[Update: The audio is back, and WMG's copyright notice is gone. Original post below.]
Iunderstand that record labels need to protect their copyrights, but sometimes, they ought to make exceptions, as with this sign language adaptation of Cee-Lo’s “Forget You” (as the PG-13 version is known).
The YouTube video, put together by a college student named Anna, has been viewed over 1.3 million times since she uploaded it in December. As the audio track plays in the background, Anna delivers the lyrics with emphatic sign language.
Only now, the audio part is gone, thanks to Warner Music Group. In its place is a notice: “This video contains an audio track that has not been authorized by WMG. The audio has been disabled.”
I suppose you could argue that if someone is deaf, they can’t hear the music anyway. But there are shades of hearing loss, and that argument is beside the point. As plenty of YouTube users note in the video’s comments, Anna’s adaptation promotes the song. It leads to sales; there’s even a link to Cee-Lo’s official YouTube page in the description.
It’s not like Warner Music Group is afraid of YouTube, either. Cee-Lo’s official music video for the song appears as a suggested link from Anna’s video. The only difference between the official version and the sign language adaptation is a meager bit of ad revenue and a direct link to iTunes.
I find it hard to believe that some heartless WMG lawyers stumbled upon this video and removed its essence. YouTube does employ automated systems to sniff out copyright violations, so maybe a bot was to blame. In any case, there needs to be a better way of dealing with things like this. Perhaps instead of stripping the audio, the video should be forced to include ads and an iTunes link — no harm, no foul.
But for now, I hope WMG realizes that a Cee-Lo fan who shares the music with a new audience is not to blame for the music industry’s problems.