Tuesday, June 19, 2018

What happened during the last months on COVER.INFO?

Not much happened on the surface of the website since a few weeks but we are still intensively working on COVER.INFO. During the last months, we completely redesigned the database, revised the data, migrated it and began to overwork it again. As a user, you see almost nothing of all this, so we want to report what we have done and what we are still working on in the background.

In the database of the old coverinfo.de, almost all additional information was put in German language into a comment, for example "Liveversion. 1978 aufgenommen. Deutscher Text: Max Mustermann / Sarah Muster. Von Sarah existiert auch eine französische Version mit dem Titel "Exemple" aus dem Jahre 1980" [which means: "Live version. Recorded in 1978. German lyrics: Max Mustermann / Sarah Muster. Sarah also made a French version under the title "Exemple" from year 1980"].

On the new site, all this information has its own space in the database. This is preventing mistakes and makes the addition and administration of the data much easier. This also allows us to make a version of COVER.INFO completely in English. Although a big part of the data could be interpreted automatically, we had to adjust a lot of things by hand. In almost 20 years, a great number of spelling mistakes occurred.

In the old database, a song had only one original. When a song had more than one, we needed to make several entries. Attentive users may have occasionally found some inconsistencies. In the new database, every song is actually existing only once.

For the new site, we added some song relations. Beside cover and quotation, there are now also samples, medleys and alternative versions. The latter are especially versions of the original in other languages. Before, they were mentioned in the comments, but now they are independent songs.

A song can have more than one writer or performing artist. This was not the case before. A song could have only one performer. For the database, Madonna feat. Justin Timberlake was one artist. If you clicked on Madonna or Justin Timberlake to see all their songs, then you did not get songs by Madonna feat. Justin Timberlake. Thus we had to revise over 100,000 artists and separate them into about 120,000. We couldn't do that in a fully automated way because the system doesn't know if for example Kool & The Gang are one or two artists.

Song writers are a special problem because they are indicated in different ways in sources and on discs. Sometimes you find their real names, sometimes their stage names; sometimes first name and surname, sometimes only surnames. All this has to be checked by hand – which is a time-consuming task, considering that we have almost 90,000 indications of song writers in the database.

You can imagine: The new site is much more complex but a lot faster than the old one. Furthermore, the new site can be used on mobile devices.

On COVER.INFO you can see at a glance which songs an artist performed and wrote and also of which bands he is or was a member.

For about 55 percent of the songs, our system found about 230,000 YouTube videos so that you can listen to these songs – a great improvement compared to the old site.

The implementation of languages is another thing which is not as easy as it seems to be at first sight. Our editorial staff needs a drop-down list of languages. But what languages are existing? There are ISO standards about this but they are disputed. It can happen that languages seem to be missing in the list and then we have to discuss why. Maybe it is not a language, but a dialect? We don't want to identify dialects.

More than 66,000 songs in our database are now tagged with a language. But originally we even discussed about removing language information from the database because the language was mentioned in the database only for a minority of songs. But your feedback told us that many of you are interested in language information for your research. That's why we are now trying to assign a language information to every song.

Since many years we are saving in the background the references of your database entries. These are very often websites. We saw a lot of music websites come and go. That means that many of our sources are not available anymore. Sometimes even serious websites gave way to malicious ones because the owner of the domain name has changed. We have now decided to publish a selection of a few serious long-standing references such as Discogs.com and Wikipedia. We are also saving more and more record labels and disc numbers. But these also need to be put into structured data fields.

Beside all these tasks, more things are done in the background: we have to make and implement concepts to show the content of the many new data fields on COVER.INFO in a reasonable and clear way. We also need to develop a ticketing system to receive, editorially verify and add your contributions to the database. Even on coverinfo.de, there were contact forms but they simply generated e-mails which needed to be transferred to the database completely manually. Now we are trying to automate as much as possible to let the database grow under surveillance of our editorial staff as quick as possible.

There also were a lot of technical challenges to solve. Recently, our main task was to build a technically and content-related solid basis for the future.

In the end, the COVER.INFO website will be redesigned again to optimize the presentation of the data and to improve the user's benefit and comfort.

Friday, June 15, 2018

How to make money with stolen music – copyright claims on YouTube

Being a YouTuber, it happened to me several times that years after having published a video, someone asserted a copyright claim because of the music used. I was allowed to continue publishing the video but the claimant placed ads in the video and got paid for it. This is called monetization.

That's how YouTube informs video artists about a pretended copyright violation.

How did this happen? I used music from Free Music Archive. On this website, you will find, among others, music which is royalty free and can be used for YouTube videos. But not all tracks are public domain. In some cases, the authors decide later to earn money with their music. They add their tracks to YouTube's Content ID system. When YouTube's algorithm finds this music in videos, it monetizes them. In the end, this is quite fair because the YouTuber got music without paying royalties to improve his video. Nevertheless it would have been better if the author had reserved the right of monetization from the beginning on in his terms of use.

Earlier this month I was very surprised when [Merlin] Altafonte Music Distribution claimed that I would use in my video at minute 1:04 the sound recording "maz-Buena Vibra" on which they would hold the rights. I could keep on using it but they would monetize the video, i. e. placing ads and earning money with it.

I didn't even know a track called "Buena Vibra" nor an artist named maz! The piece of music I used is "Cute" by Bensound, an artist who allows YouTubers to use his track in their videos unless they are unchanged and unless his website bensound.com is credited as a reference.

I googled maz's track and finally found it on Spotify. There is a song called "Buena Vibra" by this artist.

The stolen song is also distributed on Spotify.

The first two and a half minutes, I wondered what this track has to do with "Cute" and how YouTube would have recognized it in my video. But then I was astounded: from 2:30 on, the track contains Bensound's "Cute" in full length. A 100 % sample you could say! I informed Bensound. He had not given a permission.

So, what has happened? Somebody put on the market a foreign piece of music as if it was his own (or even two; who knows where the first two and a half minutes came from?) using a firm called CD Baby. It publishes digital music on well-known platforms like Amazon and Spotify and collects the royalty fees. It seems that they also use YouTube's Content ID system.

CD Baby allows musicians to merchandise their work as music streams or even on vinyl or CD.

CD Baby certainly acted bona fide when they claimed pretended rights of [Merlin] Altafonte Music Distribution and believed that I would have used the piece of music by maz in my video without permission. Actually maz audaciously stole it from Bensound to earn money with it.

In such cases, YouTubers should dispute a file on YouTube and indicate that they have a license or permission from the proper rights holder to use this material. Then the monetization will be suspended and the claimant has to react. In my case [Merlin] Altafonte Music Distribution abandoned his claim.

You should not copy this business model. It can not only have consequences by civil law but could also be punished. CD Baby will delete maz's track due to Bensound's claim.