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Can you own the sound of birds chirping? YouTube thinks so

The sound of birds chirping in a video of a man picking a wild salad and has apparently been identified as copyrighted material after being uploaded to YouTube.

The company that YouTube’s software thinks the apparently natural sound of birds chirping belongs to is music and soundtrack licensing firm Rumblefish.

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The user who uploaded the video posted a complaint about the incident on the YouTube forums, asking if it was a common occurrence:

I posted a video which is basically just me walking and talking, outdoors, away from any possible source of music. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPBlfeuZuWg

And apparently youtube identified my video as containing copyrighted music from a company called rumblefish. I filed a dispute, and now I’m waiting for said company to respond to it. Is this a freak occurrence? I feel pretty violated by this, a mysterious entity claiming to own my content and apparently profiting from it with ads.

There are birds singing in the background in the video, could they own the rights to birdsong?

Apparently the phenomenon is actually fairly common. Another user explained the troubles others had experienced after posting video featuring bird sound:

NO! It is a very common occurrence. It is a well-known error. One person has had to file over 100 disputes for mistaken bird sounds. For some reason Google is reluctant to fix this so companies like rumblefish take advantage of it to gain fraudulent income (google makes something also).

Companies registering reference file with the CID are required to manually review any disputed video but rumblefish is one of many companies who just automatically confirm the content regardless of how ridiculous the match is.

Now then, when a dispute is filed advertisements are cancelled until the dispute is answered. There are advertisements on your video so before we go further I need to know the status of your dispute. Please post the notice found on your “Copyright Info” page. It might be something like“These content owners have reviewed your video and confirmed their claims to some or all of its content: Entity: rumblefish Content Type:Sound Recording”

After becoming aware of the controversy around the video, related comments began appearing below it:

“I own the copyright to grass. You can’t show grass in your video without my permission, so I own this video,” said one.

I own the copyright to lemons, I’m contacting YouTube about you’re usage of one,” quipped another.

Discussion around the video has since made it to Reddit, where a user purporting to be from Rumblefish attempted to explain what had happened:

We (Rumblefish) didn’t claim it as anything actually. The YouTube Content ID system, ID’d the song and associated it with one of our artists / labels. I found out about this a few hours ago, watched the video myself and there was clearly no music in it at all….only birdsong. I hit up the right person on our team to remove the claim and it was removed earlier tonight. We don’t know why YT claimed birdsong as one of our artists songs. It’s confusing.

Oh, and in case you were wondering about the video that caused all the fuss, you’re still free to watch it. Just don’t expect to be enthralled. Unless wild salads are your thing.


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