Universal Music has recently been accused of using a fraudulent DMCA notice in order to corner an artist for the purpose of licensing his song. Here’s the rundown. Skepta, a hip-hop artist from London, premiered one of his tracks on YouTube earlier this month. Jimmy Iovine, founder of Interscope, (owned by Universal) the label to which Eminem is signed, heard Skepta’s track and decided he wanted to license it for use by Eminem. Naturally, Iovine took the next logical step and, allegedly, filed a bogus DMCA notice to get the track removed, essentially calling dibs and buying him time to get to Skepta and license the track before anyone else could hear it or associate it with its original artist instead of Eminem. Totally the next logical step, right?
Now, if you had been following the YouTube Nyan Cat video kerfuffle, you would know this isn’t the first time someone has had an issue with a bogus DMCA notice. If you weren’t: This isn’t the first time someone has had an issue with a bogus DMCA notice. The whole mess is documented here, but in short, it consisted mainly of Joe Schmo getting the video removed simply by claiming to be the copyright holder followed by the actual owner failing to have the video reinstated by repeatedly providing proof of his copyright.
YouTube has constructed a system where the party who is chiefly protected is, well, YouTube. And who could blame them? No one wants to get slapped with copyright infringement suits in this day and age specifically. It appears, however, that the system needs to be tweaked right-quick, because this practice of jumping the gun the very second anyone cries wolf, or anything that sounds remotely like it, is bound to get YouTube in trouble.
Nyan Cat may not have been a big enough deal to wake anyone up or get anyone mad, and it’s likely that Skepta will get a sweet enough licensing deal to make the outage worth his while, but the fact still remains that this DMCA loophole is out there just waiting, begging to be weaponized by corporate interests, angry individuals or trolls, and the second someone who knows a good lawyer suffers the slightest potential loss due to an unauthorized outage, YouTube’s defensive tendency could wind up being very, very expensive. That being said, policy change moves slowly and YouTube is a hulking mammoth of a site, but for everyone’s sake, I hope this bomb gets defused before it has a chance to explode.