David Q&A: Our New Content Identification System

Starting in the last few weeks we’ve turned on an automatic content identification system, similar to those used on other major media sharing sites. The system is used primarily for identifying audio that rightsholders have requested to be taken off SoundCloud. This is good news because it makes it easier for artists, labels and other content owners to control how the content they’ve created is available. And when you upload your own audio to SoundCloud, we can find out more quickly if somebody is uploading a copy to their own page without your permission.

For the vast majority of SoundCloud users, there won’t be any changes. You can keep on creating, recording and uploading original content (and any audio that you have the rights to upload) without any interruption. But we’ve already received some questions about this, so we wanted to give everyone the heads up.

In cases where users upload audio that is owned by rightsholders who have requested a takedown, we are hiding the upload entirely and sending an e-mail to explain the situation and give the user options for next steps. The e-mail will usually contain information about the rightsholder, which is in most cases a record label or publishing company. If you receive one of these e-mails and feel that the upload was flagged in error, because you actually have permission to upload the audio, there’s a simple dispute process. We’ll review the dispute, unhide the upload, and it will appear in your profile again with all stats and comments intact.

Here are some quick answers to some of the more frequently asked questions we’ve gotten since we’ve started rolling this out:

Why are you doing this now?
SoundCloud has always taken seriously our responsibility to act upon requests from rightsholders who believe that their audio has been uploaded by someone without their permission. Implementing this technology helps us to do this more effectively. And that in turn means that we can continue to focus all our efforts on serving over 2 million users who want to share the audio they have created.

Is this a policy change?
No, this is not a change in policy. Our Terms of Use state that SoundCloud reserves the right to remove audio that is deemed to possibly violate anyone’s rights. Users and content owners can still report tracks using the “!” button on the right hand side of track pages, and this technology allows us to preempt any audio that potentially infringes our Terms of Use. Hopefully these steps reduce any frustration later on for users.

What about tracks I bought legally?
Purchased tracks, whether on CD or online, usually don’t come with the rights to distribute that track with it. That means that even legally purchased tracks can be taken down if we receive a claim from the rightsholder. If you have secured the permission to upload and distribute the track, please let us know through the disputes channel!

Did you guys receive my dispute? What’s the status?
We look at each dispute manually so they aren’t resolved immediately. However our Community team will endeavour to respond as quickly as possible to minimize any interruptions to normal service. You can always check on the status of your disputes at http://soundcloud.com/settings/disputes.

  • MJ

    This is a MAJOR mistake that is gonna cost you dearly. If you stop allowing dj’s to upload their dj-mixes it’s just a matter of time before they’ll all be gone. Guaranteed. You should have stood up and fought for a new system, an elimination of the conservative thinking that is paralyzing the music industry. It would have gotten you legendary frontrunning status. But you – probably your spineless management – have conformed and thus failed, no matter how cool and nice you’re trying to sound in your statement. 100% wrong and an incredibly costly mistake. You’ll experience the consequences.

  • Parker

    Hey MJ — I’m sorry you’re upset about this, and I understand that if you’ve had your upload taken down it can be frustrating. I’d just like to clarify a few small things though: for one, we’re not disallowing mixes. Rather, consistent with the policy we’ve always had, we comply with takedown notices. And that means we’ll only hide an upload if it contains something that has already gotten a takedown notice, which is only fair to the rightsholders.

    Another thing I’d like to clarify is the idea that this was just a “spineless” capitulation. In fact, we really want to help support artists and creators, and that entails remaining around as a safe place for them to upload their works. We’ve decided that taking steps that allow us to keep our attention on the technology and the community is the best way to support the users, which, more than standing up and fighting to change international copyright laws, is what we we’re about.

  • Jobe

    So this is because record companies don’t want us to use their songs in our mixes, and distribute those mixes? If it wasn’t for DJ’s making and distributing mixes, these piece of shit record companies wouldn’t exist.

    This is total bullshit. I understand that you guys are simply complying, which I fully respect. But that doesn’t take away from the utter foolishness of this whole scenario.

    What a joke.

  • SeriousCyrus

    Does this mean the end of DJ mixes on soundcloud? There’s is absolutely no way most DJs are going to seek permission for all tracks used in a mix unless it’s for a commercial release. This will make soundcloud useless except for top flight DJs who have the time and the cash to obtain the needed permissions.

  • Bob Humid

    guys relax… :/

    is anyone reading what the staff is answering? they will only take down content if there is a complaint from the rights owner.

    do you guys really think the METALLHEADZ management would take down a DJ-mix where a Goldie-Hit is featured? that will be extremely silly since every good mix is a promo for theose featured artist’s releases. also a track that is mixed, is NOT usable in a set, its just masked, edited and crossfaded with other music. so what better copy-protection is out there then a good dense dj-mix?

    relax guys. only major assholes will show up and try to squeeze the last cents out of lady gaga and britney spears bootlegs or mash-ups… it wont touch the underground. and thats a good thing. because the underground has to be UNDER the radar…

  • Jobe

    yes Bob, we all realise that ‘they will only take down content if there is a complaint from the rights owner’. The fact is, they are upholding the complaint when the content is a DJ mix. Which is rediculous when it is the DJ who is primarily responsible for the spread of popularity for any given track.

  • http://twitter.com/djaudio1 Audio1

    I unfortunately received a few notices this past year over some Moombahton reworks and mixes which included artists from Universal Music. I’ve pretty much taken all music down from Soundcloud that has anything popular to it. Doesn’t seem fair, esp. for those who actually paid for accounts, but hey, The labels want to eat their cake and eat it too, despite the fact that hard working DJ’s will continue to break new artists and new trends. This is the thanks we get.

  • http://twitter.com/djaudio1 Audio1

    What bugs me a little bit about soundcloud is that so much music flies the grey area of copyrights real hardcore yet only music that gets “takedown” notices gets pulled. Everyday I see blogs that host all their musical content, without written or expressed consent from artists and/or labels, yet no one says a word. One artists makes a remix to push an artist even further, It gets the “takedown” notice. Seems a bit backwards but I fully understand that soundcloud is trying to protect themselves against possible litigation.

    “Remember when Soundcloud was underground?”

  • http://twitter.com/cuisineanxious Simon Decreuze

    Could you just make an arrangement that could be to only forbid download for unauthorized upload ?

  • Hater

    Another foot in the grave for soundcloud.

  • http://www.berlin-mitte-institut.de Fresh Meat

    Interesting development, I wouldnt be too judgemental on this. This rather means that major label and artist music wont get the free promo. Most minor artists and labels wont pursue the copyright issues (or even take part in such a database), which means that minor label music will get more audience on soundcloud. As soon as they dont start to take down entire mixes or radio shows for the sake of taking them down, all is good.

  • Alex Storm

    This is absolutely ridiculous! I’m a dj who uses soundcloud to share my mixes with friends and followers for their own personal enjoyment. My mix was flagged as one of the tracks has been barred by the rightsholder, who i have googled and cant find anywhere!? I bought the tune on vinyl about 10yrs ago and can’t believe i can’t include it or share the mix because this track is on it. The only response i’ve had is a suggestion to re-do the mix without this certain track on it – which insults my own artistic integrity! I am a paid subscriber to the site and was considering upgrading for more minutes to upload more mixes but now think i’ll look elsewhere! Sad really, as i loved the concept of soundcloud and have recommended it to many other friends/artists. I’d understand if i’d done a bootleg remix of copyrighted material and was trying to pass it off as my own, but i’m simply doing mixes with my favourite tunes for people to listen to. Does this mean i now have to get permissions for every track i put in a mix? And if so, do we contact the artist, label, or publishing company?? Because i can’t find the supposed rightsholder to the track in question anywhere on the internet! So i’m now left wondering when i do a mix with the tracks i want to play if your website will allow me to post and share it. No one can censor my creative freedom!!

  • khn

    The new automated identification software just identified one of my own tracks (written and produced 100% by myself using no samples) as containing some bullshit pop song I’ve never heard in my life, – and it was immediately pulled down from my page.

    Looked up the track in question, which doesn’t even remotely sound like my own track.

    And so now I have to defend myself against this 100% bullshit claim made by a badly written software that I stole something I didn’t even knew existed beforehand.

    Lovely, thanks a lot.

  • Timlivingstone

    Hey Bob. As a DJ that has had one of his mixes taken down, I can tell you that it does not matter if the track is mixes with another track… The mix is still coming down. My hour long mix (with 24 tracks) was posted for 7 months with no problem. However I decided to tag the artists in the mix in the tag section. Within 24hrs my mix was pulled down.

    What I understand from the Soundcloud post above is that they are essentially using a music identification software similar to Shazam or Soundhound to “listen” to your entire upload to see if it has any copyright violations.

    I’ve been using Soundcloud for over 2 years. I’m not stoked about this recent change as it appears I will have to find another site to host my mixes. Anyone have any good suggestions?

  • http://downbeatscape.blogspot.com Downbeatscape, DJ Erok

    I got a notice on Xmas Day to take down a mix b/c it was identified as a Rusko track. I contacted Mad Decent (the label that released the track) and they said they’ve heard this complaint from a lot of DJs and that they DID NOT initiate the infringement dispute. So SoundCloud removed a 2-hour DJ mix that was incorrectly identified as a single 3-minute track for a dispute that was NOT initiated by the artist or the label. Not cool. Way to give me a reason to not use your service anymore.

  • http://downbeatscape.blogspot.com Downbeatscape, DJ Erok

    I got a notice on Xmas Day to take down a mix b/c it was identified as a Rusko track. I contacted Mad Decent (the label that released the track) and they said they’ve heard this complaint from a lot of DJs and that they DID NOT initiate the infringement dispute. So SoundCloud removed a 2-hour DJ mix that was incorrectly identified as a single 3-minute track for a dispute that was NOT initiated by the artist or the label. Not cool. Way to give me a reason to not use your service anymore.

  • http://downbeatscape.blogspot.com Downbeatscape, DJ EROK

    Nope – they don’t take down ONLY if there’s a complaint from the Rights Holder. I contacted Mad Decent (the rights holder on the track that my mix was flagged for) and they said they did not initiate the dispute and that they’re bummed that this happened to me.

  • Cenquentez

    Everyone can contact and setup a Mixcloud.com account. It doesnt allow downloads. Its primarily for DJ’s. Soundcloud could benefit from similar service if they remove the “Download” option.

  • Tobes

    Its official – Soundcloud hate DJs! Oh dear, seems Souncloud have shot themselves in the foot. This is copyright policing gone too far. I agree with many of the comments regarding DJ mixes. This software will mark the end of them on this site, unless Soundcloud take action to change this, which I doubt. I suggest using http://www.mix.dj for your mix uploads, far better for DJs promoting their skills. I’ve just had a mix pulled, yet I paid for all the tracks and the mix features between 2 – 3 minutes of each one – far short of a complete track that could be pirated. Of course the automated software can’t take any of this into account. I’m all for artists safeguarding their rights, but surely mixes promote artists if done in the right way? Not happy…

  • Tobes

    http://www.mix.dj – superb site. Soundcloud hates Djs.

  • Tobes

    I’ve already said this and I’ll make it simple for all DJs currently using Soundcloud. I feel sorry for you if you’ve paid money to use the site, but STOP USING IT NOW. Soundcloud should refund you for this travesty, but of course they won’t. Use http://WWW.MIX.DJ instead – THE best site for DJs. There are no restrictions and the creative freedom of the mix creator is not compromised in any way.

  • Tobes

    I’ve already said this and I’ll make it simple for all DJs currently using Soundcloud. I feel sorry for you if you’ve paid money to use the site, but STOP USING IT NOW. Soundcloud should refund you for this travesty, but of course they won’t. Use http://www.mix.dj instead – THE best site for DJs. There are no restrictions and the creative freedom of the mix creator is not compromised in any way.

  • Xmpomo

    So you can’t hear anything? If I can hear it I can download it. It’s using simple MP3s.

  • http://www.shammydee.com Shammy Dee

    Not a good move SC…This is a first for me in my 12+ years of DJ’ing. I don’t see the difference between a dj mix and a podcast, especially when we pay for getting our mixes hosted. I highly doubt that most labels are tripping on having their songs on DJ mixes…DJ’s of any genre are the cornerstone of music. We are responsible for promoting the artist outside a label. I understand that you are protecting the rightsholders, but it unfortunately shafts us in the process and it doesn’t feel good. You will lose another account soon and there will be more DJ’s following suit. Watch.

  • http://www.shammydee.com Shammy Dee

    Not a good move SC…This is a first for me in my 12+ years of DJ’ing. I don’t see the difference between a dj mix and a podcast, especially when we pay for getting our mixes hosted. I highly doubt that most labels are tripping on having their songs on DJ mixes…DJ’s of any genre are the cornerstone of music. We are responsible for promoting the artist outside a label. I understand that you are protecting the rightsholders, but it unfortunately shafts us in the process and it doesn’t feel good. You will lose another account soon and there will be more DJ’s following suit. Watch.

  • Craig Alder

    so is there a list available where we can check what tunes not to include on a dj mix. an idea perhaps would be to create an updated list every month / week as this will change constantly

  • Kuntokinte

    Bad move!

  • Andre

    Soundcloud should have an underlying rights agreement with rights holders (like television and radio do) to cover publishing of music on Soundcloud by users such as dj’s and this should be build into the subscription fees.

  • http://twitter.com/lojinx lojinx

    Where are you getting the primary rightsholder database from? It appears to be very US-centric and not handling international licensing appropriately.

  • Chrissturgess

    This is a very sad day for sound cloud. I have been bombarded with e mails from many of Soundclouds most prominent and creative artists stating that this action will force them off the cloud to find new and more liberal homes. Totally wrong and against what the original ethos of Soundcloud stood for. Very sad indeed!

  • Anam

    To SoundClowns… Stay away from dj mixes!!! …you take my first mix offline and i am gone forever and believe me many others think the same but not everyone have a need to let you know that. So don’t be fooled that this will be accepted by us whatever the copyright law is!

  • Jc

    mixcloud.

  • XGB

    FROM ONE BUSINESS MAN TO ANOTHER- SORT IT OR DIE!

  • Nrosko

    Disgusting behaviour from all who is involved in enforcing this. Wish i hadn’t botherd upgrading last month.

  • DJ Odyssey

    I was going to buy a subscription, but not now. Moving on, since ther are may many other places to host dj Mixes!

  • Graeme jackson

    Two things to consider here.

    1, Yes it would be a pain if my Mix(es)/Tracks were flagged on this system.

    But this would not happen if….

    2, I have contacted the artists, Labels involved for permission to use the track/sample in the first place and adhered to the Creative Commons act and PRS. Even if it is flagged SC have said you can dispute the action. If it’s all good they will unhide to post.

    It is a shame that these are never considered or understood by allot of people because it would mean official recognition for the artists involved.

    Yeah sure, for the bedroom DJ/Artist it might seem a little to much effort for something which is a hobby but hopefully these actions might educate people to the laws which have been in place for so long and a very rarely considered.

  • Graeme jackson

    Two things to consider here.

    1, Yes it would be a pain if my Mix(es)/Tracks were flagged on this system.

    But this would not happen if….

    2, I have contacted the artists, Labels involved for permission to use the track/sample in the first place and adhered to the Creative Commons act and PRS. Even if it is flagged SC have said you can dispute the action. If it’s all good they will unhide to post.

    It is a shame that these are never considered or understood by allot of people because it would mean official recognition for the artists involved.

    Yeah sure, for the bedroom DJ/Artist it might seem a little to much effort for something which is a hobby but hopefully these actions might educate people to the laws which have been in place for so long and a very rarely considered.

  • Mike G

    Unfortunately your policy flies in the face of national copyright law.

    Simply because a copyright holder claims copyright violation does not make it so. Many countries provide for the use of materials in critical review and fair use, and this includes using vast sections of otherwise protected materials, notably audio files. Amongst others, Canada is one such country, and I strongly encourage you to become a little more informed on the subject(you’ll find that Michael Geist is a useful source).

    And apart from the woefully inadequate blanket policy with respect to actual law, this is a particularly bad business move. Tick tock goes the clock on soundcloud.

    Copyright violation is not
    Dependent upon the country

  • Me

    Strange I had a mix taken down but no mention of what the track or dispute was over. Absolutely gutted as I’d just paid for a year’s subscription. Hmm where’s the refund option?

  • Me

    Strange I had a mix taken down but no mention of what the track or dispute was over. Absolutely gutted as I’d just paid for a year’s subscription. Hmm where’s the refund option?