Lofi Girl: Back online after ‘Abusive’ Copyright batters

YouTube interrupted the precious Lofi Girl radio channel this week over copyright statements that YouTube later called “abusive” and false. However, the channel’s streams, operating for over two years, relaunched today after being dismissed on July 10th.

The takedown stemmed from a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) demand seemingly from record label FMC Music Sdn Bhd Malaysia. YouTube rebounded the strikes soon after, but Lofi Girl used the incident to call for more stringent controls on the 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 down in error. YouTube removed the stream briefly in 2020 due to terms of service violation it later called a mistake. The channel also went down in 2017 because of non-fraudulent copyright problems over using 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.

In a tweet thread after YouTube’s announcement, Lofi Girl whined that YouTube’s system opened creators up to false assertions with little recourse. “We’re shocked and dissatisfied that there’s still no protection or manual review of these false claims.

It was out of our control, and the sad part is that there was no way to plead beforehand/prevent it from happening,” the account tweeted. “We stay positive and hope that YouTube will consider changing their copyright reporting system to prevent such a situation from reoccurring and shield all content creators once and for all against this threat.”

FMC 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.

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 helped push them back online quickly.

Lofi Girl streams are escorted by an animation of a girl studying or resting who has come to be understood as the Lofi Girl, the Lofi Study Girl, or the “24/7 lofi hip hop beats” Girl. The channel started using the Lofi Girl for its streams in March 2018.

Dimitri initially used the character Shizuku Tsukishima from the Studio Ghibli film Whisper of the Heart (1995) as the facade of the channel, with footage of her studying or writing used in the streams. However, when the rage of the streams ultimately led to the track being taken down for copyright violations, Dimitri chose to maintain the Ghibli-esque aesthetic but with an original character and put out a call for artists.

One of the artists who answered was Juan Pablo Machado. Originally from Colombia, Machado drove to Lyon in 2013 to study at the Émile-Cohl Design School after a time at the art school in Bogota. In September 2018, during his previous year of his Master’s degree, he determined to respond to a call for tenders accepted by his school. The tender from ChilledCow anointed for a “student busy revising for her classes, with Miyazaki-esque visuals.”

Machado, who was not previously familiar with lo-fi aesthetics, decided to dispatch in his sketches. Several positions were tested for the Lofi Girl, including a lying position, at the end of which she would return to her initial position; this did not carry over into the final product because it took too long to animate. The background was originally plain black to save animation time, but Machado eventually decided to place La Croix-Rousse in the window instead.

Lofi Girl’s viewership has grown ever since the start of the live stream. Fareid El Gafy from Washington Square News praised the live stream about studying. He said, “Thanks to this playlist, I’ve cranked out a multitude of essays, study sessions, scripts, and rough cuts to the tune of pop culture samples, muted snares, and artificial record scratches.” Xavier Piedra of Mashable praised its relaxing songs that keep the listener focused.

He also noted that the playlist is updated frequently and often contains a mixture of old and newly added songs. The live stream was the first live stream listed on Cassidy Quinn of KGW’s “Top 10 non-news live channels to watch on YouTube while social distancing”. Quinn described the songs in the live stream as “a constant stream of low-key music you play in the background while you get work done, do chores, whatever you’re doing at home right now.”

ChilledCow’s lofi hip-hop playlist was also named the best lo-fi beats playlist by Red Bull. In 2021, The A.V. Club claimed that lo-fi beats to relax and study “turn the average person into a superhuman academic whose powers of concentration are rivaled only by headphone-wearing cartoon girls sitting at their desks during rainy days.”

While Rolling Stone said that “Lo-fi’s slow, smooth beats aren’t just for studying and working. They represent the revenge of producers who have found a way to put their talent to good use in difficult times.” Youtooz released a one-foot-tall replica of the lo-fi-anime Girl, complete with a desk and school supplies.