Sony Makes Copyright Claim Against Filmmaker Whose Video THEY Licensed

Image Credit: Peta Pixel

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

Often times, YouTube can be like the wild west, with videos containing unauthorized content being put up, and copyright claims pulling them down. This is largely done thanks to YouTube’s content ID system, which can scan videos for copyright infringement, and flag them. Sometimes it’ll just remove the infringing audio, sometimes it’ll just pull the entire video down as a result.

But what happens with the video images themselves are at the heart of a complaint, and what happens when the man who actually made the video has it pulled down by a studio who licensed his work? That’s what happened recently, thanks to a claim by Sony. Sounds confusing? Welcome to copyright and YouTube’s Content ID system.  Let’s dig deeper.

“Last week, I had my first encounter with a visual copyright claim that wasn’t quite so simple to resolve. Who issued the copyright claim against my original footage? Sony Music Entertainment.” – Mitch Martinez, PetaPixel

Now this isn’t a case of freebooting, like with Facebook. No, this complaint comes from Sony Music Entertainment against a video that filmmaker Mitch Martinez, who posted an original piece onto YouTube. Dubbed “Ink in Water4 – 90s – 4k res,” the 4K video had been licensed to Sony, through their subsidiary Epic Records. Martinez figured that since he was the underlying copyright holder, there would be no harm or foul.

“… everything about this content copyright claim issue was solely related to visual content and had nothing to do with any audio content for any of the mentioned videos.” – Martinez

Well, that wasn’t the case, as Sony issued a copyright claim against him as a result, but it wasn’t about the audio, which Martinez didn’t even have in the video above. According to Martinez, who runs his own 4K Stock Video library at his site, Epic Records licensed some stock footage for one of their music videos.

You can see it below:

So you can easily see where this is going. Because Epic Records associates Martinez’ own original content with their music video, thanks to the license agreement, Sony thinks they can push their weight around and demand he take it down, effectively saying they have the sole exclusive right to Martinez own content!

“I’m not a stranger to content ID matches or automated bots thinking that my content belongs to a larger company. It’s happened before.” – Martinez

F0rtunately, since Martinez employs YouTube to showcase clips of his library, he’s run into similar issues before, and he had a plan. First he addressed it directly by doing his research and locating his agreement with Epic. This took a while, because Epic wasn’t making the claim, big brother Sony was.

Once he was able to connect all the dots, he filed a counter claim with YouTube, explaining he was the owner of the video, and providing evidence that he made a licensing deal with Epic/Sony.

“(I explained) nicely that I had issued a license for the claiming party to use my footage but they have no claim to any copyright for my content,” Martinez wrote. “I provide the date on which I issued the license agreement, the name and e-mail address to whom I issued it, and a link to my original footage and website link.”

Martinez also reminded them that if they did not remove the claim, he had the right to revoke the license.  He also emailed the person who made the deal with him to keep them in the loop. After that, he had to wait for 48 hours to allow Sony to respond.

“Copyright: Mitch Martinez, retains all right, title, and interest in and to the Stock Files not expressly granted by the License Grant above. Such rights are protected by the United States and International Copyright laws and international treaty provisions. You may be held legally responsible for any copyright infringement that is caused or encouraged by your failure to abide by the terms of this Agreement.” – Paragraph from Martinez’ License Agreement with Epic Records

Image Credit: Peta Pixel
Image Credit: Peta Pixel

Usually, according to Martinez, the claim gets pulled after being attributed to an automatic bot doing the searches and yielding a so-called “false positive.” But in this case, Martinez actually lost his dispute appeal!

“I checked the status of the claim on YouTube and found a status update explaining that ‘The claimant (Sony Music) has reviewed their claim and confirmed it was valid,'” Martinez said. “Essentially saying that someone at Sony or a person that manages their YouTube account reviewed the information I provided, and said, ‘Nope. This is definitely our footage and we own the copyright.’ This was a first for me…”

Image Credit - Peta Pixel
Image Credit – Peta Pixel

Martinez then tried several times to contact the representative at Epic Records about the issue and was met with nothing but static. So he made a copyright claim against Sony through YouTube’s Content ID system. What’s good for the goose, etc. That must’ve gotten somebody’s attention, because he finally got a voicemail from Sony’s legal department acknowledging the issue.

With some back and forth, the lawyer at Epic Records acknowledged his copyright, but that the person who was Martinez’ contact at Epic no longer worked there, which may have been the hang up.

” I explained very clearly that if they did not comply with the conditions I stated that their only other course of action would be to replace or remove my footage from their video – and also noted that YouTube does not allow replacement videos so they would be forced to remove the video and lose their hit count on the video.” – Martinez

In the end, after a review by the lawyer at Epic, Sony eventually released their copyright claim, and a week later, his video was restored.


It pays to be patient, vigilant and do your homework. And remember, you catch more flies with honey than you do vinegar. Being professional is the surest way to get them to do the same and to get the results you’re after. You can always go to war. The key is to do it after all the options have been exhausted.

Hat Tip – PetaPixel

About doddle 16509 Articles
Doddlenews is the news division of the Digital Production Buzz, a leading online resource for filmmakers, covering news, reviews and tutorials for the video and film industry, along with movie and TV news, and podcasting.

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