Copyright Hits New Low as WMG Silences "Forget You" Sign Language Video [Update: It's Back]

By  |  Tuesday, March 1, 2011 at 8:26 am

[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.


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11 Comments For This Post

  1. Brandon Backlin Says:

    Other companies have employed the ad technique you describe. The BBC did that to a news clip my community group cut about a year ago now. We don't care about getting ad revenue, and the video remains playable. It works for everybody!

    Of course, Warner is slightly insane.

  2. JaredNewman Says:


    That sounds pretty cool. How did that work, exactly?

  3. Brandon Backlin Says:

    I'm pretty sure content distributors have control over what happens if they find copyrighted content on Youtube. In our case, we just got an email that said, "Hey, you posted content from the BBC on one of your videos, so an ad will be placed on it and revenues will go to them." Pretty cool if you ask me.

  4. Andy Says:

    Looks like the audio is back.

  5. JaredNewman Says:

    On my end, the copyright notice is gone but the audio still isn't showing up. I'll keep an eye on it. Thanks Andy.

  6. David Says:

    It's not really Copy Right Infringement anyway. She used this song for educational purposes and is not benefiting monetarily from it.

  7. Reynaldo Rivera Says:

    Never thought I'd say this, but thank you ebaumsworld for being a shaddy rip-off artist. Now others can enjoy this video in its original form (more or less)

  8. Esteban Says:

    "Forget You"? Come on, Harry, use the real title.

  9. Harry McCracken Says:


  10. Paul Says:

    Apparently Esteban thought you wrote the article. His beef is with Jared.

  11. JaredNewman Says:

    Funk this, I'm outta here.