Infringing Beethoven’s copyright

A few years ago, I put a recording of myself playing a movement from Beethoven’s Tempest Sonata on YouTube:

There were quite a few mistakes, and I’m not overly proud of it. But it was one of the latest snapshots of my piano-playing before I stopped doing so regularly, and it was of one of my favourite pieces (to which I couldn’t do justice).

I went through my YouTube account today to look at some of the other videos that I have since put up, and found this message:

Infringing Beethoven's copyright

Somebody (‘one or more music publishing rights collecting societies’) has filed a copyright claim on my amateur performance of a two-hundred-year-old piano sonata composed in pre-Germany Germany. YouTube has unquestioningly taken their side, and is monetising my video by putting ads on it. The revenue goes towards whoever made this anonymous copyright claim.

Somebody is making money from my recording, simply by saying that they deserve it. The video has been up for 3 years and there have been fewer than 100 views, so I doubt they are making very much money from it. I have now filed a dispute, although I suspect that the claimant will, at most, have to take down the ads, and not even issue an apology. It’s part of a worrying trend on the Internet in which rights are being transferred away, from content creators towards publishers or aggregators.