A Thursday in December

Starring Gandalf the Grey.

It’s probably best thought of as a sound collage, and one that I find strangely relaxing.

There’s actually a story associated with this, though not a very interesting one. When first I posted it on YouTube, on 27th December, it was up for a matter of minutes before I got hit with a takedown: my video was made unviewable, and an email told me it was because I was using copyrighted content — specifically Vladimir Spivakov and Sergej Bezrodny’s recording of Arvo Part’s instrumental peice Spiegel im Spiegel. Needless to say the takedown was not from the performers or the composer, but from Universal Music Group.

I thought about replacing the music with a free recording of Chopin’s E minor prelude, but in the end I decided to push back against UMG’s claim, arguing that:

Reason for dispute

This video uses copyrighted material in a manner that does not require approval of the copyright holder. It is a fair use under copyright law.


The use of Arvo Pärt’s “Spiegel im Spiegel” is highly transormative, being used as part of a sound collage such that no-one would conceivably listen to my work as a substitute for the original. (It is also being used in a non-commercial way: I have no intention of trying to profit from the new work; and I use only 4m25s of the 10m41s piece, well under half.)

I got an automatic email back saying:

You are receiving this email as confirmation that we have received your dispute. UMG has up to 30 days to review the information you provided and take action.

If UMG agrees with your dispute, they can release the claim at any time. If they disagree, they can choose to uphold it, and the claim will remain active on your video. Learn more about disputes.

I wasn’t expecting anything to happen before 26 January. So it came as a pleasant surprise last night to get a notification that someone had left a comment on my video — which meant it had to be up. Sure enough when I opened it in an anonymous window, there it was!

I’ve still not heard anything by email from YouTube or UMG, so I don’t know for sure; but it seems they’ve accepted my argument and withdrawn their objection to my art.

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