YouTube ends Lofi Girl’s two-year music stream over false DMCA warning – TechCrunch

There are three constants in life: death, taxes, and the “lofi hip-hop radio – beats for relaxing/studying” YouTube stream. That is, until YouTube mistakenly hit the Lofi Girl channel with a DMCA takedown, taking the beloved streams offline for the first time in over two years.

With over 668 million views, the stream was one of the most popular places on YouTube for people to go to when they wanted to listen to soothing, yet captivating music while studying or working. Listeners sometimes used the stream’s live chat as an anonymized, distant study group, reminding each other to take breaks and drink water. So when the stream suddenly stopped, fans were concerned.

YouTube is full of hours-long streams of calming music, but the live nature of the “lofi hip-hop radio” streams sets it apart. On the YouTube stream, which currently carries the message ‘this livestream recording is not available’, one of the top comments reads: ‘Hopefully it’s not over yet, this stream is legitimately a hugely important part of the YouTube culture.’

It’s true. Even outside of YouTube, Lofi Girl lives in spin-off communities, including the 30,000-member r/LofiGirl subreddit and a 700,000-member Lofi Girl Discord. The animation accompanying the 24/7 livestream — a Studio Ghibli-inspired image of a girl wearing headphones and studying while her cat stares out the window at a cityscape — has been honored in cosplay, replicated by Will Smith and recreated on the Cartoon Network YouTube channel featuring a character from ‘Steven Universe’.

Yesterday, Lofi Girl addressed the sudden removal in a tweet, stating that “the lofi radios have been removed due to false copyright warnings”. In response, Lofi Girl fans passed the tag around #BringBackLofiGirl to get YouTube’s attention. Some even went so far as to spam and troll FMC Music, the Malaysian label that allegedly filed the false copyright complaint, while others fan art

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confirmed the takedown requests were abusive and terminated the claimant’s account 😔 we’ve fixed the warnings + restored your videos – it can sometimes take 24-48 hours for things to get back to normal! I’m sorry this happened and thx for your patience while we fixed it ‍🩹️‍🩹

— TeamYouTube (@TeamYouTube) July 11, 2022

Lofi Girl told TechCrunch that all of the channel’s music is released through the Lofi Records record label, so they have the necessary rights to share it. Since Lofi Girl has the correct rights to the music, YouTube has determined that the account is not in violation of copyright laws. The platform responded to Lofi Girl on Twitter Monday, saying that the missing livestream videos should be restored within 24 to 48 hours.

TechCrunch reached out to YouTube for comment, and a spokesperson linked us to the company’s existing response to Lofi Girl on Twitter.

If the previous precedent is true, Lofi Girl’s next stream will have to start over from scratch, rather than as a continuation of the existing 2-year stream. In 2020, the station faced a similar issue when an accidental suspension ended its 13,000-hour stream. In that case YouTube too property of to his mistakes and fixed the account, but the same problems have apparently returned.

“This event has shed light on an underlying issue on the platform: It’s 2022 and there are countless smaller creators, many of whom are engaged in this discussion, who continue to be affected on a daily basis by these false claims on both videos and live streams” , wrote Lofi Girl in a tweet

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Today, in YouTube’s response to Lofi Girl, the company said the takedown requests were “offensive,” meaning they were used as an attack on the channel, rather than out of actual copyright violation concerns. This behavior is incredibly common, but platforms struggle to determine when these reports are legitimate and when they are unfounded.

“Unfortunately, we’re not quite sure why FMC sent the complaint,” Lofi Girl told TechCrunch via Twitter.

Consequences for creators

Sometimes these fraudulent DMCA takedowns can go to extremes.

In March, a number of YouTube streamers playing Destiny noted that they had been slammed with copyright strikes. Even some videos from Destiny developer Bungie were affected and Bungie assured fans it wasn’t behind these actions, which made things weirder.

It turned out that a YouTuber named “Lord Nazo” had created Gmail accounts masquerading as Bungie’s copyright management company and filed 96 fraudulent complaints against high-profile Destiny YouTubers. Last month, Bungie sued the YouTuber for $7.6 million, saying they wanted to make an example of him.

Copyright law is sometimes murky, especially in emerging digital media, but video game streams are usually considered “fair use” because the works are transformative. You could even argue that YouTube videos like “The Entire Bee Movie, But Every Time It Says It Accelerates by 15%” are transformative, which is probably why this video genre is still prevalent online. After all, that parody of “Bee Movie” in particular is only about 5 minutes long, compared to the 90-minute movie.

The Bungie and “Lord Nazo” case reinforces what YouTube fans have known for too long: the DMCA system is too easy to abuse. Fraudulent takedowns are especially problematic when used against online creators who rely on YouTube ad revenue for revenue. Instagram creators have also been hit by so-called “ban-as-service” scams, where bad actors charge money to report someone en masse and have their account erroneously deleted.

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Startups like Notch have tried to pioneer an insurance industry for online creators, offering daily payouts in case they lose access to their account, but their service currently only covers hacks, not fake bans. That leaves creators few ways to protect themselves in the event of erroneous takedowns or bans. A popular VTuber CodeMiko has said she has nightmares about being banned from Twitch.

Perhaps because Lofi Girl is so iconic, the user behind the channel was able to get a response from YouTube shortly after tweeting about the issue. But for smaller creators, this can be a seemingly impossible feat.

“We are shocked and disappointed to see that there is still no form of protection or manual review of these false claims,” Lofi Girl wrote. Twitter† “In the end it was completely out of our control, and the sad thing is there was no way to pre-appeal/prevent it from happening.”

We are shocked and disappointed to see that there is still no protection of any kind or manual review of these false claims. At the end of the day it was completely out of our control, and the sad thing is there was no way to pre-appeal/prevent it from happening. (2/7)

— Lofi Girl (@lofigirl) July 11, 2022

The good news is that Lofi Girl will soon be back at her desk scribbling some notes next to her orange cat and trusty headphones, listening to some chill beats.

This post YouTube ends Lofi Girl’s two-year music stream over false DMCA warning – TechCrunch

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