One of the biggest music channels on YouTube called Lofi Girl — there's a good chance you've come across the Miyazaki art-style thumbnail at some point while digging around for working or studying music — has been taken down due to what its proprietors are saying is a "false" copyright claim.
The channel has amassed over ten million subscribers, with over 660 million people tuning into an uber-popular livestream that's been pumping out inoffensive background beats for over 20,800 hours — two years and four months — straight.
But the stream has now ground to a halt thanks to a copyright strike issued by "FMC Music Sdn Bhd Malaysia," a Malaysian record label.
"The lofi radios have been taken down because of false copyright strikes," reads a Lofi Girl update, adding that "hopefully [YouTube] will sort this quickly."
Fortunately, it sounds like the incident is close to resolution — though for the moment, the iconic stream remains down.
"Confirmed the takedown requests were abusive & terminated the claimants account," YouTube's official Twitter account responded early Monday morning. "We've resolved the strikes [and] reinstated your vids — it can sometimes take 24 [to] 48 hours for everything to be back to normal!"
Despite the potential happy ending, it appears to be yet another high profile example of YouTube content ID algorithms falsely accusing creators of infringing on copyright. The platform's automated copyright filters have consistently caused YouTube creators major headaches, often mistakenly labeling original content as infringing.
"For anyone thinking this situation is absurd, or wrong, or outright illegal, just remember smaller artists have been abused by this system for years now and YouTube has refused to try to fix what's clearly broken," Nathen Paige, the creator of the YouTube music channel SageNine Music, argued in a response video.
"And to be clear, I recognize the importance of copyright law," he added, "but YouTube's Content ID system is not upholding the law at this point, its just creating avenues for real scumbags to scam channels out of any hard earned revenue they have."
Content ID, the platform's "automated content identification system," scans every upload on YouTube "against a database of audio and visual content that's been submitted to YouTube by copyright owners," according to the company's website.
Given the numbers involved — YouTube has over two billion monthly active users — that state of affairs has turned into a massive problem for creators.
Last year, YouTube released a transparency report into the status of copyright claims, noting that a whopping 772 million copyright claims were made in just the first half of 2021 through Content ID. Only one percent were Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedowns or other forms of complaint.
It's a widespread issue, with 99 percent of creators choosing not to dispute the Content ID claims.
And that's a big problem. As civil liberties watchdog the Electronic Frontier Foundation noted in a 2021 report, YouTubers "have neither the time nor money to lobby YouTube for improvements. Worse, as a practical matter, YouTube is the only game in town, so they can’t make their anger heard by leaving."
In other words, YouTubers don't really have anywhere else to go, given the platform's ubiquity.
As Lofi Girl's takedown illustrates, the Content ID system still seems easy to abuse.
And not every channel is as popular as Lofi Girl. Smaller channels will have far more issues getting in touch with YouTube to dispute and reverse erroneous copyright claims in a timely matter.
In fact, according to the EFF points out, the company has often failed to respond to copyright claims within 30 days, which is its own policy.
It's a sad state of affairs. YouTube's flawed copyright system is clearly causing a lot of hurt, undermining the existence — and even the livelihoods — of creators on its platform.
Copyright law is already a hot mess in the US — and this situation certainly isn't helping.
READ MORE: Popular YouTube music stream Lo Fi Beats taken down after "false" copyright claim [Boing Boing]