YouTube interrupted the beloved Lofi Girl radio channel this week over copyright notices that YouTube later called “abusive” and false. The channel’s streams, which had been running for over two years, relaunched today after being removed on July 10th. The takedown stemmed from a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) demand apparently from record label FMC Music Sdn Bhd Malaysia. YouTube reversed the strikes soon after, but Lofi Girl used the incident to call for more rigorous controls on the notoriously exploitable system.
The operator of Lofi Girl (formerly ChilledCow) tweeted a copy of the DMCA takedown notice for its two lo-fi hip-hop “beats to relax/study to” video streams on Sunday, calling the reports “false copyright strikes.” YouTube officially corroborated the claim a day later. “Confirmed the takedown requests were abusive [and] terminated the claimants [sic] account,” it said, noting that it had reinstated the videos, but it could take 24 to 48 hours for the channel to return to normal. Lofi Girl relaunched its channels at noon on July 12th.
Lofi Girl noted that this isn’t the first time the videos have been taken down in error. YouTube removed the stream briefly in 2020 due to a terms of service violation it later called a mistake. The channel also went down in 2017, that time because of non-fraudulent copyright concerns over its use of a clip from the Studio Ghibli film Whispers of the Heart. Lofi Girl told TechCrunch that, in this case, it should have all the rights to stream its lo-fi beats with no legal worries — and in fact, the record label told news outlet Malaysiakini that hackers used its channel to send the notice. The Verge has also reached out to the label to confirm.
In a tweet thread after YouTube’s statement, Lofi Girl complained that YouTube’s system opened creators up to false claims with little recourse. “We’re shocked and disappointed to see that there’s still not any kind of protection or manual review of these false claims. At the end of the day, it was entirely out of our control, and the sad part is that there was no way to appeal beforehand/prevent it from happening,” the account tweeted. “We remain positive and hope that YouTube will consider applying changes to their copyright reporting system to prevent such a situation from reoccurring, and protect all content creators once and for all against this threat.”
FMC apparently had its actual YouTube account used to send copyright strikes, but YouTube’s system has also allowed takedowns based on outright impersonation. Last month, Bungie sued a YouTuber who allegedly created an account mimicking one of its contractors and issued dozens of copyright strikes against other creators, apparently trying to smear the company’s reputation by faking an overzealous copyright crackdown. (False strikes have also been used as a method of extortion, and YouTube itself has filed suit against people who abuse the system.) Like Lofi Girl, Bungie accused YouTube’s setup of making it too easy for bad actors to get videos taken down — but in this case, Lofi Girl’s popularity apparently helped push them back online quickly.