Justin Bieber Swears Off YouTube For Facebook
Over the past weekend, Internet pop sensation Justin Bieber went to upload the music video of his new song called “Pray” to his personal YouTube site. He was in for a rude surprise: YouTube automatically blocked his video upload on “copyright grounds” that the video contained content from Universal Music Group (UMG), parent company to Bieber’s record label, Island Def Jam records.
“yo youtube…how u gonna block my own song?!?!?!” wrote an outraged Bieber on his Twitter account. In another Twitter update, he wrote, “dear youtube…we started this journey and now u r cheatin on me with this vevo chica…i see how it is…i will be over here with facebook [sic].” (Vevo is the music video website responsible for Bieber’s official YouTube syndication, and is a joint venture between music giants Sony Music Entertainment, UMG and Abu Dhabi Media.)
In response, YouTube wrote back to Bieber on its Twitter account, “sorry about the upload pain around ‘Pray’. That’s between you and your label but we love you [both] so let’s figure this out!”
But the damage was done. Frustrated with the Google-owned video site, Bieber instead uploaded his video using Facebook’s video app onto his Facebook page. “no one keeps my music from my fans. nobody,” he wrote on Twitter.
There’s a level of irony to the situation. Bieber got his start on YouTube, where home videos of him on his account singing covers of hip-hop songs from artists Usher and Chris Brown attracted the attention of a talent scout in 2007. After a meteoric rise to fame, Bieber is one of the biggest YouTube stars today, the second to reach 1 billion views on the Google-owned video site, behind Lady Gaga.
You would think if anyone deserved to be able to upload his own music videos to YouTube, it would be Bieber. So why couldn’t he? The answer lies in the complicated legalities behind copyright law and new media. It comes down to the question: who owns the video? In Bieber’s case, the answer depends on who you ask.
According to the YouTube website where Bieber’s upload was blocked, it appears that UMG has ownership. YouTube has a Content ID copyright protection system in place. Content ID automatically detects whether new content being uploaded to the website infringes on any copyrighted material in YouTube’s vast video database, using video and audio recognition techniques. The rights-holder can preselect what YouTube should do to the video in response: A) block it outright, B) monetize it by overlaying an ad on the video or C) do nothing, but be able to track the video’s viewership.
When Bieber tried to upload a copy of the “Pray” video, the Content ID system detected an already existing copy of the video from UMG in the database. UMG presumably set the default response to block infringing material, so Bieber’s upload was automatically blocked.
“We’re sorry to hear about the difficulty Justin Bieber had uploading his ‘Pray’ video to YouTube,” a YouTube spokesperson told Forbes. “What happened is really a matter between Justin and his label.”
YouTube, perhaps seeking to avoid copyright infringement issues that landed it in a lawsuit with Viacom (which Google ultimately won, though Viacom is seeking an appeal), makes it a point that it works with many different copyright holders from the media industry. Complicating matters is the fact that there may be multiple copyright owners on a single music video. The YouTube spokesperson says that the artists and labels need to be in constant communication in order to avoid issues like this.
I reached out UMG through email for comment earlier today, but have not heard back from the company yet.
And why was Bieber able to upload his video to Facebook with no problems? Facebook also says it has a copyright protection scheme in place. But if it has a similar Content ID system to YouTube, it doesn’t have the same amount of video content that YouTube does, meaning a given uploaded video to the social network is less likely to automatically ring warning bells.
In addition, Facebook spokesperson Jaime Schopflin says the social network has no plans right now to take down Bieber’s video upload. “He owns that content and we probably recognize that,” she said.
If ownership of copyrighted material is a tricky and complicated subject for big tech companies to talk about, it’s no easier for the common user. Last summer, the video JK Wedding Entrance Dance went viral, an amateur video featuring a bridal party dancing down the aisle to artist Chris Brown’s song “Forever.” The filmmakers probably weren’t thinking about copyright infringement, but Sony, which owned rights to the song in the video, had the option of taking the viral video down. Instead, Sony chose the monetize option, leaving the video up and putting an ad for the song pointing viewers to iTunes or Amazon where they could buy it.
In Bieber’s case, the story also appears to have a happy ending, at least for now. His “Pray” video has since been released on his official Vevo YouTube channel. And though the video is still blocked on his own personal YouTube account, the pop star seems to be at peace with YouTube.
He tweeted just recently, “@vevo and @youtube got me right now. I sing this one from the heart…”