EFF rescues ASL Ally's sign-language YouTube music videos

When popular YouTuber ASL Ally -- who posts videos that interpret song lyrics in American Sign Language for deaf and hard-of-hearing people -- had her YouTube channel yanked after complaints by Warner and Universal, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Cindy Cohn came to the rescue. Cohn called up YouTube, and YouTube contacted the rightsholders, and everyone agreed that there was nothing wrong with Ally's wonderful work. However:

"The problem is that the various music groups hire zombies and trained monkeys who scour the Internet searching for any use of their licensed material regardless of the context or purpose," Cohn said by phone on Monday.

"Often, this leads to flagged entries and complaints on sites like YouTube that really should have been approached with greater discretion."

YouTube Reinstates Ally ASL's Account


  1. Cohn is right. This reminds me of when the band Negativland infamously sampled a U2 song and U2’s people sued the pants off of them, nearly bankrupting the band. After years of fighting the charges, Negativland basically concluded that 1) U2 themselves weren’t even aware of what was going on and 2) the lawsuit happened because high-priced lawyers employed by major record labels have to find ways to justify their exorbitant fees, so they initiate all this useless paperwork and legal proceedings and people who posed no threat to anybody like Negativland pay the price.

    That was all pre-Web, but I see that in the intervening years not much has changed.

  2. “Often, this leads to flagged entries and complaints on sites like YouTube that really should have been approached with greater discretion.”

    So…ummm… and their excuse for not approaching this with greater discretion is exactly what?

    Record label raises hands, “Our bad!”

    Apparently it’s all good now.

  3. Yeah that’s nice and necessary. I realize my own plight with youtube might not compare, or that of nearly everybody else who ever posted anything to youtube, but I want to mention it anyway.

    Suppose you make some artsy video, rendering, stop motion etc. So you post it to youtube, except with a bit of background music, it’d be that bit better. No problem, youtube has this audioswap, which never seems to work when you need it. No problem, just rifle trough your music collection of mp3s and upload it with some sound attached. Of course youtube has their fabulous content filter, which promptly takes your video down a few minutes after you posted it. So no problem, you just wait and twiddle your thumbs after you try a couple different songs, but youtubes content filter is *really* good, oh it only takes like 10 minutes to wait for the upload anyway. But wait, then you found some content that wasn’t recognized by their filter, but it doesn’t matter, within a couple hours some of their monkeyzombies will have flagged your content and it’s taken down. Ok, no problem, so you reupload your video without sound while you scratch your head what to do now. Ok no problem so you go hunt around for some CC licensed music to put in the back of your video, except that about 3/4 of the links to CCed music you find on various CC sharing sharing sites are dead, and for the most part you don’t find what you’re searching for. Ok no problem, you could just license a song from EMI or so right? No, even if you could, a mere mortal can’t pay it.

    So… enjoy my videos without music, or bring your own, I’m beyond caring, this is so broken, I can’t even begin to vent my frustration.

    1. I agree with every ounce of your comment.

      I know this will offend everybody, but I’m going to say it anyway. Musicians, music, and lyrics have all been far far over valued (monetarily) by the labels for years… and watching them stifle humanities bold charge into the brave new world of the digital irks me almost as much as having to listen to young earth creationists.

      These bastards have money, and nothing else. But apparently, that’s enough.

      1. Perhaps a better way of making that argument would be to point out that artists don’t make much off their albums, albums are all about getting the fat cats at the record companies richer. Artists (at least at major labels) make their money from touring. (as I understand it).


        1. Thanks to Ticketmaster, touring bands on major labels now make most of their money off of merch, not ticket sales.

      2. You know from a musicians point of view the story’s even sadder.

        As a musician you get a little loan from the studio to produce your record. Sometimes the loan’s in the form of them setting you up with a recording studio for a bunch of days etc. They’ll set up a default contract with you which contains the following points:

        1) you sign away and all rights to the stuff you created to them
        2) They’ll make “reasonable” efforts to promote your music
        3) You’ll have to pay back your “loan”, which will automatically be deducted from your soon to be rolling in royalties
        4) Your royalties for a song are a couple cents, and for an album maybe 50 cents.

        As a nobody you either take what they dish out, or take your business elsewhere. You can’t negotiate the default contract with them. You can go to any of the other big four and their affiliates, but it’s the same sad contract, with a different letterhead.

        Something like the vast majority of artists who sign such a contract never see a dime from their work. The niche this artist serves is too small, or the promoting was too little, suits decided to spend money on the next Britney Spears album promotion, or whatever. O.K. so the artist might over think his position and be unhappy with this arrangement with the studio, and what have you, sell his music online or something.

        Not so fast mate, you signed over your rights to the record label. That song, it doesn’t belong to you anymore. Now git lost before we call security.

        Ohyeah, copyright keeps your own work under lock&key for at least the next 160 years, but you’re free to cover your own song then when you still feel like it, no harm done right buddy?

        This is just a really really sad charade, and if you’re a musician, do not ever sign away rights to the stuff you created.

  4. wow… I can hear. I dont speak ASL. Truth be told, I would not care for that song under normal circumstances, but watching that young lady pour herself into it actually made me feel it. That IS art. It is new creation. That was awesome.

  5. Only reinstated in the US as it seems. Here in Europe the videos are still blocked “on copyright grounds”. They must think there are no deaf Americans (or people who want to learn/practice ASL) outside the US, huh?

    The big music co’s make me so frustrated I just want to scream sometimes. =(

  6. This is *exactly* why there should be penalties for unjustified take-downs. If there were penalties, rightsholders wouldn’t hire hire zombies and trained monkeys.

  7. “Dieses Video enthält Content von UMG. Es ist in deinem Land nicht verfügbar”

    (“This video contains content from UMG. It is not available in your country.” [Germany])

  8. “” “The problem is that the various music groups hire zombies and trained monkeys who scour the Internet searching for any use of their licensed material regardless of the context or purpose,” Cohn said by phone on Monday. “”

    No, the problem is there is every incentive to claim abuse and no penalty for doing so.

    You see this on some many levels, whenever an organization makes a “mistake”.

    Somehow, instead of giving an apology, the organization needs to face the full penalty for their actions. And if there is not a suitable penalty for the action, there needs to be one that will cause the monkey and its keepers to give a long pause for fear of being wrong.

    This holds for everything from take down notices, to mistakes repossessing property, to raids by the police or mistakes at hospitals.

    I think I would even venture that penalties for groups should be worse than those for individual, that they should be held to a higher standard.

  9. it’s such a drag to watch these videos from germany using services like hidemyass.com and others.

    article authors, please remember to always include a link to the youtube video page with the article. it saves a lot of pain for users in may-not-watch-land.


  10. Someone does something uplifting and inspirational with music and the usual douchebags want to ruin that.

  11. Wow that was beautiful. Her facial expression kinda made the song meant something more (to me), her hand signs became like a choreography she danced to, or anybody may dance to.

  12. I don’t have words for tell that wonderfull is this video you really can feel the the lyrica of the song is a very good work and is fantasty that a person make that this girl make. This video really touch my heart and the only i can tell is congratulation for this beautifull work.

  13. Had a WTF moment before it dawned on me the ASL in ASL Ally stands for American Sign Language! The story makes MUCH more sense now that it’s not cluttered in my mind with IRC come ons.

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