Back in February I wrote a post about how to make a living in music. In that post I made two basic points citing advice given by guitarist Steve Vai: protect your intellectual property, and leverage technology to your advantage. Protecting your intellectual property allows you to control how your music is used and gives you the ability to generate revenue from your songs. Learning to use technology can allow you to generate revenue from your music all on your own.
Technology is something of a double-edged sword. Not only can it help you, but it can also harm you, regardless of how careful you are with it. Technology can actually make it more difficult to control your intellectual property. If you write a song, record it, and put it up on YouTube to promote your work, it becomes very easy for someone to steal your work and not only start profiting from it, but they can actually keep you from profiting from your own work.
The reality of this has recently been emphasized by Dutch guitarist Paul Davids. He posted a video on his YouTube channel about the latest wave of copyright claims that have hit the YouTube community.
So, what is a copyright claim? If you post copyrighted material that you don’t own the rights to on YouTube, and the copyright owner files a complaint, YouTube will either de-monetize that video or block it all together. What can happen is that the person or entity that filed the copyright complaint against you can actually take all the revenue that you would have earned for themselves.
But you might be thinking, “I’m protected. I’m posting my own music, and I own the rights to it.” Well, sure, you’re legally protected. But benefitting from that legal protection can be harder than you might realize. The technology that lets you easily record and share your music with the world also makes it easy for someone to steal from you and actually hinder your ability to earn revenue from that material. Paul David’s has twice been hit with copyright complaints on his YouTube channel over his own original music that someone else claimed as their own. He’s been able to resolve the issue each time this has happened, but not without some hassle.
Copyright claims are hitting YouTubers on two fronts: they are being hit with claims for using portions of copyrighted material that many argue should be protected under fair use. For example, teaching someone how to play a lick from “Hotel California” supposedly falls under fair use, but copyright claims are still being issued over instances like this. That’s one issue. The other issue, and the one that I wanted to focus on, is artists having their own material and the resulting revenue stolen from them.
In this video, Paul Davids shows how he dealt with the latter issue when it happened to him. Unfortunately for the former issue, there doesn’t appear to be much that can be done.
Update: The original video I imbedded in this post has been taken down from YouTube. In place of this, I've linked to the fist video Paul Davids posted on this matter. Go check out his channel. He's got a lot of great videos for music lovers.