A strange scourge for the classical music industry: Copyright bots

The beat goes on

May 26, 2020

Remote work has its perks, but the perils of the Zoomiverse are plentiful. If you’re not careful, your remote meeting can be undone by surprise spouses in their underwear, toilet-flush whodunits, and “turn yourself into a potato” settings that are surprisingly hard to turn off.

The world’s classical musicians have another obstacle to deal with: algorithms that are trying to put them on mute.

Musicians worldwide have pivoted to Zoom to maintain a connection with their audiences. But as The Washington Post reported, violin virtuosos’ performances are unintentionally tripping systems designed to flag tunes being broadcast illegally.

The bots are fighting Bach

As the Post put it, classical performances are “sitting ducks” for an overzealous algorithm.

Why? The musicians play songs that live in the public domain, and bots have trouble telling the difference between performances.

“Mozart died in 1791” — a classic excuse — doesn’t protect musicians from receiving violation notices.

The problem is bigger than the world’s smallest violin

Copyright law is notoriously arcane, and even the government admits it could use some updates.

Last week, Instagram made it easier for live broadcasters to see when they’re playing music they can’t use. But the experts admit there may not yet be a good solution for the world’s Beethoven buffs.

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