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A YouTube clip with nothing but white noise has been slammed with copyright claims

An Australian musician is getting copyright infringement claims left, right and centre after he posted a 10-hour video of white noise in YouTube. Yep.

White noise is a term used to describe random signals that produce indistinct electronic hiss (in layman’s terms, the fuzzy sound that comes out of speakers sometimes when no music is playing).

Nobody can have the authorial rights to a statistical model for signals or signal sources, it’s like copyrighting the frequencies of light.

Sebastian Tomczak recorded the video back in 2015 and uploaded it to YouTube, never imagining he would be immersed in such a preposterous legal mess.

“I will be disputing these claims,” he said to the BBC.

The claims against the Aussie musician don’t explicitly demand the video’s removal, but ask instead for a cut of whatever advertising revenue it generates.

“I am intrigued and perplexed that YouTube’s automated Content ID system will pattern-match white noise with multiple claims,” said the musician.

As the owner of YouTube, Google sends automatic claims on behalf of content creators when its algorithms find a close resemblance between the content of two videos.

Tomczak referred to the claims as “spurious” and “frustrating”, although he says they won’t have a significant impact on his work.

“If I were making substantial money from YouTube content, such a broken system may prove to be unusable,” he adds.

YouTube’s automated Content ID system works by matching uploaded files against the existing content on the platform. White noise provides signals that are too indistinct for Google’s algorithms to work precisely, the company confirmed.

“The accuracy of our matching systems can only ever be as good as the accuracy of what copyright holders submit,” said a Google spokesperson.

“We have review teams that work to catch and prevent inaccurate claims, take action against copyright holders who knowingly or repeatedly cause errors, and we offer a robust dispute process for users who believe their video was claimed in error.”

The rate of invalid claims is below 1% according to Google.

About the author

Filmmaker. 3D artist. Procrastination guru. I spend most of my time doing VFX work for my upcoming film Servicios Públicos, a sci-fi dystopia about robots, overpopulated cities and tyrant states. @iampineros

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