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YouTube Hits The Mute Button as Royalty Fight With Warner Bros. Continues

January 16, 2009 3:54 PM ET

Last month while Warner Music Group and YouTube were bickering over royalties, the label demanded that all their music videos be pulled off the site. Despite the threat, users found many of the label's videos — by artists like Madonna and Green Day — were still available. But now it seems YouTube has a new plan: muting questionable copyright-infringing material.

This new epidemic seems to only affect some of the thousands (maybe millions) of WMG-owned videos on YouTube. For instance, while watching the My Chemical Romance above, you should be hearing "Kill All Your Friends." What you do hear is silence. The video's page greets users with the notice "This video contains an audio track that has not been authorized by all copyright holders. The audio has been disabled." Since some MCR videos on YouTube still have their audio intact, it's unclear what criteria the site is using to determine what gets muted.

"Previously, when a music label or other rights owner issued a copyright claim to block audio, the video was automatically taken down," YouTube said in a statement issued after the muting began. "Now we've added an additional choice. Instead of automatically removing the video from YouTube, we give users the option to modify the video by removing the music subject to the copyright claim and post the new version, and many of them are taking that option."

Related Stories:

Warner Music Group Pulls Videos From YouTube As Talks Break Down
Major Labels Consider Hulu Partnership, New Music Video Site as Alternatives to YouTube

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Song Stories

“Bird on a Wire”

Leonard Cohen | 1969

While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

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