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This is David’s boy, but EMI claims it’s young Barenboim

David Feldman is the proud father of a teenaged pianist, Anthony, who loves playing Mozart and Beethoven.

David took some videos and posted them on Youtube.

He is now being harrassed by EMI lawyers, who claim that these are recordings by Daniel Barenboim and Samson François. Youtube has taken down some of his videos. The threatening letters just keep on coming.

We hear many instances of bullying tactics by the legal departments of the music industry – often conducted, as these are, by computer, without the intervention of human hand.

So listen up. This is Anthony Feldman playing the Mozart K33 sonata, right? Not Danny Boy.

Message to EMI: stop harrassing Mr Feldman and send him a nice apology, or we’ll send the boys round and sort you out.

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  1. This happens very frequently, as you say. A friend of mine put up a video of her playing some Messiaen on the flute. I suppose Messiaen’s publishers might have legitimately have had something to say (?). But she got hassled by one of the big record companies saying it was their recording etc etc – just as in your case above.

    I had some of my own music taken down for the same reason and I had to go and tick various boxes to say it was my own, and even to supply evidence. I offered a handwritten manuscript etc and eventually they put it back. Nowdays I don’t use Youtube for this sort of thing any more unless I really have to (Vimeo is much better)

    • Messian died in 1992, so he is still in copyright. That means any public dissemination of a recording of a composition by him on the internet is subject to royalties. However, the vast majority of copyright music is licenced by royalty collection societies on behalf of publishers and intellectual proprietors. Since PRS has a licence agreement with Youtube (although the poor metadata and sampling procedures mean that most royalties probably do not get paid), it is probably legal.

      • Yes but it would be up to his publisher (Alphonse Leduc I think) to collect, not a record company. It was claimed that my friend was using the recording in her video’s soundtrack, not that she was performing a piece in copyright.

  2. I can only pass jusgement on this clip and not the ones that have been removed, and I am certainly listening to what we see. Lovely playing, horrible living-room acoustics on a video camera microphone, distortion and all (and I am a professional classical music recording producer, engineer, and concert videographer, so I believe my opinion has some weight).

    Furthermore, Barenboin and Samson would be idiots to release any recordings with living-room acoustics, so it’s hardly likely – even if for argument’s sake, Anthony was able to play in perfect sync with another recording – that we would be listening to anything other than what we see in the video.

    But like I said, this only applies to this clip.

  3. Thanks for getting on this story – it’s terribly annoying having to deal with YouTube’s system and the publisher’s robots, and in the age of Shazam and SoundHound, I don’t understand how it’s possible their technology is so bad. Or rather, it seems to me likely it is only so bad because the publishers and labels have negotiated a shoot now and ask questions later policy.

    • Mike Williams says:

      Shazam claims that every bit of Beethoven piano music I throw at it is played by Wilhelm Fischer.

  4. And I have just checked half a dozen other clips on YouTube, and can confirm that they are all authentic recordings. It would be interesting to see what YouTube has taken down…

  5. Joep Bronkhorst says:

    Is he really being ‘harassed’ by EMI? Surely he received an automated email after EMI’s software detected similarities between his video and Barenboim’s performance. Just one reply to EMI (assuming they gave him a contact email address) telling them to go and look at the vid must be enough, surely. How could they possibly dispute the evidence?

  6. By the way it’s Samson François, not the other way around. It is particularly ironic since François (who died in 1970) had very harsh words against Mozart (whose sonatas he called little salon pieces) and Beethoven (whom he found clusmily grandiloquent).

    Not related to the matter, but to a previous one discussed on this blog : S. François was famous for doing concerts while completely drunk…

  7. Not only that: someone posted a Toccata Classics (my label) recording on YouTube and so I duly filled out the YouTube form asserting infringement of copyright. Didn’t make a blind bit of difference.

    • Martin, you should take it as a compliment. They don’t consider you to be a large money-grabbing corporate entity.

  8. Petros Linardos says:

    Norman, you are probably referring to Samson François.

  9. Daniel Farber says:

    To judge from this one example and assuming the acoustics of a published recording COULD be messed with to simulate those of a living room, there are still a number of slight imperfections in the execution that, these days, no recording company or anyone of Barenboim’s reputation would countenance being released to the world. For better or worse, this is Feldman. It’s not Barenboim (or “Joyce Hatto”). What is the evidence for the harassment by EMI? Has anyone checked to see if YouTube really removed the videos? Are we simply taking David Feldman’s word that all this has happened?

    • The acoustics of a commercial recording could only be altered to sound like a living room if it doesn’t contain concert hall acoustical characteristics. Reverberation and artificial hall acoustics are easy to add to a dry recording, but the reverse is close to impossible without seriously distorting the recorded sound beyond recognition.

      • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

        And wouldn’t a major recording company have used a piano recently tuned and voiced? I think Barenboim is unlikely to perform or record on that piano (although it’s perfectly fine for one’s parlor). We all know what EMI really means. Their robots are following the tradition.

  10. David Feldman says:

    This is David Feldman:

    First, I would like to thank Mr. Lebrecht for taking an interest in such a small matter. The Mozart video he posted is indeed the one that was “taken down.” It’s back up because I have filed a second dispute.

    EMI’s first claim led YouTube to pull the video down worldwide, except in South Sudan and the West Bank. Yes, you heard that correctly. I immediately filed a dispute using YouTube’s procedure. A week later EMI reiterated its claim the the recording’s audio was Daniel Barenboim. Imagine my surprise. The recording does indeed suffer from all the defects of “living room acoustics” as Mr. Limor suggests. I’ll add one. It was done using a Sony Camcorder! I now use HD technology for current recordings with my SLR camera. But they are still amateur in comparison to anything Mr. Barenboim might release through EMI.

    When EMI reiterated its claim, down went the recordings again. I have now filed a second dispute, which is why they are temporarily visible again. YouTube warns that I am now subject to all sorts of legal liability, including, but not limited to, the shutting down of my YouTube account.. All of this unspoken horror can happen if EMI again claims ownership. But nowhere in this process is anything like … well, due process. All it would take is one human being (with an ear, of course) to listen to this recording and the issue would be settled in my favor. But I am not guaranteed that hearing. EMI can finish me off by simply making its automated claim again. Then I am left with the expensive resort to legal action. I have had this problem with other music rights companies, but I have always found a way to worm my way directly to a human being by email. EMI seems quite hard to contact in this way.

    Mr. Lebrecht has graciously allowed me to use my only other tool, which is publicity. Musical rights organizations do have a right to protect their intellectual property. And people do steal content to embellish their videos. I’m sure that firms like EMI regard the automated matching programs as a way to level the playing field with their atomistic antagonists in the ether. But they do not have the right to run roughshod over the hard work of a teen pianist who worked so hard to produce his own content. Sometimes Goliath needs to lose.

    • Mr. Feldman,
      I know exactly the procedures you’re explain. One year ago, I’ve uploaded a video with me and a “famous” soloist in a kind of silly interview. I though it’s worth just because the artist was laughing a lot and looked like very natural. Perhaps an interesting different perspective. She knew I was tapping (With a small SLR also).
      It took just some days until I’ve receive the same letter from YouTube. I could not even access my YouTube page before I’ve confirmed that I was aware. It was threatening me that if happens again, they would shut down my page. The claimer was the artist record company due to the use of the artist image, or something like it. (Not EMI)
      I thought I was talking with old Indians that believes a pictures can steal a soul. Or more than a decade outdated comparing with Pop/rock world, kind of Metallica suing their loyal fans and supporter. For what? Amateur, non-profit, but free publicity. However, I must confess that in your case they were even more stupid! It is not Barenboim or any other professional record for sure. Keep going on it!

    • Hi David,

      I have 33 years of experience in the recording profession several years of which I have been producing videos as well. I am on the Board of Directors of the Association of Professional Recording Services (APRS) in the UK and on the Executive Committee of the National Music Council of Great Britain. If you would like me to provide a written analysis of the Mozart clip based on my professional experience, I will be very happy to do so.

      Another thought I have – if you still have the original tape or file from the Sony Camcorder, that should add to the evidence that proves the authenticity of the recording. What EMI will eventually have to present (and this is something that you should insist on if it gets to court) their authenticated master copy of the recording that they are claiming has been used in this clip. They should also be made to explain why Barenboim or François would have released a living-room recording to begin with (including the sound of the camera being turned on and off). For that matter they need to decide which of the two pianists they believe has been ripped off, after all, one recording could not have been played by both masters.

  11. shut down your youtube account. Open three new accounts and publish on all of them, get three friends to publish the same clip. See what EMI says now

    This will become more of an issue in the coming years. As we have seen in Germany on numerous occasions there is ‘big business’ in these juridical bullying methods, armies of lawyers specialising on easy prey. The recording industry especially seems to think this their only liable way of protecting copyright. More importantly however, the days of the internet as a freeman’s home have past.

  12. Tristan Jakob-Hoff says:

    This is absurd. YouTube should require some evidence from the copyright owner that they do indeed own the copyright: for instance, an audio sample of the infringed material.

    Quite apart from which, as someone pointed out Samson Francois never recorded any Mozart. AND almost all his recordings for EMI are out of copyright.

  13. First of all, it is not EMI directly, but YouTube’s automated content ID matching software which is claiming that David’s Mozart is being played by someone else. As you can see here, my own performance of a Chopin piano sonata has been attributed to at least four different pianists and as many different claimants:

    In the words of Viktor Laszlo from the movie Casablanca: “As you can see, it was true every single time!” (Unfortunately, they didn’t think it was Rubinstein or Horowitz … maybe I wouldn’t have minded so much in that case).

    This YouTube automated software is seriously broken when it comes to public domain things like Mozart; it even tagged my Liszt sonata recording as being Mozart “Elvira Madigan”. To EMI’s credit, I could not find any contact information to ask them to take away these idiotic claims, so I ended up sending an e-mail to Mr. Colin Finkelstein, the North American COO for EMI . He was very gracious and forwarded my request to the EMI legal department which acted quickly on the matter and reassured me that I really was not Cécile Ousset, after all, and dropped the claim imimediately. I was beginning to have my doubts… :)

    • David Feldman says:

      Could you forward Mr. Finkelstein’s email address to me. That’s exactly the sort of inside contact I have been unable to find.

      And as you can see, this Mozart recording has already gone through one other claimant (Orchard Music), but Orchard released the claim. EMI is a bulldog holding onto my ankle through the third round.

      The other offending recording that EMI is claiming is the rondo movement of the Pathetique sonata played when my son was twelve, I believe. For a 12-YO he played quite well. Samson Francois he was not. That recording was pulled down in Germany for years. What’s with the Germans not wanting to hear Beethoven! :-)

      • Since I found these on EMI’s website, I assume there is no problem with posting them here … especially since YouTube is so completely unhelpful when it comes to furnishing contact information:

        “Finkelstein, Colin”

        Matthew Rothman, an attorney with EMI Music, is actually the guy who finally got the claims removed, however — might be best to write directly to him:

        “Rothman, Matthew”

        And congratulations to your son Anthony who plays Mozart with quite a bit of finesse for his age. I am looking forward to hearing more of his playing!

        • Hmmm looks like the email addresses got mangled:

          Just put a dot between the names (last name first) and tack on EMICAP COM after the “at” sign, and Bob’s your uncle! :)

          • I’m sorry, I got that backwards:

            in the email address, it should be FIRSTNAME dot LASTNAME, not lastname first! Email addresses are not case-sensitive; I’ve written all caps just for clarity’s sake.

          • And it should be
            EMICAP dot COM
            after the “@” (i.e. the “at” sign)

            Unfortunately, we cannot view the copyright notices in the link you sent unless logged into your account first. I would take a screenshot of the page if you can and use that for future reference.

    • David Feldman says:

      Here is the screenshot:

      The video has been claimed before, by Orchard Music, and then released. Anyone who actually looks at this can see that the automated matching programs have already swept it up, erroneously.

      As I have said, I understand why firms like EMI want to protect their clients, but to use medical statistical terminology, the current automated matching technology produces far too many false positives. The onus is then on the true owners of the amateur material to document and prove their case, all without a clear procedure by which to do that. I’m sure most just knuckle under and allow their work to be shut down by YouTube. I just got ornery.

  14. Daniel Farber says:

    Has anyone–Norman for example–attempted to contact EMI to get their side of this? So far Mr. Feldman is the only source for the information we have at hand. It seems incredible that a huge company would go to such lengths to make trouble for him given the evidence of the video. Has anyone tried to find the recording[s] of the young Barenboim that Mr. Feldman tells us EMI claims he and his son have utilized for their own purposes?

    • It’s not so incredible, because they are automatic robots doing it, not the EMI legal team itself. The same thing happens all the time with me and many musicians I know. Most likely no one at EMI itself knows or would think it worth their time to respond to the issue. It’s a technical problem with youtube. I have the impression from experience that it actually doesn’t analyze the sound so much as the mere title you give the video – but however it works, it’s a broken system, and it’s very annoying.

      I don’t think the idea or policy is bad in itself, giving copyright owners a practical means of being aware of and claiming their content uploaded on the site, but it seems to me very strange the identification algorithms are so bad (really, couldn’t google just license soundhound’s technology?), and there should be more controls that the original claims to a master or a song are valid. In fact, it seems more likely to me that they are intentionally bad, aimed at appeasing the only people out there that would be likely to present any real legal challenge, the major labels and publishers themselves. Google wants people to use their services so they can sell advertising – they don’t have any vested interest in the battles between the majors and the users. So there is not a whole lot of pressure on them to fix it.

      I recently read a very interesting article by Chris Castle in his blog on music and technology where he discusses these problems, and much more, and potential solutions, which I would recommend to everyone:

      A real danger of a faulty automatic system is, for instance, when it affects someone like Valentina Lisitsa, who leverages youtube to great advantage for her career. I recall reading on her facebook page an episode like this. In her case it is perhaps even credible that it could be a real person behind it, pretending to be a robot. Who is to say some label doesn’t want another roster’s star to promote a competing recording?

      Anyway I’d like to see it fixed, and I wish more attention were given to it. Thanks Mr Lebrecht for highlighting the story!

      • “Google wants people to use their services so they can sell advertising – they don’t have any vested interest in the battles between the majors and the users. So there is not a whole lot of pressure on them to fix it…”

        Thank you … this is the crux of the problem, IMHO.

  15. Peter - a different one from the other Peter says:

    On the positive side…. this could be good publicity. A teenage pianist whose performances are considered a match for Daniel Baremboim. Even the expert computer analysis of EMI was unable to distinguish between the two performers ! Time to start selling tickets.

    • Isn’t this a bit cynical? I remember the first time this happened to me — I couldn’t sleep for hours! The whole heavy-handedness of the automated system, the lack of any real recourse until lately (and even then this is quite flawed … read about it on — I can do without that kind of “publicity”, thank you very much!

      • Peter - a different one from the other Peter says:

        Cynical, no.
        An attempt at an ironic joke, yes.
        (The give away is that it is a ludicrous suggestion).

  16. For all those still in doubt, Big Brother is indeed watching you

  17. Marilyn Crosbie says:

    When I watch and listen to this piece, the thoughts that come to my mind, this young man is a good pianist and is likely practicing for a music exam with a music school. He is likely still studying piano with a teacher. He is doing a very good job, but with the skill level of a very good piano student. No need to suspect that he is not playing this piece. Others have made all the very good points. I am just making an observation as a piano student who got to level 8 (our of 10) with the Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto, studying with a satelitte teacher in British Columbia. My daughter-in-law played the piano at this level before she went to university and pursued other interests, married, and had a family.

    What do the Youtube people know anyway?

  18. Watching and listening to this pianist, to me he looks like an excellent piano student studying piano at a high level and perhaps applying for a degree with a music school. I speak as a former piano student who reached level 8 with the Royal Conservtory of Music of Toronto, level 10 being the level prior to applying for an Associate Degree as a piano teacher or performer (Glenn Gould was from that school). There is no reason why a young man would wish to use another pianist’s playing and mimic the movements on the keyboard in sync (a feat that is really impossible anyway, as has been pointed out by others before me).

    I wonder if it is even worthwhile fighting with Youtube, if you can find another place such as Vimeo to post your music (or even creating your own web site to post your videos).

  19. I don’t understand why EMI would have its lawyers accuse the Feldmans. That makes less sense than the issue with Youtube.

  20. By they way, I want to say that I admire Daniel Barenboim as a conductor and pianist.

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