As It Happens

YouTuber whose white noise video was hit with 5 claims says copyright system is broken

Seb Tomczak uploaded a 10-hour video of white noise onto YouTube — and then the platform's automatic copyright system flagged it for five separate infringements.
Tomczak says that Youtube's automatic copyright system 'incentivizes people to make spurious copyright claims,' after his 10-hour long video of white noise had five claims against it. (Submitted by Seb Tomczak)

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Two years ago, Seb Tomczak posted a 10-hour video of white noise on YouTube.

But recently, the University of Adelaide music teacher received a notice from YouTube that his video —  which he says has no identifiable sounds —  was the subject of five different copyright claims.

Tomczak says this shows how "broken" YouTube's automatic copyright system is. 

"The idea is that copyright holders can upload content into the YouTube Content ID system, and that system will then automatically patent match content against other YouTube videos," Tomczak told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

"In this case, obviously, there have been people that have uploaded white noise or content that is very similar to white noise, and this content has then matched against my video."

Once this automatic system detects a copyright infringement, any advertisement money that is generated is diverted to those copyright claimants.

'Incentivizes people to make spurious copyright claims'

But the video Tomczak generated on the open source audio software Audacity was original.

Although Tomczak wasn't making very much money off of it, he says that the financial  aspect is exactly why people are submitting these kinds of copyright claims to the automated system.

"This system incentivizes  people to make spurious copyright claims."

Tomczak tweeted a photo of the copyright claims, and after about two days of attention, YouTube released them.

"YouTube respects the rights of copyright holders and we've invested heavily in copyright and content management tools to give rights holders control of their content on YouTube," a YouTube spokesperson told As It Happens in an emailed statement.

"Making sure our Content ID tools are being used properly is deeply important to us, so we've built a dedicated team to monitor this." 

Not the first time for Tomczak

This isn't the first time Tomczak has received a message like this from YouTube. Other original music that he has posted on YouTube has had copyright claims made against them.

"I've always just disputed the claim as soon as it's come in and then I've said, 'OK I've got the original files.' And then YouTube reverses that after a few days," he said 

A picture illustration shows a screen with a YouTube copyright message. Seb Tomczak received five copyright complaints against his 10-hour video of white noise. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

But those few days that it takes to clear up a copyright claim can be critical for content creators who have a large following and depend on generating revenue from an advertisement system.

And any money that is diverted during that time is not reversible, which is why Tomczak hopes that YouTube takes notice of his story.

"Hopefully cases like these with the white noise, which shows how sort of broken their copyright system is, can shed some light on it or get YouTube to think about changing their system," he said.