User login

NJP: Finding Music for Web Videos (& Fending Off False Copyright Claims)


Now that Northwest Justice Project has posted dozens of videos on our YouTube Channel and also, I’m responding to the most frequently asked questions.

Today’s FAQ:  Where do you get your music?

Short answer:  Apple's iLife “Jingles.”  They’re free to use, but watch out for mistaken claims of ownership! 

Adding a soundtrack: not as sweet as it sounds?

I’ve made videos with several different workgroups of attorneys, and many start out with a soundtrack wish-list that’s a little out of our budget (Springsteen comes up a lot). However, when I do add musical tracks to draft videos, these same people say the voice-over narration becomes harder to understand, especially for viewers with Limited English Proficiency. So, I usually add music only between “scenes” or at the very end (as the disclaimer, license and credits roll) in our educational videos that aim for articulate over art. When a video does call for a tuneful bump, I use the “Jingles” that come with a Mac.

I edit most of our videos using Apple’s iMovie ’11, (the video-editing software built into most Macs) which features 100+ song clips (“Jingles”) and other sound effects to sprinkle into videos. Once you become familiar with the 9-, 20- and 45-second versions of these clips (which range from U2 knock-offs to Downton Abbey- dramatic scene fillers to Nightly News fanfares), you will start to hear them in all sorts of web videos. They are ubiquitous because they are free to use, or as iLife’s End User License Agreement says it:

You may use the […] Audio Content”… on a royalty-free basis, to create your own original soundtracks for your video and audio projects. You may [also] broadcast and/or distribute your own soundtracks that were created using the Audio Content...

Of course, you’re not licensed to distribute or re-package the clips and claim them as your own. Still, if you do use free tunes, you may find yourself defending against someone else doing just that.

Keep a copy of this paragraph from the EULA handy if you use these clips because one day you may see some crisp, new advertisements for political candidates, plastic surgery or international online dating sites scrolling along the bottom of your videos.

Ads that Appear In the Night

If you’re like (non-profit, LSC-funded) us, you won’t want any advertisements covering your free educational videos so you’ve set your preferences on your YouTube channel to prevent them:

And if you’re like us, you may nevertheless find your videos “monetized” by third-party claimants.  Unfortunately, the burden will be yours to prove that you have a license to the music and/or they do not, or you may have to switch out the audio track.  Why is this?

YouTube uses an amazingly quick and pervasive, but still fallible tool called Content ID which compares the “fingerprints” of the sounds and images in your uploaded videos to the fingerprints of sounds and images that copyright holders have already claimed.

If a “match” occurs, then your video may be blocked, tracked or “monetized” which means your videos will silently have ads added, sending revenues to the “copyright holders.” This last option is what has happened to us a couple of times because some media content claim holders (usually middlemen agents for artists and labels) that are a little over-zealous in their claims.

One day, we noticed ads for payday lenders on some draft videos we posted.  Also, a new message showed on our YouTube’s “Video Manager” page, which said our video “Matched third party content”:

You can click on the link to find out exactly what the third party (in this case, "rumblefish") claimed:

Artists and labels can submit music to rumblefish to catalog it, market it, and send them royalty checks when the song is used in a soundtrack or online video.  Rumblefish then submits claims to wide swaths of music on YouTube, which allows it to monetize thousands of videos for the benefit of artists (and rumblefish too).  However, they may claim more than they own (see this infamous claim to own the sound of an actual, live bird chirping in the back of an vegetarian forager’s video.

If someone has claimed some sound or image and YouTube’s Content ID identifies a “match” with your video, then the burden is on you to show evidence why the claim is wrong. Many users probably do not even notice the ads when they happen or bother disputing the claim, so there’s even less incentive for rumblefish to be vigilant in making sure it actually owns the music it claims. Instead, it has a financial incentive to cast a wide net of claims, and withdraw the claims only when someone disputes them.

In this case, it was relatively easy to search and find the track that rumbleifish claimed matched ours.  An artist in rumblefish’s stable (Jahne Jahmal Westmoreland-El) had laid down some spoken word tracks over one of the Apple iLife Jingles, “Bossa Lounger Long” (just as Apple allows) and just as we had. Incidentally, you can find more of this artist’s tracks here, at least a few of which utilize Apple’s iLife Jingles. It’s easy to hear why the Content ID would “think” the fingerprints matched (because it’s the same track). 

If you do not believe that the copyright claim is valid, YouTube offers you these responses:

  1. I own the CD / DVD or bought the song online

  2. I'm not selling the video or m aking any money from it

  3. I gave credit in the video

  4. The video is my original content and all of the rights to it.

  5. I have a license or written permission from the content owner...

  6. My use of the content meets the legal requirements for fair use...

  7. The content is in the public domain ...



Here’s what I stated in my dispute response:

Reason for dispute:

This video uses the copyrighted material at issue, but with the appropriate license or written permission from the copyright owner.

Please explain briefly: 

The audio track in this video is called “Bossa Lounger Long” and is created and licensed by Apple Inc. as part of its “iLife Sound Effects.”  The End User License Agreement for iLife ’09 [the version of iLife I used at the time] states:

“2. Permitted Licenses Uses and Restrictions.

C. You may use the Apple and third party audio content (“Audio Content”), contained in or otherwise included with the Apple Software, on a royalty-free basis, to create your own original soundtracks for your video and audio projects. You may broadcast and/or distribute your own soundtracks that were created using the Audio Content, however, individual samples, sound sets, or audio content may not be commercially or otherwise distributed on a standalone basis, nor may they be repackaged in whole or in part as audio samples, sound files, sound effects or music beds. “

The sound recording administered by rumblefish ("Jahne Jahmal Westmoreland-EL-Ella Fitzgerald") also utilizes “Bossa Lounger Long.” Thus YouTube’s Content ID program:

(1) mistakenly identified our soundtrack as identical to “Jahne Jahmal Westmoreland-El-Ella Fitzgerald” and 

(2) misidentified rumblefish as the copyright owner of “Bossa Lounger Long.”

*   *   *   *   *

The claim (and ads) were withdrawn fairly soon, but it took time to research and appeal to YouTube.