In which SoundCloud sends me a hilarious takedown notice

Anand and SchatarSo today I got this interesting message from Soundcloud:

Hi chaircrusher,

Our automatic content protection system has detected that your sound “Rubber Duckie (Wub Machine Remix)” may contain the following copyright content: “Get Some Fruit (Wubstep Dubstep Remix)” by Anand Bhatt, owned by Favorecido Productions. As a result, its publication on your profile has been blocked.

You can dispute this report, if you believe the copyright content has been mistakenly identified or if you have obtained all the necessary rights, licenses and/or permissions to upload and share this material on SoundCloud.

Please do so by filling out our dispute webform at the following link:

If you would like to learn more about copyright, please visit our copyright information page.


The SoundCloud Copyright Team

FYI I didn’t even remember uploading it to Soundcloud — it was just a joke that took about 5 minutes to put together. I kind of love how it turned out, since Sesame Street is embedded in my DNA. If you need to hear it:

[audio:|titles=Rubber Ducky Wub Machine Remix|artists=chaircrusher]

There are several things that are awesome about this:

  • Soundcloud’s automated copyright infringement detector did NOT detect my actual ‘infringement,’ which was against Jeff Moss and Jim Henson, who wrote and performed the original Rubber Duckie.   I claim this is fair use, but I’m not going to the wall on that; this was a JOKE track, it isn’t worth it.
  • Soundcloud’s audio fingerprint software did detect that there was some common source material in the Rubber Duckie Wubstep remix and that track by Anand Bhatt. That common material is there because Bhatt and I did the same thing: Took an audio file and fed it to the Wub Machine, which is a neat hack that ‘converts’ any audio file into bad dubstep.  Feed the Wub Machine random songs, traffic noises, outgoing voicemail messages yadda yadda, and hey presto! Bad dubstep! it’s hours (well, minutes) of fun.
  • The most hilarious part of this debacle?  This guy Anand Bhatt has released a digital EP which you can buy here on Amazon.  Bhatt took what sounds like random crappy songs, ran them through the Wub Machine and released them as his own original ‘remixes’!

What conclusions can I draw from this?

  • Soundcloud’s audio fingerprint software is able to detect common elements in two songs.  That’s great, but it can’t distinguish between one song sampling another, and two songs containing common source material.  So it’s going to generate thousands of false positives.  I guarantee that the worst-paid people at Soundcloud are the poor shmoes who have to wade through all the people contesting false positives for copyright infringement.
  • Anand Bhatt is a complete tosser.  Don’t believe me?  Visit his mega-awesome website, or his Amazon Store.  All those pictures at the Grammies are curiously absent of any other people, as though he snuck in after hours to get his picture taken in front of the Grammy background.  This man has been spending his time inventing an imaginary international rockstar career.

Here’s the transcendent, timeless, original “Rubber Duckie”

Digital Download Services — How Ugly Are The Licenses?

Consider Boomkat. They’re very specific about what you can do with them: put them on up to three computers, three portable music players, and burn on up to five CDs. They say that you permanently own the tracks you purchase, but at the same time they’re owned by Boomkat and the other parties involved — labels & artists. That is more or less consistent with the ownership of physical objects.

But they also say “the Service and the Tracks are solely for personal non-commercial use.” Which means you can’t use them on mixtapes, mix cds, or DJ mixes for which you charge money. On the other hand, it also appears to prohibit playing the tracks as part of a DJ Set, which is rather the point of buying dance music in any format, unless I’m reading that sentence wrongly?

Beatport, oddly, doesn’t have an license statement anywhere. In their FAQ they state “In the United States and UK buying a track from the site is just like buying a record from the record store. The same legal implications are in effect.” But I’m not sure that’s actually an accurate statement to make globally. It also doesn’t address the fundamental difference between physical media and digital media: owning a record or CD is a zero-sum game — if it’s loaned, or sold, or stolen, someone else has it and you don’t. I’d really prefer that they have some actual legal statement about what it is they’re selling.

Amazon terms of services (as listed on are as restrictive as Boomkat with respect to public performance: “…you agree that you will not redistribute, transmit, assign, sell, broadcast, rent, share, lend, modify, adapt, edit, license or otherwise transfer or use the Digital Content. You are not granted any synchronization, public performance, promotional use, commercial sale, resale, reproduction or distribution rights for the Digital Content.”

That seems to preclude me playing any MP3’s I’ve bought from Amazon when I DJ, or do a radio show, or put up a DJ mix for download. Which I don’t think really makes any sense; if I play something on the radio, the station has arrangements with licensing organizations to compensate the license holders, and any bar or performance space that operates as a business pays for a similar license to present music. Not only that, the Amazon Terms Of Service are more restrictive than Boomkats, even though they apply to exactly the same product.

Can Amazon actually add restrictions on the use of items they sell? They are, in fact, the middleman in a transaction between me, the buyer, and the holder of license, the record label. Do they have any say at all in how I use digital downloads? And what about artists whose music isn’t covered by a standard copyright – e.g. Throbbing Gristle who, from what I’ve read, don’t copyright their music? I’m sure there are artists whose MP3s are sold by that use a Creative Commons license, which can conflict in several ways with the Amazon TOS.

I’m not an Intellectual Property lawyer by any means, so I don’t know what to think. But all musicians are faced with a disruptive change that’s happening with respect to how music is distributed, and none of us know where we stand, really. I’m all for musicians to get paid for their work. Hell, I’d like to get paid for my work. But going forward we’re going to have to come up with some sort of fair, sustainable business model in a world where digital copies zero out the cost of reproduction and distribution.

I think in the near term, if you want to support musicians, you should buy their music rather than download it illegally. More than that, you should try and buy it directly from the musician if at all possible, because that way, they get more money than if you buy from a record store or on-line site. I just bought a series of EPs from Cooly G, by sending money to her directly via Paypal. She also has a couple of records out on Hyperdub, but I bet she’s made more money selling directly to her fans than she has from stuff released via Hyperdub.

Public Libraries — Trillion Dollar Menace to Media Industry?

Eric Hellman on the threat posed by public libraries

It’s a joke post that stops being funny pretty quick, but it raises a question. If there were no public lending libraries and someone tried to open one, would they be allowed to do so? If it hadn’t been grandfathered in, would lending CDs and books to friends be legal in the current legal climate?

The one powerful argument for buying CDs and books rather than downloads, is that you can still lend them out. You can read out books out loud to an audience, and though the music industry might beg to differ, you can copy CDs for backup purposes. If you buy a book for a Kindle, or a song from iTunes, you don’t ‘own’ anything, and the many of the natural everyday uses to which you might put them to are in fact illegal.

Consider this — sites like Beatport and Boomkat will sell you music whose primary purpose is to be mixed by DJs, but if you make a DJ mix and put it on your blog, you might be doing something ‘illegal.’ I’m not sure if the license they grant you will give you license to play those tracks in front of an audience.

What the fucking fuck?

Au revoir, HBO

Apologies in advance any tortured, legalistic syntax.

My Internet service at home was interrupted for a day because HBO alleged that I had violated their copyright by using Bittorrent to download the series “Big Love.”

More precisely, as I found out in a letter several days after the fact, I’d — according to Mediacom and HBO — failed to respond to a DMCA takedown notice. Here’s the legalistic part: If it had been the case that I had ever had infringing video files on my hard drive, the torrent and AVI files in question would have been removed weeks ago. So any alleged ‘second offense’ was pure bullshit, and was either a deliberate falsehood, or the result of incompetence on the part of whatever company was monitoring the torrents for HBO. If they couldn’t detect the absence of a violation, how can they be trusted to detect the presence of one?

I don’t intend to try and justify violation of copyright. While I stipulate that I do not admit ever having done so, if I had, or if I ever do so in the future, I do not justify it as a completely moral thing to do. I’m not pure. Neither are media conglomerates. Neither are you. We all do the best we can, but we’re human. Except corporations, who, though granted all the rights of personhood, are not. That has caused a lot of woe in the world, but let’s not get into that now…

I will readily acknowledge that such actions would be to some extent thievery. Unlike the example everyone gives of stealing a car, though, it is a theft that doesn’t deprive the owner of the object stolen. They still have what they possessed, and they have lost something hypothetical: there’s no guarantee that the person violating copyright would ever purchase the item. And I do pay for software and digital media that I value, even when I could easily acquire it for free.

But I will never willingly give HBO any more money. I’ve dropped HBO from our cable because a few series aside, e.g. Big Love, there’s rarely anything worth watching on HBO. For another, while it gives their lawyers something to do to justify their ridiculous fees, such violations as the one they allege are in a very big gray area. During the time when the alleged violation occurred, I was in fact a paid subscriber to HBO, and could have watched “Big Love,” either during its scheduled broadcast or via On Demand.

That made a hypothetical bittorrent download more a matter of time-shifting material I was fully authorized to view. Not any sort of theft or copyright violation.

It points out a fundamental thing that is counterproductive about harrassing your potential and existing customers: Any material damage incurred by unauthorized downloads is in the end going to be swamped by the damage you cause in loss of goodwill from your actual and potential customers.

As for Mediacom, it makes switching to DSL more attractive. I’d lose some bandwidth but DSL costs half as much, and Mediacom hasn’t been all that great over the years. Qwest are sociopathic corprorate scum just as Mediacom is, but at least it has yet to deny me service even as they charge me for it.