Dying company sics robots on dead performer

Like many YouTube users, I have grown a little tired of clicking on videos only to discover that the sound has been disabled by corporate robotic vandals who leave a calling card which says this:

NOTICE This video contains an audio track that has not been authorized by WMG. The audio has been disabled.
More about copyright
Yeah, I know they have their rights to the music and everything, but the sound quality of YouTube is so poor that no one in his right mind would go there in the hope of downloading an actual tune to play.

So the claim that profits are being interfered with is simply ridiculous. If anything, hearing music on YouTube encourages people to buy it who otherwise wouldn't, and in the case of older music, it exposes a previously untapped audience of young potential fans, encouraging their appreciation of what they might never otherwise have heard.

If this were only a case of some idiot posting current top 40 hits, I might understand why they'd be taken down. But this morning I heard about a documentary titled "Nico Icon," a 14 year old film about the tragic life and career of Nico (of Velvet Underground fame). Nico died tragically in 1988, and if she were still alive she'd be in her 70s. A popular underground performer in her day, she is a classic example of someone who could be expected to fade away. A distant memory to former fans, and a virtual unknown to the generations who have reached music appreciation age in the decades since her death.

So, in a pattern now numbingly familiar, I found the documentary on YouTube, but thanks to WMG's copyright police, it has been rendered unwatchable. Apparently there are snippets of protected sound tracks in there. Never mind that it would be impossible to make a movie about Nico without featuring her music, and never mind that such documentaries are a classic example of fair use.

Obviously, the makers of the documentary (which is a highly collectable DVD) would have the legal right to have it taken down, but I doubt they're interested. They're probably smart enough to realize that exposing people to it on YouTube creates a whole new market for it that wouldn't otherwise be there. So what's up with the robots at WMG? If you don't know what snippets of what songs are being played, you can't order them or download them, so they seem to be just shooting themselves in the foot. Aside from being a pain in the ass.

You can still watch Part One (which apparently doesn't contain any snippets of WMG-owned content):

If you want to watch the whole thing, though, you'd have to buy the collectable DVD at Amazon.com for a lot of money. (I'm a fan of Nico, but not that much of a fan. Still, I thought the annoyance merited a blog post)

Here she is in the 1980s, singing "All Tomorrow's Parties."

I think BMG will probably have to let the above live, for the rights are owned by the company that posted the video. Some companies have enough sense to realize that there's more money in putting things up than taking things down.

BTW, WMG's stock is at an all time low, and its "Future Appears Bleak."

Please dear God, don't let the government bail them out!

AFTERTHOUGHT: I'm not as familiar with this issue as I should be, but this war between WMG and YouTube makes my inner conspiracy theorist wonder whether the former might be going after the latter as part of a shakedown strategy.

posted by Eric on 06.16.09 at 09:56 AM


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