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YouTube's algorithms strike white noise with copyright claims

Sebestian Tomczak, an Australia-based musician and YouTube content creator, has had his 10-hour-long video of white noise struck by four claimants, accusing him of copyright infringement. The video was generated via freeware software Audacity’s built-in noise generator.

via littlescale (Twitter)

The video, embedded above, was uploaded to YouTube in 2015 – two years ago – and since then has attracted five copyright claims from four claimants, most recently on January 5. The claims largely appear to be from publishers of white noise intended for sleep therapy, so YouTube’s Content ID system isn’t entirely inaccurate with the match, however absurd the proposition of claiming copyright on randomly generated noise may be. "I am intrigued and perplexed that YouTube's automated content ID system will pattern-match white noise with multiple claims," Tomczak told the BBC.

The copyright holders have chosen to monetize Tomczak's video rather than force YouTube to take it down, redirecting all earnings from his content to themselves. But that could change. However, Tomczak intends to dispute these claims, as he told TorrentFreak:

“I’ve had quite a few copyright claims against me, usually based on cases where I’ve made long mixes of work, or longer pieces. Usually I don’t take them too seriously. In any of the cases where I think a given claim would be an issue, I would dispute it by saying I could either prove that I have made the work, have the original materials that generated the work, or could show enough of the components included in the work to prove originality. This has always been successful for me and I hope it will be in this case as well.”

YouTube’s Content ID system has been at the center of controversy over the past couple of years. Google’s attempt at relying on machine learning to detect copyrighted material is still a work in progress, and far from perfect. Alas, with the amount of content that YouTube must process every day, perhaps this is the most reasonable middle-ground for content and copyright holders.

Still, the algorithm clearly needs some adjustment. After all, nobody owns a copyright on the sound of the Big Bang.

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