An Open Letter to Google/YouTube From a Disappointed Disciple

by | Dec 4, 2013 | Announcement, Musings, OMG! | 19 comments

For more than a year, I have been continuously hounded with copyright strikes from various claimants on YouTube, claiming that the music used in my The Moon video has been used illegally.

Until last month, every time this happened, usually by two or three companies at the same time, and sometimes even by the same company multiple times, I disputed the claim, and it was then released by the claimant. A stressful experience each time, but I like the video, and wanted to keep it public, so I filled out my details and worked through each claim.

You Tube Copyright Claims

Then, last month, for the first time, UMG rejected my dispute to get the claim released. They asked for proof that I have a license, so I copied the License that I bought from UniqueTracks on May 23, 2010 to my Dropbox, and sent posted a link for UMG to check it. I presented the actual license, but here is a copy of the mail I received at the time.  I probably shouldn’t post the actual license here…

UniqueTracks License Mail

The process was a whole new level of stressful. This time I had to acknowledge that filing a complaint may lead to legal action. I don’t have time to fight a battle in court over a 5 minute video! Even though I have a perfectly legal license.

Oh, and if you are wondering whether or not my license was good for content posted on the Internet, or more specifically YouTube, here’s a section from the license, that I presented to UMG last month.

OK For YouTube

OK, so UMG now had my license, and I’ve been checking back every week or so to see if the claim had been released. Honestly, a part of me was nervous. I know I have a license, but could still have to go to court to fight this, so I lost sleep a few nights as this possibility crossed my mind.


Well, today I woke up to an email from YouTube, telling me that my video had been disabled, because of a the infringement claim from UMG. So, they didn’t have the balls to take me to court, but they didn’t have the decency to release the claim either. The video is no longer publicly viewable.

YouTube Mail

I followed the link to my video, and could not access YouTube, until I clicked the I Acknowledge button at the bottom of this notice.


Before I could go on, they wanted me to watch a cartoon Copyright School video, and answer some questions about Copyright.


I got all the questions right. And guess what, I didn’t even watch the video!


So, now my video is Removed, but there’s a link to submit yet another dispute, or so I thought.


I clicked on Submit Counter-Notification, but this time, I was presented with a message that if I go ahead, I WILL have to appear in court, to protect my relaxing little five minute video of the moon traversing the sky, for which I have a valid license for the music.


There was no explanation why the dispute was being continued. Just strong language about how I should not proceed unless I want to be sued. Of course I don’t want to be sued! I have deadlines to meet and real work to do. I don’t have time to piss around fighting court battles, not to mention that I can’t afford to hire a lawyer to fight this!

But you know what, UMG, YouTube, Google, I might not have the time to fight this, but I do have a license for this music. You’ve seen it, and you still disabled my video and threatened me with legal action. I have been pro-Google since day one. I have been a part of Google Plus since I was sent an invitation to join the public beta. Hell, I was in a hospital bed having just had surgery when I signed up and started to get involved in G+. You have always had my support, and you probably always will, but this has seriously pissed me off.

Actually that’s not how I feel. I’m not pissed off. I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed that a company that I love fails to put the processes in place to protect me from this crap. I’ve included Google people in posts about this on Google Plus, even offering ideas on how we may be able to prevent this sort of claim by building a system into YouTube that would allow content creators to attach a copy of their licenses, but I never heard back.

So, here’s your open letter to Google and YouTube. What do I want? I want my video reinstated, and the copyright strike removed from my account. I would also like to see you put that system in place so that I can proactively prove that I have paid good money to license the music used in my content. And guess what, I would like this to happen without going to court. I run a very small company, just me and my wife, and if court is the only option, you can leave the video dead, and me very disappointed.

UPDATE: Dec 9, 2013

I found out this evening that this claim causing a strike against my YouTube account prevents me from holding and recording Google Plus Hangouts of Air. This is incredibly unfortunate, as I have been planning a Hangout on Air with listeners of my Podcast to celebrate the 400th episode on Dec 15. With this in mind, I have just filled out the Counter-Notification form.

I do this with confidence thanks to the folks at UniqueTracks, who have alerted me to the fact that the claim is for a different recording to the one I have a license for. Essentially, it’s a mistake. UMG claim I am violating the copyright of a recording by Daniel Barenboim, when the version I used in this video is actually a recording by Andrej Rakic, 1970.

Thanks to UniqueTracks for stepping up with this information! Now let’s keep our fingers crossed that the claim is released before Sunday the 15th, so we can have our party!

Copyright Strike Basics

UPDATE: Dec 12, 2013

OK, so I last night I paid $199 to Vimeo for their PRO account. This enables me to embed full 1080p HD video into my blog. I have to be honest and say that one of the reasons I started using YouTube was because I didn’t want to pay a yearly fee to Vimeo, after all, I can get it for free on YouTube, right? Well, as I’m sure some peoples’ Grandmas have told you, there is sometimes nothing more expensive than FREE.

I have probably invested $1,000s of dollars of my own time over the last year messing around filling in forms on YouTube to remove the countless claims for the music on this video and a few others. As I said above though, the The Moon video has been on Vimeo for three years now, without a single issue.

If Google needs to monetise YouTube, I’d have gladly paid this money to them instead, but no. It would seem that the business model of YouTube expects people to use music illegally. That way Google are able to slap ads all over other peoples’ content, to make a few bucks here and there. I’m sure it’s a significant amount of revenue actually, and I doubt that the millions of people that use music illegally would be any more likely to pay for a PRO account anyway.

It’s a shame when being honest leads to this kind of persecution, stress and wasted time, and infringing copyright laws becomes the norm.

UPDATE: Dec 26, 2013

I don’t believe this. I woke up today to find an email from YouTube saying that this dispute with UMG had been completed, and the strike removed. Yes!

Or so I thought. I went to YouTube to delete this video, only to find that TEOSTO_CS have already slapped a new claim on the video. Now I can’t delete the video still, because that leaves a copyright strike again my YouTube/Google account. This is getting absolutely ridiculous. I’m like this || close to chucking it all in.


UPDATE: Dec 29, 2013

Finally, I just checked to see if the claim from TEOSTO_CS was still in place, and it was not, so I deleted the video. It’s a shame that deleting my art is the only way to prevent this crap from happening. I’m pleased I can put this behind me now though.


“The Moon” Video

Here is the video itself, presented from my Vimeo account. Grab a cup of coffee, go full-screen and turn up the volume. Did I mention, the music in this video is absolutely beautiful!


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  1. George Maciver

    Speechless (at the video). Speechless (at the way Unique Tracks, YouTube and Google have treated you). Speechless (that companies think they have the right to copyright and charge for music composed by others who are dead).

    • Martin Bailey

      Thanks for the comment George. I’m speechless too. This has been really frustrating.

    • John Bickerton


      John, from UniqueTracks here. The license fee is for the rights to the recording, The composition is indeed in the public domain. I will continue to try to help clear this up with youtube.

      • Martin Bailey

        Thanks very much John!

        Yes, I realize that the music itself is public domain. I credited the music as such at the end of the video, as per UniqueTracks instructions.

        I really am amazed over the trouble I’ve had for this simple five minute video. Now I have a copyright strike against my YouTube account and my only option from their perspective is to go to court to fight this!! I hope you are successful. I’ve heard nothing from Google, YouTube or UMG yet. Sheesh!


  2. Chris Pearson

    The internet was supposed to be the great leveller, where everyone has equal status. Sadly it still comes down to whose got the most money and the scariest lawyers. Right or wrong never comes into it.

    • Martin Bailey

      Honestly Chris, if I had more time and more funds, I’d fight this, and I would win, because I’m totally legit. It’s just ridiculous.

  3. Chris

    Pretty shocking Martin. I was reading a fascinating article the other day about the power that Google now possesses and how scary that actually is.

    It does sometimes feel you’re up against a faceless corporation that just takes the easiest road. I agree a license upload system (similar to stock photography systems) would be a great idea. Hope you get this resolved soon, keep us updated.

    • Martin Bailey

      Thanks Chris!

      I realize that Google could be a pretty scary company, although I’ve never felt they’d use their position/power for less than the best reasons. In this case, I think it’s a case of going for the advertising dollars over doing the right thing by honest content creators. It’s as though they actually want or expect people to use music illegally, so that they can slap their ads all over the video. Ironically, most of the time that model probably works fine, but they need to have a process in place to protect legit creators that actually buy licenses.

      If their main concern is monetizing videos published on YouTube, I’d be happy to pay for a Pro account or something like that, so that they didn’t have an incentive to try and make money from MY content.


  4. Dennis Mook


    I cannot believe you are the only individual that has been victimized in this manner. I would encourage others in similar circumstances to join with you as a group and strike out to protect your reputations and legitimate rights.

    • Martin Bailey

      Thanks for the comment Dennis!

      I don’t have time to band together with others to fight this. Hell, I didn’t even have time to right this post, but I felt I had to.

      BTW, I would like to think that my reputation is not at stake here. I’m sure people understand that I am producing legit content. I even ensure that I add credits to my videos in line with the License agreement, which I actually read! 🙂


  5. Guanghe Sun

    Martin was my 8 years of manager and is my close friend, too.
    I feel very sad to know that his legal production is treated unjustly. I still clearly remember the scene that he showed me the video soon after he bought the music, and composed it into the video. This video impressed me a lot at that time and even now.
    I use my 11 years of understanding of him to certify that Martin is a person who greatly respects the copyright.
    Cheer up, Martin!
    We support you, and look forward to seeing your master pieces surprise the world!

    • Martin Bailey

      Hey Guanghe! It’s great to hear from you.

      Thanks for your support!

  6. John Bickerton

    This issue has indeed affected other customers that have licensed classical music from UniqueTracks (and others stock music vendors) for use on YouTube. The problem lies with YouTube’s Content ID system which is an attempt to limit the rather widespread copyright infringement that occurs on YouTube.

    Unfortunately, the Content Id system only considers 1 performance of a piece of music as being legitimate. This may work well in the case of a contemporary recording, but for classical music, where there can be hundreds of recordings of, for instance, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, the Content ID system doesn’t work very well at all. Evidence of this can be seen in YouTube’s first message to Martin (shown above) where they site 3 different recordings by 3 different pianists as being infringed upon. All three recordings are of the Moonlight Sonata but they are three separate performances.

    So the real issue is the algorithm of the Content Id system. It can’t determine between performances of the same work. Once one company claims a recording as being theirs (in this case UMG), then all subsequent recordings of that work get tagged as infringing.

    As I said, UniqueTracks has run up against this before. I have a blog post about it here

    The post outlines the steps we’ve taken to show YouTube that the license is indeed valid. So far, this method has worked with all YouTube infringement cases.

  7. Tim L

    Sorry to read about your frustrations, Martin. I have a rather cynical view of all this. When companies get to be as large as Google they just don’t have to care about an individual customer, loyal or not, unless said customer happens to be extraordinarily influential. Caring, customer support, and individual attention cost money which most companies don’t want to spend. In Google’s case, they often seem to want to address problems with an algorithm. If the algorithm can’t help you, you’re out of luck.

    That’s not to say that all large companies offer poor service. Amazon, for example, offers tremendous customer service—but then it’s easier to hire a low wage worker to replace a problem gaming console that it is to have the same worker evaluate and adjudicate a copyright infringement claim. From that perspective, it is probably financially prudent for Google to tell their level 1 minions to just take the side of the entity that is most likely to sue. That would be UMG in this case…

  8. Steve Graham

    It sounds to me like there needs to be some human involvement here. John talks about an automated system making a bad decision. No problem-the issue gets reported to the humans, they collect the facts and intercede with a more acceptable judgement. So, where are the humans?

    Sounds like a bad Sci-Fi flick.

    Really, I am sure that when the humans over at Google get wind of this, it will be resolved in a satisfactory manner. Just a breakdown in the communication chain. It always boils down to bad communication. Maybe we should work on that more as a society? I really don’t understand how companies don’t realize that effective communication is a major keystone in their building blocks of success.

    Consumers always seem to know this better than their suppliers. Why is that?

  9. Jeremy Verinsky

    Martin- until there are substantial penalties against the record labels for false and malicious infringement claims, there won’t be any reason for them to desist. They know that most folks are either infringing or too small to fight them (like yourself) so they just plow ahead slapping copyright infringement claims on anyone and everyone. There is no downside from their perspective and they might actually collect something.

  10. Dave G.

    I admire your commitment! You Tube is just awful. They don’t even maintain an email address to which a human can send a simple inquiry to have it parsed by another human. This is endlessly frustrating to me. Google has lost any esteem they once had earned from me – back in the day when they said “Never be evil.” – and they meant it! Not so much, I guess…

    Lovely camera work.

  11. Keith Anderson

    I just got slapped with my first “copyright violation” for a video that I just uploaded. And here is the funny thing. The video is one that I made from footage I shot, using music that I wrote, I recorded, and I mixed. How is it that somebody can file a claim against me like this?

    • Martin Bailey

      That just sucks Keith.

      I’ve started to learn Logic Pro X so that I can create my own music to avoid this. It’s crazy how these people carry on with this crap.

      Good luck getting rid of the claim.


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