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AudioJungle’s Tim McMorris on why he joined AdRev

AudioJungle Elite, Tim McMorris, recently registered his entire portfolio with AdRev, after discovering a label had registered his copyrighted music as their own, claiming advertising revenue on videos with viewing numbers as high as seven figures. McMorris’ announcement that he was joining AdRev contained a call-to-action to other authors to do the same, which reignited some debate about whether Content ID partners like AdRev are good or bad for authors and in-turn, buyers. 

To clarify how he came to his decision to join AdRev, I put some questions to Tim McMorris. 

You recently joined AdRev. Why?

I recently joined AdRev as I decided it was time to get serious about protecting my intellectual property rights. While AdRev is not the be all and end all of rights protection entities, the platform plays a very significant role in the detection and deterring of illegitimate music use on YouTube.

It’s no secret that YouTube is the most popular video sharing site on the web. As such, tracking illegal use across its vast digital landscape without assistance is impossible. I know because I tried for a few years.

In music, I’ve learned that when the industry changes, you can either change with it or get left behind. For me it was as simple as that; it was time to get with the program. Content ID has become mainstream.

You mentioned in the forums that your music had been misused, and claimed by another publisher/business. Can you go into detail about that?

A few months ago I started receiving e-mails from buyers asking about notices they were receiving on YouTube. I knew enough about Content ID and AdRev at this point to know right away what those notices were. Something was definitely not right if my music was coming up in the system as I hadn’t registered any of my portfolio with any entity connected to Content ID.

Before reaching out to AdRev, I uploaded a test video using the track in question to a private YouTube account. Sure enough, I received the same notice the buyers mentioned. The notice itself lists who is claiming the video, so that is where I first received that important info.

I contacted AdRev after this to explain the situation and inquire about who registered the music. After proving my identity, the offenders were removed as the rights holders.

AdRev claimed that many times labels “batch” claim work, and sometimes tracks that are not theirs get caught up in that system. That sounds about on par with the actions of many labels, yet was (and is) still a very poor excuse. They also offered the alternative that spelling or similar titles may have caused the error in attribution. While this is possible, I think it’s unlikely, which is why I am independently investigating who claimed my work, for how long, and how much money they made from it.

Not only was having my work claimed frustrating and annoying, it left me in a poor position with those who had licensed my work. It wasn’t my fault of course, but buyers didn’t know that. I had to act very quickly to get information on my website to assist customers, and soon after, decided to register all of my work with AdRev.

Some have said they believe AdRev strong-armed me into that position, and there are some theories about AdRev using unethical practices like this to lure rights holders into registering, but I think that is highly unlikely. After all, I didn’t have to register with AdRev, it could have easily been another company offering the same services. Where would they benefit then?

While I didn’t like the explanation of how the music could be have been registered and attributed to the wrong person/label, I still saw AdRev as the best option moving forward to protect my work from illegitimate use, and now, illegitimate registration from others too.

Why had you waited so long to join AdRev?

I hesitated to join AdRev or any similar platform for so long simply because I didn’t know how it was going to effect buyers. I initially didn’t really have a good understanding of how Content ID or AdRev worked. I didn’t have a strategy in place to handle an influx of questions or e-mails if they came, and at the time AudioJungle had not officially announced that it support the use of Content ID.

Beyond all of this, I didn’t know how joining AdRev would effect my business or sales on AudioJungle. There were a lot of angles that had to be tackled; there were simply too many unknowns for me.

In the end however, royalty free does not mean copyright free, and though it meant that buyers would have to be educated and adjust to the new way of doing things, I was confident that, handled correctly, the transition wouldn’t be too bumpy.

In a more simple statement perhaps, I wanted to wait until the pros of joining outweighed the cons.

Why AdRev specifically? Are there other viable options to protect your copyright?

There are definitely alternatives to AdRev out there, however AudioJungle has a policy that authors must be able to assist, within reason, with the clearance of claims. AdRev, being around for a while now, have a set of tools that rights holders can use to clear buyers’ videos for them. They also have a proven track record of clearing up claims, often times in less than 24 hours after submission. The combination of this, and the extremely prompt and helpful dialogue that I had with AdRev over multiple e-mail exchanges helped to win me over.

AdRev is also the only company I know of that offers the ability to white-list an entire YouTube channel other than your own. While this sounds controversial at first (once white-listed, a channel could potentially use music illegally undetected) I think it’s a good thing if the right safe guards are put in place.

In my case I offer the white-listing of channels to my buyers, but only when they have purchased at least three licenses from me. This shows a level of consistency that makes me comfortable with trusting them. I want to be supportive of buyers who are supporting my work.

How have buyers reacted? Any bad reactions/effect on sales?

Buyers have responded and reacted to the move of adding my portfolio to AdRev very matter-of-factly, if I can put it that way. That is not to say they are negative at all, I just think buyers are getting it. The responses I’ve had have been surprisingly few compared to the number of licenses sold, and the ones I have received are simple requests for clearance in a very professional way.

I don’t believe this response is by accident however, but is due to the fact that careful planning and precautions were put in place before adding my music to AdRev including:

A wealth of information

Information and education is everything. When buyers are informed and are given the understanding of how to quickly adjust, I find they respond positively.

They understand the seriousness of copyright infringement

No one likes to have their hard work stolen, and buyers understand this. They are licensing music because they believe in compensation, or at the very least, respect the law. While the YouTube community has enjoyed using music unchecked for a long time it doesn’t mean it was right or should stay that way. Owning a license by nature is for this very reason – so that a buyer may be able to prove that they have fulfilled the legal requirement to use a work.

As companies and websites grow, they need to adapt and change with the demands of the day, and I believe most buyers recognize that.

Content ID is no longer new

Content ID is no longer a mysterious new technology. It’s been implemented across all of YouTube and exists on hundreds of millions of videos. The “fear” factor has been removed and many labels, publishers, licensing operations and individuals now use the system.

Buyers actually want their legitimate licenses enforced

Authors aren’t the only ones who want their music protected, buyers actually want that too! They don’t want people freely using the same music they had to pay to use.

As for sales, it’s really too early to tell how this will affect things, but I haven’t noticed any sharp declines and don’t expect them from this move. My overall sales have slowed some, but I know that is probably attributed to not uploading any new music for most of 2015. I could definitely talk about the effect of search algorithms and title weighting here, but that is probably best for another article :)

What are you doing to communicate this change to buyers?

I have created a comprehensive yet easy to understand guide on my website called Understanding Content ID to help buyers navigate using music registered into the Content ID program. It’s similar to the guide that AudioJungle has created, but more specific to my business and situation.

I also have a special form created specifically for clearing claims. Buyers can enter their YouTube video URL along with some other requested info, upload their AudioJungle license, and the claims clearances are processed extremely quickly.

Has YouTube been doing enough to protect true authors of music, or could they do a better job? If so, how?

I think that YouTube could certainly do a better job of protecting rights holders, period.

YouTube, in my opinion, should simply make it a standard practice for uploaders to provide license information during the upload process itself. This would really solve a lot of issues.

When a track is registered with Content ID, any video using the song is flagged with a “matched third party content” notice whether the video uploader licensed the music or not. Concerning AdRev, there really isn’t any way for them to find out who has a license or not without asking each user to prove it.

Some have argued that AdRev uses an unfair “guilty until proven innocent” approach, however I think this issue created by YouTube not AdRev.

On the other hand, it’s important to remember that while AdRev helps police and protect copyrights, they are also out to make money too – and so is YouTube. The system may be the way it is simply because both YouTube and AdRev benefit the greatest from it staying the way it is.

After all we have to remember that AdRev is thriving because of such widespread illegal use of material. The police wouldn’t be necessary if there wasn’t any crime.

Should other AudioJungle authors be joining AdRev?

Well, I think it depends…

While protecting our music is important, we must still protect the relationships we have with buyers and their legitimate purchases. If we’re not ready to be active in assisting buyers with getting familiar with this change, things can turn out negatively for both buyers and sellers.

Perhaps I should say it like this: I think all AudioJungle authors should take appropriate steps to protect their work. This means more than just joining AdRev however, but by also doing things like copyrighting work with government organizations.

In a separate situation, I had an artist (not from AudioJungle) claim that I infringed on their copyright by copying a “hook” from one of their commercially released singles and using it in my song. Their label even began to hassle me. Thankfully for me, I had done the right thing and had registered the song shortly after I wrote it. Long story short, my government backed copyright claim was filed before the other artist’s song was even released. If anything, things flipped back on them; it could have been argued that their artist in fact copied my work.

By being prepared, their whole argument was shut down and refuted. This could have been something that went to court otherwise. We have to remember that any one of our songs on AudioJungle has the potential to become a global phenomenon at any moment. If it’s used by the right company, or in the right YouTube video, interest can explode overnight.

Along with any success you have, the unfortunate reality is that there are other ill- intentioned people in the world, looking to capitalize on your hard work in some very unpleasant ways, and authors need to take the appropriate steps to protect their work. AdRev, is just one of the tools I believe authors should seriously consider using. But, it is not the only tool.

AdRev still has room to improve. In the way AdRev initially finds a match to registered music, I think they could do much better. Rather than displaying a warning to each user and immediately monetizing videos they may or may not have the right to, I think each user should be given a grace period where they can provide their license and not lose monetization earnings if they are using that function. This may currently be a limitation of YouTube’s infrastructure, but would not be difficult to achieve for a company of their caliber.

You also currently have to manually opt out of the audio swap program when uploading your music to AdRev. AudioSwap allows YouTube users to swap out existing music on their videos with music in the YouTube music repository at any time. For authors exclusively licensing music on AudioJungle, this is an incompatibility. While opting out can be done with a simple email to AdRev support, they should really make this feature a part of their user interface.

With all of this being said, in the end, each author must decide what is right for their business and their buyers. For me personally, even with it’s shortcomings, AdRev stands out among it’s competitors, and offers unique tools that I believe are in my best interest to use. Until something better comes along, I will probably be sticking with AdRev.