I recently attempted to share an old video of one of my dogs on Instagram, and I immediately received this notice via email after upload:
We’ve removed the video you posted at 12:24 PM on September 18, 2016 because it included the following content:
Gun Street Girl by Tom Waits
If you have permission to share everything in the video including the audio, like the soundtrack or music, you can appeal the removal and have your video re-posted. Remember that people should only post videos they have the right to share.
I understand why sites like YouTube and Instagram need to block unauthorized use of copyrighted works, but I think that it’s overkill to block non-commercial use of a short piece of audio in a puppy video. I can’t speak for Tom Waits, but doubt he’s going to mind if he doesn’t get license fees for the small number of people (30-40) that hear a short clip of his song in my post. It’s not like I’m uploading a full album, or even a full song.
I normally would have just moved on and not posted the video, but I was curious if there were some ways around the audio fingerprint system. My initial thought last night was that I could overlay a subaudible tone, and hopefully that would be enough to trick their system. When I woke up this morning, I did a bit of searching and I was unable to find any examples of this approach, but I was able to find some other methods that people have tested with YouTube’s Content ID system. These methods include reversing the song, altering the pitch, altering the playback speed, resampling, applying noise, volume changes, and tweaking the stereo imagery.
The author of the article concluded:
It is quite possible to thwart the YouTube Content ID system, but some methods mangle the song too much to be used in anything useful.
I decided I’d give my infrasound method a try, so I loaded the video in Audacity. Here’s what the original track looks like:
I then added a new stereo track, and generated a 1Hz sine wave at 0.8 amplitude. Here’s what that track looks like:
Here’s what the two tracks look like mixed together:
I played the track back on my laptop and phone, and couldn’t hear a difference between the source track and the new track with the 1Hz sine wave overlaid. It passed the ear test, but the real test was to upload it to Instagram.
It works! You should see the 1Hz test video above unless Instagram manually removes the video. The nice thing about this approach is that there is no discernible difference between the source and modified tracks. I’ll be testing this method with YouTube’s Content ID system in a follow-up post.