I DRINK DR FRANK AND I’M PROUD… I’M PART OF AN ORIGINAL CROWD
— Copyright Follies: in the latest in what looks to be a long-running and on-going series, SONY recently claimed ownership, on YouTube, of the MTX song “What Do You Want?” in the live video from Southampton, UK, 1992. As is usual, it wasn’t till they (SONY) rejected my dispute as invalid that I got to learn what song it was they pretended to think they were claiming. And this time it turns out to be this dance number of the same title, performed by Joy Enriquez and co-written by Beyonce Knowles. And playing them side by side is pretty funny.
But it is also pretty… telling, because it is clear that SONY ATV never actually reviewed my “dispute” as the form letter from YouTube claimed they had. Nobody reviewed it. Had there been any kind of review, it would have revealed that these are clearly two different songs. This is an automated process that automatically rejects disputes and doubles down when challenged, without even considering the merit of any individual case. Moreover, many of these identifications seem, like this one, to be based solely on the title, which is not relevant to copyright, as everybody, including especially those who have designed this scheme and those at YouTube who are effectively abetting it, know full well. This despite the fact that it is claimed to arise from CONTENT_ID, which allegedly compares and matches audio on videos to a database of copyrighted material owned by companies like SONY and Warner Chappell: it’s clearly not a “match” in that sense. The only thing that matches is the title.
A new wrinkle here, since I last checked on it, is that an additional publisher has been surreptitiously added to the complaint. That would be Concord Music Publishing, which doesn’t appear to represent Joy Enriquez or Beyonce, but it does, through its affiliate Bicycle Music, adminster the catalog of the Connells, a band that also has a song of the title “What Do You Want?”
This also is… not my “What Do You Want?” But it is pretty funny, and indeed rather Theatre of the Absurd, that both SONY ATV and Concord Music Publishing are, it appears, challenging my ownership of my song on the basis of two competing different songs. Surely, it can be one or the other upon which I’m alleged to be infringing. It can’t be both. And aren’t they also, by this spectacularly twisted and legally nonsensical criterion, infringing on each other? I guess once they grab mine they can fight it out over who is the true owner of all the songs titled “What Do You Want?” that there are in the world. (BMI alone lists 486 of them, including mine— better get busy with those claims, guys.) The “claim type” is listed as a “composition claim” but, and not to grind the point all that much further into the ground, it has nothing to do with the composition. No one involved is even listening to the compositions. It’s solely the machine-readable title. Which is ludicrous.
I think companies like SONY and Warner Chappell are abusing the system and knowingly filing false copyright claims, as part of a scorched-earth policy where they try to grab all the intellectual property they can regardless of who owns it, on the assumption that at least some writers and publishers won’t notice or won’t bother to fight them. And they are getting more and more aggressive and audacious in this pursuit. It’s a nuisance, but it is also morally and possibly legally wrong. I believe YouTube should create consequences for this malfeasance to deter it from happening. If they don’t, they all but guarantee it will get even worse.
There’s more in my essay on the topic: YouTube and Its Discontents — The Small-time Songwriter vs. the Corporate Copyright Troll.
Dr Frank vs. Beyonce. Read all about it.
All that said, though it is developing into quite a nuisance, as I say, and despite undesirable ramifications in the greater world of songwriting, copyright, and publishing, for me this is still mostly just amusing.
Now, Lennon-McCartney, I ain’t. But my song’s okay. I’m sure I’d get squashed like a bug if I filed a claim against a Beatles song on the oh so solid basis of my song having the same title and then subsequently rejected all disputes and appeals, having decided that my copyright claim is still valid no matter what they say. Maybe they wouldn’t notice and I’d get all kinds of Beatles money. And if they do notice I’ll just say “never mind” and claim another song, “Hey Jude” or something, and just keep going till I find one that sticks. If SONY can do it why can’t I?
But of course, I can’t. And I wouldn’t. Anyway, I’m sure even SONY wouldn’t try to mess with the Beatles. In this, we are precisely similar.
— Dept. of bons mots: “If I ruled the world, every day would be the first day of Spring, every heart would have a new song to sing, and we’d sing of the joy every morning would bring, and bars that serve ‘craft beers’ would be required to serve at least one lager that actually tastes like lager.”
— I write the songs, I write the songs.
— Gift of the Magi: In which the rock n roll girlfriend does such thoroughly rock n roll stuff that she misses the rock n roll boyfriend’s show entirely.
— Caravaggio Tableaux Vivants: nothing to do with me, but this is a pretty amazing video.
— Dr Frank is alive and well and living in Tokyo ca. 1996: Japan never failed to avoid not being a good time.
— Dr Frank and His Shiny Robot Monkeys, the rehearsal. Just me and the Zatopeks in monkey masks, but there’s a tale therein.