Last week, Rhodes recorded a short video of himself playing a portion of Bach’s first Partita and posted it to Facebook.
“Your video matches 47 seconds of audio owned by Sony Music Entertainment,” said a notice Rhodes received on Facebook. Facebook responded by muting the audio in Rhodes’s video.
Remarkably, when Rhodes disputed Sony’s claim, Sony stuck to its guns and denied the appeal. As far as we know, Sony hasn’t commented publicly on the dispute or explained why it continued to claim Rhodes’s music.
But whereas Facebook’s formal appeals process didn’t work for Rhodes, public shaming seems to have done the trick. Rhodes’s tweet on the topic got more than 2,000 retweets, and Rhodes also emailed senior Sony Music executives about the issue.
Earlier this week, Sony finally released its claim to Rhodes’s music—though we’ve still seen no sign of an explanation or apology. We’ve asked Sony Music for comment and will update if they respond.
To be fair to Sony Music, everyone—and every institution—makes mistakes. Presumably, this takedown was initiated by automated takedown software rather than a senior Sony executive deliberately trying to claim ownership of 300-year-old music.
But this kind of mistake is a predictable consequence of automated content filtering. And the Electronic Frontier Foundation points out that the European Union is currently debating whether to mandate the use of these filters on all major technology platforms that host user content. If that proposal becomes law—it was approved by the European Parliament on Wednesday—we can expect users to suffer from more mistakes like this in the future.