By Nicholas Pell
On Wednesday morning, several punk bands awoke to find their videos had been removed from YouTube. They were understandably irritated; that's almost worse than running out of beer.
In their places were notes that they'd been yanked due to Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) complaints lodged by SST Records — the legendary label founded by Black Flag's Greg Ginn, formerly based in Los Angeles but now in Austin. The allegation? That these videos were using unauthorized SST music.
But that was not so.
In fact, in the case of bands like L.A.'s The Adolescents and Austin's The Lower Class Brats — two groups whose videos were pulled — their music has nothing to do with SST at all. They've never been on the label, and they certainly weren't pilfering the imprint's music.
Immediately, then, animosity raged against Ginn. Various Internet forums teemed with allegations that he was on some sort of rampage, or had sold out and wasn't punk. Huffington Post even jumped into the fray, falsely claiming that Ginn improperly filed copyright claims on things he didn't own.
It turns out that Ginn is almost certainly not to blame. After speaking with him and reviewing published YouTube guidelines, this is apparently what happened: Those posting the unauthorized SST videos in question were actually random internet denizens (not band members), and those videos were legitimately shut down by the DMCA complaints.
Only, these random denizens also had other videos on their accounts, from bands like The Adolescents and The Lower Class Brats. Because YouTube has a “three strikes and you're out” rule, once a user has had three videos yanked, his entire account is often shut down. Thus, folks who had had at least three SST videos removed had all of their videos removed — including, in some cases, from non-SST bands like The Adolescents and The Lower Class Brats.
What's not up for debate is that Ginn himself authorized the DMCA complaints against SST content, which also fueled the “you're not punk, maaaaan!” allegations. “It is not a new matter that I am concerned about how my music is presented,” says Ginn. “As YouTube has 'monetized' videos, a cottage industry has popped up to make money on putting videos up. I have seen our songs put up with ads placed in the middle of the song so as to trick the content owners.”
Regardless of Ginn's intentions, the tragedy here for punk rock fans is that many of the felled videos contained material that is no longer available on the internet. Non-SST tracks like a 1978 live version of X performing “Nausea” and remixed versions of Man Is The Bastard songs “She Boar” and “Dahmer's Funeral” have been, at least for the time being, lost. You also will no longer be able to find certain SST material, like the Black Flag album My War.
Fortunately for punk fans, some of the rare content that was removed has been re-uploaded, like an early television public access appearance by Die Kreuzen. Meanwhile, affected YouTube video uploaders like Creamy Goodness X have claimed “fair use” and filed appeals. The moral of the story? Don't blame Greg. “There has been some very inaccurate lazy reporting done on this stuff,” he says, “with people jumping to ridiculous conclusions instead of investigating the facts correctly.”