Warning: Universal Music Is Ripping Down ALL Facebook Cover Videos
Uploading cover song videos to Facebook? You might want to stop doing that.
Last year, Universal Music Publishing Group, the largest publisher in the world, started ripping down Facebook cover videos. Long story short: Facebook and UMPG couldn’t agree on a royalty agreement for the songs being covered. So the big guns were pointed at everyday Facebook fans singing songs from their favorite artists.
Now, those guns are getting even bigger, with UMPG waging an all out assassination against Facebook cover videos. And, the accounts that contain them.
So why can’t Facebook and Universal work it out, instead of terrorizing confused fans? That’s a good question, though for now, you might want to stick to YouTube (which does have licenses).
Artist vs. publisher vs. fan…
Basically, a ‘cover video’ refers to any performance of a song already written and copyrighted. So, if you pick up an acoustic guitar and perform ‘Thinking Out Loud’ by Ed Sheeran, that’s a cover. The only issue is that UMPG owns the copyrights to that underlying song (which consists of the notes and lyrics). So they can legally rip it down if they’re not receiving payment for it.
The only other problem is that Ed Sheeran actually wants you to cover his music.
Because if you’re covering ‘Thinking Out Loud’ and sharing with your followers, you’re probably a pretty huge fan. Which means you’re likely to buy valuable stuff down the road, like concert tickets, albums, and t-shirts. All of which may explain why Ed Sheeran has stepped in to reinstate deleted videos and personally apologize to fans.
But UMPG doesn’t like that. So Ed Sheeran is fighting with them, and whoever else owns the song. Actually, we’re not even sure who’s ripping down what anymore, as other major publishers seem to be getting involved.
Make sense? Not to music fans.
“It’s a COVER and yet I’m being threatened.”
Now, this is about to get seriously ugly. As Facebook struggles to hire the right lawyers and sign the right deals, it’s becoming a bloodbath out there. Suddenly, we’re starting to hear from more Facebook users with ripped-down videos and penalized accounts. UMPG looks like it’s stepping up the assault, with videos from other artists getting yanked.
That includes Rihanna, who may get involved following an incident involving fan Christina Hall. “I was just notified that I committed copyright infringement on my latest cover of ‘Unfaithful’ by Rihanna,” Christina wrote DMN.
“I love music and it’s my dream to make it in music one day. But having my videos taken down is very discouraging and frustrating because it’s a COVER and yet I’m being threatened.”
“This is horrible and I feel bad for every struggling singer who is dealing with copyright on their covers.”
Facebook: “Our policy is to delete the accounts of repeat infringers.”
Hall received a complaint from UMPG executive David Benjamin, passed along by Facebook. The message firmly states that a specific video was removed, while warning that others should proactively be removed as well. If other violations are found, the entire account can be nixed.
Earlier, an Ed Sheeran fan had her account suspended, with her cover video removed.
When will the music industry learn?
Clearly never. Universal Music Publishing Group (among others) are now aggressively issuing takedown notices to Facebook for cover videos of their songs. Facebook complies with these DMCA notices and removes the videos immediately with a scary notice to the offending party stating “it is our policy to terminate the accounts of repeat infringers when appropriate.”
Let me get this straight, these exact tactics the major publishers and labels pulled in 2007 – 2011 on YouTube, which completely backfired, they now think are a good idea for Facebook? Hell, why stop there? Why don’t you start suing music fans again like you did back in the early 2000s? That worked so well. Go start suing grandmas and tweens for illegally downloading music again. Great strategy.
Back in the early years of YouTube the majors were playing whack a mole trying to get YouTube to remove every single fan video that used any piece of their songs – completely ignoring the fact that this was far better (free) promotion than they could possibly pay for and was actually driving more people to buy their artists’ music anyway. Eventually, the majors completely changed course and allowed the infringing content to stay up on YouTube. YouTube created Content ID which helped track down their works to place ads on and start earning on.
LA based, indie singer/songwriter, Sarah Hollins was a recent victim of Universal / Facebook’s intimidation campaign when they removed her cover of DNCE’s “Cake by the Ocean” – 8 months after the fact, mind you. Was her video ‘stealing’ views form DNCE’s official version? Hardly. She had only about 500 views on her video (contrast that with the 300M+ views the song has on YouTube).
When she logged onto Facebook, she saw this:
What’s Universal’s play here? Get all the videos off of Facebook because they can’t earn their paltry $0.001 per play they’re earning off of YouTube views?
Oh, they missed this one. Better go yell at this kid, Universal. Tell him Facebook will delete his account because he is infringing on copyright! What a criminal this according player is.
Yo, Joe Jonas, are you ok with the actions your publisher is taking? If not, speak up!
Hmm, maybe, the smart move is to win more listeners over to the song by allowing all covers so they’ll go buy the song on iTunes (which will earn them $0.91) or stream it on Spotify – which will earn them $0.007 or so.
Universal has decided that the best move is to intimidate emerging artists who are honoring their songwriters with cover versions.
But Facebook is also at fault here too. Why haven’t they come up with their own version of Content ID like YouTube has? And create a video monetization possibility. This would solve everyone’s problems.
Don’t throw the law at me. I know the law. But, newsflash, the laws will NEVER catch up to the rapidly evolving musical and technological landscape. Yes, technically, artists need synch licenses from the publisher to release a cover video. But, the industry (more specifically, Larry Mills with We Are The Hits) has worked this out for YouTube. We Are The Hits enables any artist to legally post their covers to YouTube. So, why hasn’t Facebook come up with this tech yet? Or if they have, what’s the hold up?
Can David Benjamin at Universal Music Publishing Group please explain himself? Seriously, why are you ripping covers down? What’s your play? Do you have one? Or, are you employing the same idiotic tactics from a decade ago thinking this time around will be different?
Is this a negotiating tactic with Facebook to get them to monetize? Or an attempt at higher rates?
Instead of ripping down videos via DMCA takedown notices, why not work with We Are The Hits (for Facebook like you already do for YouTube) so you have a record of all the covers out there using your music? Since WATH posts the videos directly to the creator’s account, you could add whatever extra info you want (link to iTunes / Spotify or even edit the videos and include your own customizable preroll ads).
Do I want songwriters to get paid? Of course! I am a songwriter. Songwriter royalties are pathetic. And I have proposed a completely new way to get paid a lot more – spoiler alert, it has nothing to do with ripping down unauthorized Facebook covers of emerging artists.
But this has nothing to do with getting songwriters paid. This has everything to do with major publishers and labels shortsightedness and complete inability to navigate the new music business.
I continue to be surprised by how stupid the major publishers and labels can be. You’d think they’d learn from all of their mistakes dealing with the new technologies. But no, they continue to employ failed strategies that only hold progress back and do absolutely nothing to benefit the artists and songwriters they claim to represent.
For fuck’s sake guys, emerging artists’ cover videos will ONLY HELP your songs.
Seriously though, please, anyone, explain yourself. What’s your play here?