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ange on 08/09/2013 at 01:30AM

What Content ID Has to Do With Your Content

We've heard that many artists who share their music via the Free Music Archive have received fishy emails from a service called We apologize, and are working to make sure this type of spam doesn't happen again.

As a resource for helping you share your music (or, as some would call it, “content”), we were concerned to see that these emails contained some misleading information, and figured a nice note was in order to answer some questions you might be having.

What’s YouTube’s Content ID?

This is how YouTube identifies user-uploaded videos that include media from other rights holders. To do this, rights holders deliver YouTube reference files (audio-only or video) of content they own, metadata describing that content, and policies on what they want YouTube to do when they find a match (monetize, track, or block). YouTube compares videos uploaded to YouTube against those reference files.

Content ID Helps Track Music on YouTube

YouTube created Content ID for rightsholders like record labels who own exclusive rights to large catalogues. Though you’re welcome to give it a shot using their signup page, so far, they don't seem to have the capacity to accommodate independent musicians. This is unfortunate because we hear from artists who would like to use Content ID to track how their music is used, and identify when this happens without attribution. We're currently looking into additional services we can recommend to FMA artists who want to give Content ID a spin but aren't able to go through to YouTube directly. is Not the Same Thing YouTube's Content ID

Because YouTube's Content ID is hard for indie musicians to break into, there are middlemen services like They are a website owned by the stock music library AudioMicro and that also goes by the name “AdRev.” These middlemen will exploit your copyright by uploading your reference files to their company’s ContentID account, identifying your “content” as their own, placing ads on the YouTube videos, and giving you a percentage. Even though “” is not the same thing as YouTube's Content ID program, their blog is using SEO tricks to be tied to the phrase, and they’re in the process of trying to trademark Content ID.

Is this a good way to monetize my music?

That’s up to you. Some artists have taken AdRev up on their offer, including Open Goldberg Variations, who recently blogged about their decision. We're looking into additional services we can recommend to FMA artists who want to give Content ID a spin but aren’t able to get through to YouTube directly.

For artists who encourage derivative works, it’s important to keep in mind that a service like AdRev may limit the reach of your music. They use ContentID to claim the video's ad revenue, taking it away from the video creator if there's already an ad on it, or adding a commercial if there wasn't one already. Smart video creators steer clear of anything they think might be ContentID-able in the first place, otherwise they get angry.

Another issue is that middlemen services may place ads indiscriminately. If you only wanted ads to appear on commercial uses of your music, or wanted to make exceptions for certain content creators with whom you’ve made an informal arrangement, communicating this to YouTube via a middleman could be tricky.

Watch Out for Trolls

Some FMA artists have run into issues with trolls on YouTube claiming ad revenue from their music. We hear that this is relatively simple to sort out. By making your contact information easily available, it helps filmmakers reach out and get YouTube the info they need to get rid of the claim.

Someone used my music in a video in a way that violates the terms of my Creative Commons license. What can be done?

If you want to stop that video, YouTube provides tools to submit a copyright infringement takedown request, which you totally have the right to do if they didn't follow Creative Commons guidelines you selected. More info here.

Creative Commons is an incredibly powerful way to encourage sharing while also protecting your copyright. Alongside video-makers, there are countless educators, bloggers, podcasters, arts organizations and others who seek to participate in this symbiotic system. Because FMA hosts music under a range of licenses—from download-only to public domain—people will often discover a song that they hope to use outside the bounds of its license. To avoid getting to the point of having to file a copyright complaint, most artist profiles offer ways to get in contact for "more permissions," and we've heard about artists striking lucrative licensing deals as a result. This is why we encourage every artist to make it easy to get in contact by including your e-mail address on your FMA artist page.

Can we please avoid spam like this in the future?

We’re creating a mailform for our website that will help you guys avoid mass-mailings like this in the future.

We hope this information is helpful even though we aren’t lawyers and this isn’t legal advice. Jason and I would love to talk more and hear about your recommendations and experiences with Content ID. You can reach out to us anytime with your thoughts and questions by sending a note to contact at or by posting a comment here below.



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