Music licensing on YouTube was thrust into the spotlight last month after the National Music Publishers Association filed a lawsuit against YouTube content network Fullscreen over copyright infringement. As Brandon Martinez, co-founder/CEO of the digital music-focused INDMUSIC, put it so delicately, “Music rights is a total mess.”
Martinez said there is tremendous amount of confusion in the marketplace. A big issue is whether multi-channel networks like FullScreen bear the same responsibility as individual creators do when it comes to reimbursing music artists.
But Audiosocket claims it now has a solution. The music licensing firm offers a user-friendly Web interface that allows content creators to find music for their videos from emerging artists and pay for them legally and cheaply. Song rights cost as little as $5 for one of its 60,000 tracks (it's worked with the AP for a while).
Now, the company is able to keep track of music on YouTube via LicenseID (LID), a new proprietary technology it will unveil this week that places a tag directly into music tracks when then are licensed. LID can help artists, record companies and anyone else who distributes music find out who is using their songs and make sure they are getting paid appropriately, according to Jennifer Miller, Audiosocket co-founder and president/COO.
“Two-thirds of content out there has music, particularly UGC,” explained Miller. “YouTube receives 100 hours of content every minute, and there’s a licensing-request flood. It can take weeks or months to get a song licensed, so there’s a huge market opportunity.”
Among Audiosocket’s first clients is YouTube fashion network StyleHaul. “We work with primarily 15-to-25-year-old females, so explaining the legalities of music licensing, copyright and ownership can be somewhat challenging,” said StyleHaul exec Claire Collins Maysh. “Having an easy way to navigate platforms like Audiosocket to offer them as a resource has been extremely helpful.”
Audiosocket isn’t the only startup looking to tackle YouTube music rights. Earlier this month, SourceAudio raised $1.2 million in seed money to build a platform where artists, labels and distributors can license music from a library of 5 million songs to creators for as low as $29 a month. The company has partnered with Audiosocket on LID. According to co-founder Andrew Harding, SourceAudio’s technology can help artists track where their music files travel across the Internet. “We give them visibility,” he said. “It’s up to music companies how they want police it.”
Which begs the question, doesn’t YouTube already police this sort of thing? The Google-owned company, in response to copyright battles dating back to its earliest days, built a proprietary toolset, Content ID, which identifies copyrighted materials; YouTube execs famously like to point to JK Wedding Dance, which employed the Chris Brown song "Forever." YouTube’s tech was able to identify and help monetize that video by selling Brown’s music as that video blew up.
But some music industry vets say that Content ID falls short. “Content ID's been a very good thing for everyone involved. But it doesn’t catch everything and everybody knows it,” said Harding.
A common complaint is that Content ID employs fingerprinting rather than watermarketing technology. What does that mean? Per Harding, YouTube can simply identify audio attached to a video but can’t tell an artist where it comes from (in other words, fingerprinting can identify a song but can't tell you about its licensing agreements, Harding says). "wo "Both are great complementary tools," Harding added.
“The music industry relies on media companies to put in scalable automated processes,” Miller said. “The problem is, the music industry needs help. Content ID was built by people who don’t understand the music industry. It is solving a problem in certain respects, but Content ID is passive. It crawls as it finds instances of copyrighted work. It doesn’t protect people who have done the right thing."
The other complaint echoed by several YouTube creators is that Content ID often identifies audio that has been correctly licensed, resulting in the removal of videos that have followed the rules, they say. “This is a real problem for our creators as they then have to dispute the claim and go through the appeal process,” said StyleHaul’s Collins Maysh. "This is often time-consuming, and more importantly it can put their YouTube channel in jeopardy."
Naturally, YouTube defended the company's tech investment. "YouTube’s Content ID system gives rights holders an automated way to identify, block and even make money from their content on the platform," said the company in a statement. "More than 4,000 partners use Content ID and we're continually expanding our database of millions of reference files to power our automated system. To date, over 200 million videos have been claimed using Content ID."