If you’ve ever curated a Spotify playlist that has gotten a few followers, or spoken to curators who have — odds are you’ve seen or heard about the dreaded “Takedown Notice” —  even though you have done nothing wrong.

Takedown Notification

Hello,

We have found the following content to be in violation of our content policies, and we have removed it. Please see our Spotify Terms and Conditions of Use for more information.

spotify:playlist:Spotify_Playlist_ID

Regards,

Spotify

(sent from Policy Report Notification report-notification@spotify.com

Previously the Notification email had this template sent from Policy Report Notification <report-notification@spotify.com>

Notice of report and removal of user content

Hello,

We’ve received notice that an image, title, and/or description on one of your playlists has been reported as including inappropriate or offensive content and violates our Profile and Playlist Image Guidelines. Therefore, we’ve removed the image, title, and description from the playlist on Spotify. Please note: the playlist itself has not been removed.

If you believe you received this notice in error, please respond back to this email with an appeal.

spotify:playlist:Playlist_ID

Regards,

Spotify

In this article we’ll explain:

Why are you getting these claims?

The original purpose of these claims is to enable copyright holders, especially ones holding the copyright for images and visual content, to protect their intellectual property from theft. In accordance with safe-harbor laws in the US, all sites hosting User Generated Content (UGC) must enable a way for copyright holders to take down infringing content. Spotify does this through a web form so that photographers and graphic designers can make sure people don’t steal their images or artworks to use as playlist covers on the platform. 

The problem is that safe-harbor takedown notices are often used by bad actors to censor or suppress content that harms their own. On Spotify, this often works something like this:

  1. A bad actor has a playlist they want to promote, usually with bought followers from bots — which they then charge artists a fee for being featured on
  2. They create a bunch of dummy accounts (or use automatic bots) to file takedown notices for all the playlist ranking on similar keywords, forcing Spotify to remove the artwork, title, and description for such playlists — leading to them being removed from search rankings.
  3. Since they’re now the only playlist for that specific keyword, their playlist gets top placement in search results on the platform and they sell placements on the playlists to artists, making a nice, hefty profit.

While this might sound theoretical — it’s happening, we’ve personally received hundreds of reports of legit playlist curators with custom-made artworks that get their playlists claimed. Imagine the frustration of being a growing playlist curator, just getting your first hundred or thousand followers, and then having everything deleted with the click of a button.

Even if you restore the playlist, you can end up getting repetitive claims almost instantly — causing your playlist to be taken down again, and again, and again.

What happens when a playlist is claimed?

When a user claims your list, Spotify will automatically take down your playlist. This doesn’t mean that the playlist is deleted completely but the artwork, title, and description are removed and it’s essentially just a blank playlist with a bunch of tracks. There are cases of it even disappearing in the client (although still accessible if you have the link).

Before the end of 2021, you got an option to appeal right in the email:

If you believe you received this notice in error, please respond back to this email with an appeal.”

With our own playlist network, we sometimes received over 20 claims on a single day on a high-ranking playlist with a lot of followers even though we didn’t violate any of Spotify’s policies. We appealed every single one manually, which took a lot of time and energy, and Spotify reset our playlist every single time, only for us to discover the playlist was claimed 5 minutes later.

This has a real effect where playlists are losing followers and get a lower ranking.

However, most likely due to the number of claims and appeals, Spotify got tired of going through them and just removed the feature to appeal. Now there are officially just two options for what you can do about it.

Why is Spotify allowing this?

You might ask why Spotify has this kind of system and if Spotify is aware of people taking advantage of fair-curated playlists.

Spotify is aware of the problem, and our contact at Spotify explained that in order to counteract bots and people that are uploading copyrighted material, commercials, pornographic material, and things like that, they have to open up for people to report all user-generated content at their application since they don’t have the manpower to do it themselves.

Thanks to our contact, we managed to get some of our most claimed playlists immune to claims. However, this is a rare solution and it’s not as simple as sending your playlist to Spotify Support. Even though we managed to get a personal contact at Spotify, that didn’t mean that we could get all our playlists immune — just the ones most affected.

That’s why we built Spotify Claim Guard and now we’re now planning to open up for other playlist curators to join.

What can I do about it?

To rightfully guard yourself against claims from Spotify you have two options.

  1. Reset the playlist manually every time a bot or person claims your list
  2. Use a service like Claim Guard that does this for you

Option 1: Reset the playlist manually

We did this to start with since we didn’t have any choice. Every time a playlist was claimed, we reset the playlist manually. Uploading Artwork, naming the Title, and writing the description once again.

This really drains your energy, time, and focus and if you have something else to do in your life, this quickly becomes overwhelming.

Option 2: Using Claim Guard

We built a tool that we call Spotify Claim Guard that regularly checks our playlists if they have been claimed, it automatically resets the title and description. 

So whether you are sleeping or just living your life and a malicious claim is filed against your playlist, you can sleep tight and know that the Claim Guard is taking care of the business for you, making sure that you have the absolute minimum downtime. Even against repeated claims, since we’re fighting bots with bots — the robot is able to reset your playlist within a few minutes.

Even better, since Claim Guard is quick to reset — the reporting bot essentially gets stuck in a loop, reporting the same playlists over and over again at a speed, way too fast for any human, which makes it pretty obvious for Spotify that there’s a machine filing the claim, and potentially can remove the bot-account.

We have now opened up Claim Guard to the public to help real and legit playlist curators.

In order for us to only help legit and real playlisters and not help spammers, copyright infringers and other bad actors with their business (Spotify has a reason for the policies) we only accept curators that we can verify are legitimate and we only reset the title and the description.

Notice that it’s just the title and description? That’s because we’ve found that the odds of curators accidentally including copyrighted artworks is much higher than the chances of them including copyrighted text in the title or description — and resetting actual copyrighted content means our backend access to Spotify could be removed.

Get Claim Guard:

We charge a small recurring fee to keep Claim Guard going.

When you sign up for Claim Guard you guarantee, and we check:

  • That you are a serious and legit playlist curator (and not a spammer)
  • That your playlist cover, title, and description don’t violate Spotify Policies.

If you are interested you can see the details and sign up for Claim Guard.