Did SoundCloud Remove a Silent Track for Copyright Infringement?

The past week there’s been controversy over SoundCloud’s supposed copyright claim over a track of silence, but has SoundCloud’s copyright system gone too far?

The short answer is no. On the 22nd of November DJ Detweiler posted a picture on Twitter of SoundCloud’s email for removal of his track “John Cage – 4′ 33 (DJ DETWEILER REMIX)”. In case you couldn’t infer from the title the track was supposedly a remix of John Cage’s track which famously featured 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence.


At first glance it seems DJ Detweiler is playing on John Cage’s ‘experimental piece’ by remixing silence, into more silence. This is where the controversy began as a backlash came out against SoundCloud, already criticised for their action against copyrighted works due to the services recent history of allowing copyrighted content – a stance they are now reversing to legally maintain their service.

Thanks to DJ  Detweiler public criticism spreading across the internet SoundCloud made a statement to clear up the matter, revealing that the track wasn’t even silence at all. A spokesperson from SoundCloud spoke to Business Insider saying that the remix “was not a track of silence and was taken down because it included Justin Bieber’s What Do You Mean without the rights holder’s permission.

“The respective user uploaded the track under the title “4′ 33″, which is also the name of John Cage’s famous piece of silence but it was not, in fact, silence.” So all the hoo-ha was for a legitimate claim that was titled misleadingly and spread dishonestly by DJ Detweiler. But why would he want to do that?

Reportedly Detweiler has become quite vocal in his criticism of SoundCloud and many of their policies in the past having replaced most if not all of his tracks with a computer voiced message saying variants of “Hello, this is a message from SoundCloud. This is the cyber police. This remix was too banging for the new internet. Move along, nothing to see here.

Detweiler has yet to reply directly to SoundCloud’s response however he told Business Insider that he set out with the aim “to start a conversation about copyright for fun” – apparently suggesting he expected it to be removed. He said that he doesn’t hate SoundCloud but “I just find ridiculous the fact that if I’m not generating any profit from remixing a piece of sound, I get the song taken down.”

Although SoundCloud are doing the right thing legally, Detweiler argues that YouTube treats copyright the way it should be treated, saying: ” I think it should be changed in some way too giving some percentage to whoever remixed it too. As they own a percentage of the creativity of that piece.”

SoundCloud say that “we’re happy to host any content on the platform as long as it’s properly authorised. If we’re told that any content has been posted without permission, we need to remove that content in accordance with applicable law.” Fair enough.

Writing about music, listening to music, and occasionally playing music.

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