Saturday, April 9, 2011

Youtube and Public Domain Music???

The most basic and the simplest principle of Public Domain is that everything created Before 1923 is in the public domain. That means all books, fictional characters, plays, music and movies made before 1923 are free and clear to use in new projects. That's the law, but some robotic computers that oversee Youtube would like you to believe otherwise. Software scrutinizes the music on all videos put on Youtube trying to match with some music company's claim of ownership.

Quite awhile ago I tried to put up a video with a copyrighted track and Youtube said no. That's fair. They gave me the option of using one of their music tracks at no charge, but if you accept their offer then "ads may appear with your video." It was easier to add public domain music.

Movie Memories uses music for the introduction and later for the questions, all taken from a library of about 20 public domain music pieces written and performed before 1923. It's mostly ragtime, which goes with the nostalgia theme of Movie Memories. Sounds safe, but I got a copyright warning when I uploaded "In My Merry Oldsmobile" claiming that some company owned "Pickles and Peppers" as performed by Max Morath. The song was written in 1906, so where is the violation? They allowed the video to stay as is pending further review, but I replaced with different music.

Who wants to butt heads with Youtube? If they warn you three times to take down a video, and you ignore it, then they take down everything and cancel your site. Or that is what they used to do. With music they may have changed to the policy of video up OK / music not OK so silent video. It's such a joke, of course, because millions of videos on Youtube are copyrighted film excerpts from MGM, Warners, etc. I have never been told to take down a video.

I had more trouble uploading a segment of Betty White's "Life with Elizabeth" because I used the music "Joplin Ragtime Dance" over the questions. The song was written in 1902 but it was recorded in recent times by Josh Rifkin. I will admit they may have a copyright claim on a specific version recorded for a record album and later CD. The entire video did upload to Youtube with absolutely no sound track. I quickly discovered how to delete videos from Youtube!

I had more trouble uploading "The Giant Claw" for a project-in-development called "CineQwiz," because I was using 3 or 4 different pre-1923 music pieces. I kept uploading silent videos with a copyright warning but no list of what the offending piece was. I finally changed all the music to the 1921 "Wabash Blues," which is too repetitive but it was only a private demo sample. You might be happy to learn that "Stars and Stripes Forever" (1896) is acceptable to use on Youtube!

I currently have two warnings on older Youtube videos. Oct. 2009 I put up "Matinee Jr. for Libraries" and am warned that Craze Productions claims visual content. I have left it up because it's fun. Go watch it. I used Hal Roach music over the opening, and that is copyrighted but no warning on the music. All the films clips are public domain ones I have used often. Perhaps Craze put out one of them on a DVD???

The other warning is on Star Reporter in Hollywood. The film is in the public domain, clearly, but the theme song may have been copyrighted separately and may indeed be owned today by EMI Publishing. It is legal to show and sell this public domain film in its entirety, music included, but I don't want to debate the point with EMI and I have not heard from them. Why should I? There is no money to make and they don't monitor millions of warnings some computer spits out.

Here is the Movie Memory of "The Giant Claw" with PD music acceptable to Youtube:

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  2. Hello
    Youtube and Public Domain Music???
    Many thanks, fairly refreshing, I enjoyed reading your article, You are wonderful!
    Thank you!

  3. Excellent information regarding the public domains. Thanks a lot for sharing it here..!!