Rumblefish claims to own copyright to ambient birdsong on YouTube

Rumblefish, a company notorious for sending copyright takedown notices to YouTube alleging copyright violations in videos' soundtracks, demanded removal of a video whose audio consists entirely of ambient birdsong recorded during a walk in the woods. When the video's creator objected, Rumblefish repeated its accusation, and Google added the notation "These content owners have reviewed your video and confirmed their claims to some or all of its content: Entity: rumblefish Content Type: Sound Recording."

I posted a video which is basically just me walking and talking, outdoors, away from any possible source of music.

And apparently youtube identified my video as containing copyrighted music from a company called rumblefish. I filed a dispute, and now I'm waiting for said company to respond to it. Is this a freak occurrence? I feel pretty violated by this, a mysterious entity claiming to own my content and apparently profiting from it with ads.

There are birds singing in the background in the video, could they own the rights to birdsong?

Update: Rumblefish CEO Paul Anthony explains himself and his company in a Reddit AMA.

"Matched third party content. Entity: rumblefish Content Type: Musical Composition", but no music in the video (via /.)


  1. Minnie Riperton’s 1975 hit Loving You has birds chirping. I’m sure they are the exact same birds as here.

  2. There is a thread on Slashdot about this where the CEO and lead architect are talking about what’s going on right now:

    1. after skimming it: no, they don’t talk about “what’s going on”.they have some lame excuses and are whining about working on sunday. I miss the piece “We made a fucking huge  mistake and will fix our processes immediately.”

      1. Deeper in the thread they do talk about fixing it, and admitting it will take a day or two to resolve permanently. Of course it’s a little hard to find under the mountain of angry posters and slashdot’s goofy thread layout. 

        It doesn’t excuse the mistake in any way, but it’s a better response than most content companies provide. I’ve got an ongoing dispute on one of my videos.. it’s been two weeks at least and I’ve received nothing but silence after the initial accusation. I think in this day and age, the response of the Rumblefish guys is the best we’re going to get.

        Unfortunately after being roasted on the internet, any kind of response is only going to become less common. 

        1.  “Unfortunately after being roasted on the internet, any kind of response is only going to become less common.”

          I don’t think so: The shitstorm was already 11 Beaufort before the company reacted.
          Maybe commenting on /. did them no good, but it definitely didn’t harmed them further.

      2. Hey there. I’m the one who whined about working on Sunday. ;-)

        There’s no question about what happened: we made a mistake in our manual review, and we’re working on fixing the process that lead to this particular situation.

        It took a few hours to confirm what happened, and I apologize for the waffling … I’m a developer, not a professional PR guy.

        1. “We made a mistake”?  I can’t for the life of me how ANYONE could “manually review” that video and come away with a conclusion that Rumblefish (or anyone besides the creator) owned any part of it.

          Perhaps you could elaborate on this mistake?

          1. This is very much a work in progress, so there isn’t a post-mortem we can share.

            That said, we know it was human error, and it was against our policies. We do not use any automated systems for managing the claims we receive from YouTube, and we only work within the copyrights of the artists we represent.

  3. I’ve encountered the same problem, though   Bogus copyright claims on YouTube (and their horrible customer service in response to it), have convinced me to not use YouTube as an uploading service any more.

    Plus whenever I’m sent a link to a popular video, I see a dozen responses from some bimbo named MeagenSpeaks or MeaganSparks (don’t remember which), who is basically nothing but the YouTube version of spam.

  4. Rumblefish is absolutely right in what they’re doing.  Every time you pirate bird song, you’re stealing bird seed out of the beaks of the birds who sang those songs.

    Why do you hate artists?

      1.  A pirate walks into a bar with a parrot on his shoulder. The bartender says, “Hey, where’d you get that thing?” The parrot says, “The Caribbean. They’re all over the place down there.”

        Completely off topic, but I couldn’t resist.

    1. As all bird song is derivative of previous bird song, no birds (or their representatives at Rumblefish/Rumblebird) can morally claim ownership.

  5. Be right back, need to copyright the sound of howler monkeys flinging feces and counter-sue a bunch of copyright-claiming companies.

  6. The only other thing I hear in the video is him talking.
    The obvious explanation is he is a cyborg or autonomous robot and they own him.
    He must have escaped some how.  Hopefully this video will give them clues to his whereabouts so he can be captured safely and intact.

  7. These Rumblefish people have been pulling this scam for a long time now. It was over three years ago that some family I have who are artists were subject to this.

    They had a video on youtube. They used some music in the video. They personally know the musicians, the musicians had never heard of Rumblefish. The music was released to the public domain (unusual but true). Rumblefish claimed ownership and had YouTube slap ads all over the video with the proceeds going to Rumblefish.

    And since this is through YouTube’s private “Content ID” program, the usual DMCA protections against false copyright claims don’t apply.

    1. What usual protections? They might be in the act, but they sure as hell don’t get applied. Not against the MAFIAA, anyway. They might get applied if you tried to take down them ripping your work, though.

  8. You don’t seem to understand.  This world is all just a computer simulated reality and when you talk a virtual walk in the virtual woods, that ambient birdsong is just sound effects to make your walk more convincing.  Apparently Rumblefish is the company in charge of the creation of such ambient sound effects.  Where they’ve made a mistake is in breaking that “3rd wall” and filing lawsuits against people who are still in their pods.  

  9. Come now. Does either Rumblefish or YouTube actually assert anywhere that the birdsong is the disputed material? No – all we have is a Slashdot user’s best guess about what’s going on, based on a couple of automatically-generated emails.

    It seems much more likely to me that an erroneous carbon-copy claim was sent out by Rumblefish and triggered an automated response by YouTube.

    Not that that’s much better, but I see no evidence whatsoever that anyone is asserting a copyright claim on birdsong.

    1. ‘All content owners have reviewed your video and confirmed their claims to some or all of its content: Entity: rumblefish; Content Type: Musical Composition.’

      1.  Where we differ is that you seem to take this as an intentional and unproblematic assertion that the birdsong is the contested material, rather than, as I suggested, a misfire of some kind of content-control bot or drone. Which do you seriously think is more likely?

        1. Sorry, Ipo, I can’t keep up a conversation if you completely revise your replies after I have responded to them.

          1. My “complete revision” consisted of removing this sentence :  “Or you could just read as much about this as many here have.” , or very similar. 

            I had realized that maybe not all that I had read was even written yet when you commented a couple hours earlier.  It seemed I would have possibly criticized you for not reading stuff you couldn’t have. 

            I edited that sentence away before there was a reply to it.   You could have refreshed before posting. 
            The word “replies” is a plural. 
            “Completely” means as much as “entirely”. 

            Are you this inaccurate often?

        2. Given that a developer for the company is in this very thread saying specifically that they do not use automated processes for managing Youtube claims the likelihood that it’s a content-control bot or drone misfiring seems pretty low?

  10. 17 U.S.C. § 512(f) Misrepresentations. – Any person who knowingly materially misrepresents under this section —
    (1) that material or activity is infringing, or
    (2) that material or activity was removed or disabled by mistake or misidentification,
    shall be liable for any damages, including costs and attorneys’ fees, incurred by the alleged infringer, by any copyright owner or copyright owner’s authorized licensee, or by a service provider, who is injured by such misrepresentation, as the result of the service provider relying upon such misrepresentation in removing or disabling access to the material or activity claimed to be infringing, or in replacing the removed material or ceasing to disable access to it.

    1.  Too easy to ignore. Rumblefish can just say they didn’t do it knowingly (just like the autosignbot fraud fiasco) and that the victim can’t prove renumerable injury in any case.

    2. What I’m understanding is Content ID doesn’t constitute a DMCA takedown so this section of Copyright law doesn’t apply. This makes Content ID another example of private law infecting society.

  11. Isn’t the bigger problem Content ID itself?
    We have tons of cases where things are mistakenly tagged/flagged/bagged and the default answer of the system is Copyright Holders are always right.
    Content ID was thrown together to make content holders happy, and make them stop suing You Tube.  It appears to be a flawed system randomly flagging things, but then your comparing it to millions of things the content industry has shoveled into it. 
    We found 12 seconds of your video to be infringing, it matched 12 seconds of silence from 435 films… the first one the system spit out will get to place ads on “their” video.

    Maybe its time to demand YouTube stop with secret deals (UMG vs MegaSong anyone), and demand they fix Content ID.
    When the system creates a claim of ownership on actual real world bird songs, you shouldn’t need more hints that it completely screwed up.

    1. I’d agree with you, but Youtube = Google and Google does no evil so I have to assume that you’re entirely wrong.

  12. Someone should really tell Rumblefish that S.E. Hinton is coming for their company name any day now.

    1.  Google’s spiffy Content ID system.
      It is an automated system that compares every upload to everything any content holder has submitted to it.

  13. There are some inaccuracies in this article that I should correct.
    Youtube never tried to delete my video.

    Basically, their system identified my video as containing copyright infringing music owned by Rumblefish. They put ads on it, with the proceeds of the ads going partly to Rumblefish, partly to Google.

    Since there’s no music in my video, I disputed the claimed copyright violation, and Rumblefish was sent a link to my video to check it and see if Youtube’s automated system had made a mistake.

    They checked the video, and told Youtube that there was no mistake, and that they do own the music in the video. So the dispute was closed, and there was seemingly nothing else I could do.

    But I wrote an article about it on Slashdot, and somehow it went viral today, spreading all over the web, and Rumblefish backtracked, released my video and sent me an apology.

    This is the notice Youtube sent me after Rumblefish reviewed my dispute:

    “All content owners have reviewed your video and confirmed their claims to some or all of its content:

    Entity: rumblefish Content Type: Musical Composition”

    I did email Rumblefish to complain, and posted a thead on Google’s help forum, but Rumblefish didn’t do anything until my article went viral and woke them from their slumber.

    Now that they’ve released my video and removed their ads, and if you ignore the money they made off of my content before they were forced to backtrack, it’s pretty much over (until the next time it happens), but I think if this were made more public, Google would be forced to change their system and this would stop happening. Rumblefish and other similar intellectual property management companies have been gaming the system like this for a while now, and this is just the first time the public outcry has been big enough to force them to
    correct their  behaviour.

  14. Well, at least RumbleFish is a real thing with a real CEO and an address.  The “Music Publishing Rights Collecting Society”, on the other hand, is nothing but vapor.  The “Music Publishing Rights Collecting Society” is claiming copyright on my YouTube video of my friends’ live performance of the two hundred year old Christmas carol Silent Night.  Trying to find out about the “Music Publishing Rights Collecting Society” is like trying to screw fog.  The “Music Publishing Rights Collecting Society” is a scam from the ground up.  It may very well be a scam from within YouTube, itself.

  15. Hey folks. This is Peat, the Lead Architect from Rumblefish. I’m not sure how to confirm that here, but you’re welcome to hit up Google and research it yourself.

    Some things do have simple answers: we made a mistake in our manual review process. It sucks. We found out about this via Slashdot, we released our claim, and we’re trying to be upfront about how it happened, and what we’re doing to avoid this problem in the future.

    Rumblefish isn’t a licensing conglomerate or legal firm; most of us are musicians or work in independent film as well. The founder and owner is a musician. Our mission is to help promote independent artists, and make sure they get compensated when, say, YouTube runs ads on a video that contains their music.

    Anyhow. That doesn’t excuse the mistake. We’re reaching out because we think that staying quiet and doing nothing is horribly inappropriate; it is a broken industry, and we’re interested in changing it.

    I appreciate that some people are giving us the benefit of a doubt. Thanks for your patience. This is obviously a hot button issue.

    1. I’m a curious bystander but, nonetheless, I would sure like to know what the mistake was in the manual review process.  Oh and what you’re doing to avoid the same mistake in the future.

      1. Heya — I appreciate the curiosity, but I can’t get into it too deeply. It comes down to human error, and I don’t have any reason to believe it was malicious or underhanded.

        We’re adding some additional checks to the review process, and this situation has certainly raised awareness of how cautious we have to be.

        I’ve made some other posts here that describe some of the specific problems that we deal with, so hopefully those can flesh out the picture. I don’t mean to blow you off, it’s just been an intense 24 hours. :)

  16. I forgot to mention — the CEO is doing a Reddit AMA; search for “CEO of Rumblefish” on the site and you’ll get the link.

    Also, it’s important (although possibly a bit pedantic) to understand the process of how these claims work …

    There are two things that got fouled up here: first, YouTube thought that bird sounds and talking was a song in our catalog. This happens very frequently — I think we’re releasing hundreds of videos per day. It sucks because the people who clearly don’t have copyrighted material are still getting nasty-grams from the automated content identification system.

    The second thing that got fouled up was our review process — we don’t have a bot that auto-claims everything, we have real people doing the reviews. That ball is firmly in our court, and  we’re working on reducing the number of mistakes that fall through the process.

    I don’t know if that helps anything, but I figure more information is better than less. Let me know if you have questions.

    1. Let me get this straight, are you saying that YouTube automatically (like, with a bot or program or something) made a false connection between the talking and birdsong video and some song that Rumblefish owns, and then someone at Rumblefish, a real human being, compared the two and said “Yep, those are totally the same”?

      1. More or less, yes. We only respond to the videos that are flagged by YouTube’s automated review system.

        I don’t know what caused the reviewer to reinstate the claim, but they did. The action wasn’t in line with our policies, and we’re trying to make things right. We’ve released the video, we’re reviewing the process, and trying to answer people’s questions and concerns about what we do.

        1. Thanks for your responses, Peat. I take you at your word that you made a mistake.
          But it shouldn’t take a reddit thread to get organizations like yours to see that they screwed up, should it? How can someone whose video is inappropriately flagged deal with slipshod  reviews and reinstatements of the original claims?

          Is public shaming the only tool we have at our disposal to get a reasonable hearing with copyright enforcers?

          How do YOU suggest the inevitable mistakes be addressed?

          1. You’re totally right — believe me, this is not how we hoped to end up on Slashdot, Reddit, BoingBoing, etc.

            The direct answer is to send an email to anyone at Rumblefish. Our official address for these sorts of things is YoutubeContentID at rumblefish dot com, but we all take this seriously enough to deal with it, wherever it shows up.

            The crux of the problem is horrible communication. We only see these disputes when they are escalated, and we don’t receive contact information for the video creator. By the time the issue gets to us, the video creators are usually (and rightfully) pretty pissed off. The vast majority of disputes we see are released immediately, because the YouTube Content ID system generates a lot of false positives. Everyone gets the short end of the stick.

            I think the mistakes should be addressed as we’re doing: put our necks out, answer questions legitimately, and push on our partners to open up communication and behave more like reasonable humans than lawyers. ;)

        2.  I appreciate your response, especially since I’m not involved and you don’t owe me any answers. I’m a little surprised that I interpreted you correctly, though, as that means that a real human being couldn’t tell the difference between birdsong and, well, song. Or maybe they could, but their finger slipped and they hit the wrong key.

          In any case, I wish more companies would respond to complaints like you have, instead of either ignoring them or sending out boilerplate responses that don’t address the actual issue.

        3. You’ve answered my question elsewhere.

          Here’s some free advice:  considering how much false-positives cost your collective/firm you may wish to be far more careful during the manual review process if you insist on using YouTube’s admittedly broken identification system.

  17. Google, protector and bastion of the people has become what it once fought to stand against.   On to Vimeo it is then.

  18. While the apology from Rumblefish is nice, I’m not sure how believable it is that an independent company of “musicians” claims it “accidentally” confirmed a claim to own ambient bird noises when 1. It’s pretty damn obvious to any idiot, the guy is OUTSIDE and those are REAL BIRDS.  2. So these “musicians” “compose” a lot of ambient bird noises, so much so apparently that they were like, “Oh dude, those are totally the birds I squeezed last night.” So uh…was Rumblefish’s bird tracks done on a Casio or a Yamaha?

    1. Hah, I wish it had been as simple as matching bird noises. The YouTube Content ID system isn’t even that accurate. I can’t reveal the artist or track it matched, but it definitely wasn’t birds singing or people talking.

      Generally speaking, it’s a terrible idea to do that sort of spoofing if you’re a small company. We definitely don’t want to piss off YouTube/Google or the big traditional copyright companies. We can’t afford it.

      When something like this happens, it really is in our best interest to figure out what happened, fix it, and talk with people about whats going on. The only way we can address the big problems is being up front and honest when we make a mistake.

      1. In that case Peat, can we assume you’ll be forwarding any profits you made from advertising during the period the video was improperly flagged as Rublefish property to the creator of the video (who should be fairly easy to find, since that person has themselves responded to this message chain on BoingBoing)?

        Since your organization asserted an invalid claim of ownership – whatever the cause for that might have been – during a period of time you profited from someone else’s work, and therefore have a responsibility to compensate them appropriately. If you are a musician and film maker run organization as you say, I’m sure you understand the requirement that creators be compensated for their work when it is used for profit by others.

        1. I can’t comment on exactly how it will be sorted out, but I appreciate your perspective. I 100% agree that making money from invalid claims is unethical, nor is it a sustainable business practice. 

      2.  You keep saying things like: “being up front and honest, answer questions legitimately, trying to answer people’s questions, …”, but you are not. 
        The one obvious question that everybody has you refuse to answer. 
        We don’t want to know how nice a company you have, how you help independent artists, how you have to work on a Sunday to fix this PR fail. 
        We want to know: How did it happen? 
        You are using this publicity.  But you don’t answer. 

        How did it happen?

        1. Apologies for not being thorough here. Here is the full sequence of events, as we understand it:

          – eeplox uploaded the video to YouTube.
          – YouTube’s automated Content ID system flagged the audio in the video as belonging to our catalog. The track in our catalog doesn’t contain any birdsong; it was a false positive.
          – eeplox requested a review through YouTube’s dispute resolution tool. This is the first time we were aware of the video.
          – A reviewer here at Rumblefish mistakenly reinstated the claim instead of releasing it. It’s not our policy to claim work we don’t represent.
          – The dispute was posted to Slashdot, Reddit, and the YouTube forums.
          – We released it as soon as we had an opportunity to review the material.
          – I’m attempting to answer questions about the process as best I can. I’m a developer, not a PR guy, so … I’m not very good at this.

          We do not have any robo-claim tools, we do not have any automated systems for flagging content as infringing — this was human error during our review process.

          Please let me know if you have any other questions. We also have a Reddit AMA thread with the CEO (search for “Paul Anthony”), and although it’s difficult to sort through Slashdot’s discussions, there are quite a few posts from us, eeplox, and other folks.


  19. If YouTube gave posters a fair hearing and a clear set of rights protecting their content from corrupt judging entities, it would be nice. Google can afford the staffing charges I’m certain.

  20. Every time this happens, you should be able to sue…

    – To claim the advertising revenue from ads shown on your page against your will.
    – For damages if the advertisements were objectionable to you.
    – For civil damages for 1st Amendment rights damages.

  21. Pete and Repeat were sitting on a fence. Pete fell off; who was left? Repeat. Pete and Repeat were sitting on a fence… 

  22. OOOOkaaaayyy… Just when you think it’s safe to go back on Youtube, some corporate shark tries to screw it up.  Who would like to volunteer to tell Rumblefish that Mother Nature owns the rights  to the birdsong and it’s on her universal open source sharing platform? **Strolls away whistling…**

  23. The video was cut short IMO.  I wanted to see him eat that entire salad.  I’m all for organic and growing your own stuff (my wife has a herb garden) but I would have washed that stuff first.

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