YouTube pulls audio from greatest music video ever

At the request of Warner Music Group, a video that embeds the "Keyboard Cat" into an '80s-era Hall & Oates video has been silenced. Tragic!

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
3 min read
Keyboard Cat rocks out with Hall and Oates' band on YouTube. YouTube

This is really quite sad.

Citing copyright concerns, YouTube has deleted the audio from a hosted video that depicts the Internet meme "Keyboard Cat" showing up in a vintage TV after-school special and then embedded in the foreground of the '80s-era music video for the song "You Make My Dreams" by pop duo Daryl Hall and John Oates. It was an extremely awesome match, because the musical feline fit into the minimalist Hall & Oates video a little too well.

The audio appears to have been deleted on behalf of music label Warner Music Group. "This video contains an audio track that has not been authorized by WMG," a message adjacent to the video read. "The audio has been disabled."

The Keyboard Cat-Hall & Oates video was getting popular, with over 375,000 views on YouTube in fewer than two months and press from blogs like the AOL-owned Urlesque, so it's not quite clear whether WMG was alerted to the video directly or if the sound was pulled because an audio fingerprinting technology trawled through it.

Earlier this year YouTube started giving people who uploaded videos with copyrighted content the option to silence the video rather than have it taken down. As my colleague Greg Sandoval noted at the time, while YouTube once had deals in place with all four major record labels, its deal with Warner fell through.

So there goes one of the greatest music videos to hit YouTube ever. (In my opinion, of course.)

"I hate you, Warner Music Group," one commenter on the muted YouTube video wrote. "This video is hilarious and promotes a song that would otherwise never reach the ears of young people. What is wrong with you? When did the music industry go so wrong?"

Other comments are along the lines of "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO" and "A f***ing injustice to the world."

So, clearly, I am not the only one saddened by this takedown. It's a quintessential example of the music industry missing the point. The presence of a funny video that makes it look like a cat has joined Hall & Oates' band is not going to suddenly make hordes of people start pirating the duo's songs who otherwise would've paid for them. In fact, as commenters pointed out, some of the Internet-meme-savvy kids who were swapping links to the video probably had no idea who Daryl Hall and John Oates are. (Embarrassing confession: I bought "You Make My Dreams" on Amazon MP3 after the Keyboard Cat video got it stuck in my head.)

The Internet breaks plenty of new trends, but it can also make older bits of media rocket back into the spotlight. If the label with the rights to onetime pop star Rick Astley's catalog had freaked out over the ubiquity of "Never Gonna Give You Up" on YouTube, for example, Astley (whom I had never heard of before the "Rickrolling" phenomenon took off) would not have been lip-syncing on top of a float at the Macy's Thanksgiving parade last year.

I understand that traditional media rightfully has a lot of qualms about copyright alternatives and "remix culture," some aspects of which are fairly radical, and Hall & Oates have a history of tightly guarding their catalog. But every time there's another instance of copyright-induced silliness like pulling the audio from an innocuous Internet sensation, it just makes me shake my head and wonder when, if ever, they'll finally get it.

It's time for Keyboard Cat to play the record labels off.