisor to the non-profit sector.
At this point I don’t have any particular ask of anyone except to say that they should not be afraid to push back at least a little. I expect that very few people challenge this authority when faced with it and that helps reinforce it. In addition, I’d appreciate it if you would keep notes of claims you may receive on public domain work and share with me. Please include the entire claim statement with the company name, song name and specific claim (performance, composition, melody).
For example this is the most recent notice I received from BMG:
Angels From The Realms Of Glory
Video uses this song’s melody
Video cannot be monetized
19:52 / 50:16
Copyright owner’s policy
Monetized in some territories
Content found during
BMG Rights Management (US), LLC, ARESA, Capitol CMG Publishing, UMPG Publishing, Wixen Music Publishing, Inc., Adorando Brazil
I don’t expect any great action, but didn’t want to simply be silent either.