Phantom The Pirate Purring Moggy Who Won A Dispute With Two Of The World’s Biggest Music Publishing Companies

I’ve had a small, self-imposed hiatus from blogging recently. Nothing untoward. Just pursuing other equally important stuff. But there is nothing like coming across a piece of total absurdity to shake off lethargy and get you hitting the keyboard again.

There is a small moggy called Phantom to thank for getting me out of the blocks. And I thank his owner. I will try my best to keep any puns to a minimum. Now, I know online piracy of copyrighted material is a big issue, and big companies don’t like it. There’s been a significant court case in Australia recently on internet piracy that initially delivered a judgment going one way and then, on appeal, another judgment that went the other way. But that is another story. What I am talking about here, in the case of Phantom, should be called online piracy of the ridiculous.

This story began about a year ago when Phantom’s owner, a YouTube user called Digihaven tried to do us all a favour. He wanted to acknowledge the calming, soothing, not to mention meditative qualities of cat purring. So Digihaven uploaded an hour long looped video of Phantom, his cat, doing just that. Purring. Softly. The video was called “Cat Purr 1 Hour Relax, Study,Sleep.”

So I guess you are wondering how in the name of Christ could this find its way to being a case of copyright infringement? Me too. But wait. There’s more.

Digihaven’s video did modest business compared to some cat videos. It amassed around 25 hundred hits but it was monetized so potentially it could earn revenue for Digihaven under YouTube’s Content ID system.

For those who might not be aware of the YouTube Content ID system, this is how it works. Anyone who uploads a video can potentially leverage it to make money by ticking the monetizing tab. But you have to own the copyright on all of the material in the video, including any music or sound used. It’s designed to keep everyone honest. YouTube’s system is built to look for evidence of copyright infringement, and stop people making money from uploading other people’s songs and films. The automated program scans videos and matches their soundtracks to existing songs — if they’re too similar to something on its database, it stops uploaders from making money from the posts.

Week in, week out, automated bots detect and report millions of alleged copyright infringements, which are then processed by the receiving site without a human ever looking at them.

Unfortunately this process is far from flawless, resulting in many false and inaccurate copyright infringement claims. Just to give you more of an idea, the system is similar to what YouTube installed to detect pornographic videos which went horribly wrong when it was revealed that uploaders were by passing the system by using Gaelic Irish language titles for porn films. Is it just me who finds this particularly hilarious? Talk about an Irish joke.

So, getting back to the story of Phantom, the purring moggy. Almost a year after Phantom’s video was posted by Digihaven, the cat’s owner was informed by YouTube that Phantom is a “pirate” purring moggy. No I am not joking. Apparently, it was claimed that part of the video belongs to EMI Music Publishing and PRS, who happen to be two of the world’s biggest music publishing companies.

In its copyright notice sent to Digihaven, YouTube says the cat purring was flagged by its Content ID system as infringing a copy of a musical composition called “Focus.”

The video was not removed by the false claim, but according to Digihaven, monetization was disabled. I am happy to report he won’t be forced into bankruptcy due to the loss of income.

“I’m sure EMI/PRS made Phantom a sad kitty,” Dighaven was heard to say.

But the story doesn’t end here. Not on your life. Or in this case all nine of them. Digihaven was just sharpening Phantom’s claws for a catfight with YouTube and the two music publishing giants who seemingly have nothing better to do.

Hoping to clear his cat’s name, Digihaven filed a dispute. I am also happy to say sanity prevailed with EMI agreeing to lift its claim of copyright infringement.

And while we all might contemplate how it even got this far, Phantom, meanwhile, is reportedly considering a career in the music business and looking for compensation.

“Phantom is currently independent, but looking to sign on with an indie label,” his owner Digihaven says. “ Phantom’s lawyer is looking for 4 kilos of catnip in damages.”

And so he should.

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