Content ID Can Easily Sabotage Your YouTube Live Broadcast

You’re perhaps now aware (and fully tired) of my oft-used saying one small thing can ruin the whole show. Well, I’m no exception to my own adages. I was humbly reminded of that this weekend.

The good news is, my mistake didn’t really ruin the show. But it was a modest-sized inconvenience for the audience. I’d rather it didn’t happen to you.

If you’ve ever uploaded anything to YouTube, you may know how seriously the Google-owned service takes copyright infringement. If your video includes copyrighted music, you will get hit with warnings in short time. Several things can result, up to and including your video being blocked from the site.

YouTube will give you a full rundown of exactly how you messed up.

What you may not know is that YouTube calls this automated content matching system Content ID. As anyone who’s ever tried to circumvent its detection can tell you, it’s extraordinarily sophisticated. Whether the music is playing at a barely perceptible volume, over a loud speaker, slowed down, or sped up, Content ID is probably going to find it.

Perhaps you also knew all of this. But you may not know—or may not fully appreciate—that all YouTube Live broadcasts are subject to Content ID policing, too.

It foolishly didn’t occur to me. It didn’t even crossed my mind. Until recently, I had been using Brightcove for these shows. Brightcove doesn’t police content. When I made the switch to YouTube, this fundamental difference between the two services didn’t even register a thought. But before the end of the night, when I had a blocked video no longer available for on-demand playback, I quickly realized the magnitude of my error.

You see, during my live show this past weekend, they were playing soft music during the breaks.

Copyrighted music.

It was barely coming through to our broadcast, but barely is all it takes.

My broadcast went out live just fine. I thought I delivered a successful show. But in the aftermath, Content ID tagged every single track and subsequently blocked the video.

This is clearly not the platform to stream certain types of events on.

Now, YouTube does have a feature to automatically remove Content ID-tagged music. But, holy hell, can it be slow. As I write this, it’s been a full 24 hours since I tried to remove the music in this manner.

It’s still processing.

This is not an acceptable speed when you’re dealing with a live production. In a fraction of that time, I’ve since copied over our source recording, brought the footage into Premiere, edited out the offending sections, outputted an H264 encode, and uploaded it to YouTube. If this were a bigger production, I’d have sweated over losing those 4 hours. Fortunately, the damage was minimal.

Non-live (stale?) video is fully under the editor’s control; just leave out the copyrighted material. But in the unexpected world of live, unexpected things happen. People do all kinds of wacky things… like listen to music. Music they didn’t write, compose, and perform themselves. While I understand the impetus to protect copyrights, doesn’t it seem overbearing to kill an entire 5 hour broadcast because a little bit of copyrighted music softly played over a small part of it?

There are many benefits to using YouTube Live, but this is clearly not the platform to stream certain types of events on. Even innocuous convention-style broadcasts need to be careful. Copyrighted music is so often played at events of that sort.

Don’t ace your live broadcast only to fail your on-demand viewers with a blocked video. Beware of YouTube’s Content ID.

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