How to get around that pesky copyrighted-audio filter on YouTube and Facebook

Posted by on July 19, 2009 in | 193 comments

After finally taking a crack at turning some of my home movies into suped-up iMovie ’09 videos, complete with snazzy transitions and audio fading up and down, I learned a hard lesson: It’s next to impossible to share these movies with anyone once you’ve created them.

Sure, if you can sit everyone in front of your computer, or hook it up to a TV, you can have do a show in your home. But if you want to be able to share the clips on the web, sites like YouTube and Facebook will most likely reject them if you’ve got any sort of copyrighted audio attached. And really, who creates a home movie montage without a song or two from iTunes.

So, that was my dilemma last night where, after spending more than an hour slicing my movie together, I got a threatening “Notice of Alleged Copyright Violation” email from Facebook. Meanwhile YouTube didn’t even let the video come through at all. A little poking around the web confirmed that, indeed, the sites are vigilantly checking to see if copyrighted audio is in the background of any clips on their sites.

youtube has contracted the services of a company called “audible magic” – an RIAA sweetheart which has developed special sound-recognition software that can identify any copyrighted song

every significant music distributor (and now film and video, too) sends its content to AM to be logged into the database. so AM’s database is always up to date with millions and millions of files to compare. AM has (and has continually improved) “fingerprinting” technology that can recognize that content, even if you ripped it at a different bit rate, removed the first ten seconds, or recorded it off a jukebox at a bar

That same article on Yahoo Answers also pointed out a simple fix: As long as you can fundamentally change the pitch of the background music, you can usually bypass the Audible Magic filter. After downloading the latest beta version of Audacity for Mac, I did just that. I imported the song I wanted to use, then went into EFFECT –> CHANGE PITCH. Initially I tried changing the song by only -.5 semitones (a half-step), but even that didn’t make it past the filter. Changing the song by a full step, though, did the trick.


After making the change, I exported the audio as an MP3 file, then reimported into iMovie. Happily, most of the audio tweaking I’d done (mostly ducking the audio so you can hear the original audio on some clips) was preserved. Once again, I exported the movie file and uploaded to YouTube. This time, my movie made it through intact. Mostly. Yes, the background song is a full note off key, but it’s hardly ruined. If only I’d used Bob Dylan, you wouldn’t even be able to tell in the first place.

In case that all wasn’t clear enough, here’s a full blown video tutorial that somebody else put up on YouTube:


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