Matt Lowne is a very popular YouTuber with a passion for the simulation game Kerbal Space Program. Since 2013 he’s amassed close to 56 million views but late last week, his video world was turned upside down.
In common with many YouTubers, Matt didn’t want any copyright issues on his channel. So, to play things safely, he obtained the track ‘Dreams‘ by Joakim Karud from YouTube’s very own audio library for use in his intro. Unfortunately, this strategy of obtaining supposedly risk-free music from a legitimate source still managed to backfire. (See update below, YouTube statement)
Very early last Friday, Matt says he received a “massive barrage” of emails from YouTube, targeting “pretty much all” of his KSP videos. The emails said that Matt’s videos “may have content owned or licensed by SonyATV, PeerMusic, Warner Chappell, Audiam and LatinAutor.”
A clearly exasperated Matt took to YouTube, noting that any ads that now show up on his videos “split up the revenue between all the companies listed” in the emails, with Matt himself “allowed to keep what’s left of that.” He doesn’t know what that amount might be, because he says there’s just no way of knowing.
After highlighting the vague use of the word “may” in YouTube’s emails to him, Matt then went on to describe the real “kick in the gut”, which revolves around the track itself.
‘Dreams’ composer Joakim Karud allows anyone to use his music on YouTube, even commercially, for free. And the fact that Matt downloaded the track from YouTube’s own library was the icing on this particularly bitter cake.
Matt said he had to time out to manually protest the automated claims against his account but he says his overtures were immediately rejected, “almost like it’s an automated bot or something.” But things get worse from there.
After contesting each claim and having all of those rejected, Matt says the only option left is to appeal every single one. However, if an appeal is lost, the video in question will be removed completely and a strike will be placed against his account.
It’s three strikes and you’re out on YouTube, so this is not an attractive option for Matt if the music companies somehow win the fight. So, instead, Matt is appealing against just one of the complaints in the hope that he can make some progress without putting his entire account at risk.
Matt says he won’t be able to risk putting any music in his videos in future, because even with the best intentions, a “billion-dollar corporation” can simply decide that they “would like to start benefiting off your blood, sweat and tears.”
Worryingly, searches online show that not only are other people affected by similar mass complaints, but there may – may – be an explanation for what is going on here.
“SonyATV & Warner Chappell have claimed 24 of my videos because the royalty free song Dreams by Joakim Karud (from the OFFICIAL YOUTUBE AUDIO LIBRARY BTW) uses a sample from Kenny Burrell Quartet’s ‘Weaver of Dream’,” a Twitter user wrote on Saturday.
Sure enough, if one turns to the WhoSampled archive, Dreams is listed as having sampled Weaver of Dreams, a track from 1956 to which Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC and Warner/Chappell Music, Inc. own the copyrights.
If the trend of claims against ‘Dreams’ continues, there is potential for huge upheaval on YouTube and elsewhere. Countless thousands of videos use the track and as a result it has become very well-known. Sadly, people trying to claim it as their own is nothing new but fingers crossed, common sense will sort out the present issues.
Update: YouTube have been in touch to state that the music in question was not part of its official audio library. In a tweet directed at Matt Lowne, YouTube further added that it may have been made available by an unofficial channel that confusingly calls itself the YouTube Audio Library.