As Record Labels Still Demand Copyright Filters, Facebook Removes Guy Playing Bach
The latest in a string of absurd copyright stories, Facebook’s copyright filters squelched a recently posted violin recital livestream of Bach’s Partita for Violin Solo No. 1 – a piece of music very much in the public domain.
Guest post by Mike Masnick of Techdirt
We’ve been covering a bunch of nonsense copyright stories lately, as the pandemic has really done quite a job in demonstrating the complete inanity of much of our copyright infrastructure. The latest, as posted by the Twitter account @linernotesdanny, is about how his brother, Dr. David Johnson, tried to livestream a violin recital on Facebook playing Bach’s Partita for Violin Solo No. 1 (which is a lovely piece of music), but copyright filters “silenced” it.
Johnson is a composer and violinist who teaches at Georgia College, and he was doing a “lunchtime violin” session for everyone stuck at home, which you can watch on Facebook. Oddly, while watching it, multiple parts seem to be silenced — rather than just the one minute section mentioned above. The audio comes in and out, because how dare anyone perform “copyright” protected music… that was composed in 1720, before music was even subject to copyright. Indeed, one of Johann Sebastian Bach’s children, Johann Christian Bach, famously filed a lawsuit in the UK in 1777 to get sheet music protected by copyright in the first place.
And, of course, even if there were copyright in the time of Bach, it would still be in the public domain by now. But, because everything must be owned, Facebook’s filters are claiming that this is actually infringing on someone else’s work — Arthur Grumiaux’s recording of Partita for Violin Solo No. 1 in B minor. And of course, here we come to one of the fun parts of copyright in music: that the composition and the recording may get entirely separate copyrights — such that while the composition is clearly in the public domain, a specific recording can still be covered by copyright, as Grumiaux’s version of this song apparently is. Of course, Grumiaux died in 1986, and seeing as Dr. Johnson appears to be playing live, it seems somewhat unfathomable that he is somehow infringing on Grumiaux’s copyright — should it be legitimate — of a recording from decades ago.
But, alas, this is the way copyright filters work. For the most part, they don’t even recognize the concept of a public domain, and have trouble distinguishing between multiple records of things in the public domain. But that hasn’t stopped the EU from mandating filters, and the major record labels now pushing strongly for such mandatory filters in the US, even though most major platforms already have them and they’re doing good work in making sure no one can possibly hear Dr. Johnson perform a three century old piece of music that apparently only a guy who died three decades ago can profit from. Copyright. What can’t it do?