Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Copyright Bots are Here

For those that do not know, software programs called a "bot" are designed to seek and remove what they believe to be unauthorized use of copyrighted material. You don't even get the courtesy of a DCMA notice. The video is removed.

Copyright bots are spreading across all of the video web hosting sites and streaming channels.  That flipping YouTube ContentID is in full effect. There are other companies creating equally noxious programs.

The past few weeks have focused attention on some of the more public goofs of the bots. 
  • On YouTube the blocking of Michelle Obama speech on the official Barack Obama YT channel.  This meant that those missed it or watch it after the fact couldn't.  
  • Wired magazine has a write up about the the Hugo Awards the speech of Neil Gaiman was removed when pre-cleared, permission content from the BBC's Doctor Who appeared on the screen. The copyright bot did not care, off it went and the stream could not be re-started. At all. The Slate also has the details.
  • NASA is a government agency. Photos and videos produced by said agency for the benefit of the American people are instantly in the public domain.  If you wanted to see the Control Room video after the event you could not because Scripps Local News Service had a copyright claim on the video. You can read more of that story at
For those of you resistant to reading, this is a video from Mashable's Lauren Gores about what happened.

If you go into the comments of that Mashable story you are going to see one from a woman that represents singer James Taylor and other performers/clients. That man is getting flagged for performing his own work.

What has this got to do with you and me?


Lets say you record an up and coming band at a public concert. So do 100 other people. The band doesn't mind, it gives them exposure to new audiences for free. Everybody is cool and copacetic with the synergy.

Except the copyright bots.

You are creating commentary on a social topic. You use an example from a current news or television show. 25 seconds tops to make your point. You can prove straight up that your work clearly comes in as intended under Fair Use.

Not to the copyright bots.

The copyright bots could not distinguish the difference between a NASA event and a television news re-use of that same video. Commercial interests were allowed to take priority over the legal creators of the content.

Doesn't anybody have a problem with this? I do. Scripps Local News Service are not the rightful owners.

Now here is the chilling effect. You never know when those suckers are going to hit. When they do you have to actively prove that you are the legal copyright holder.

You have to prove that you have the right to use your own content.  Or that you are justified in using copyrighted content in certain situation.

I've seen videos where teachers have assigned To Kill A Mockingbird to students and asked them to come up with a video critique of an aspect of the movie.

It will not mean a damn thing to the copyright bots.

The shady folks that the copyright bots where intended to stop? They have already figured out a way around them.

My point is don't allow the copyright bots to stop what you are doing; especially if you are doing social commentary or documentary work.  Be aware that it might become an issue.  The road of free speech and expression just got a little rougher.

I was reading some of the comments at Slashdot about the NASA video. They have some words about it. I don't think removing lawyers from the planet is a good solution. Not even if they are from the RIAA/MPAA.

We as a people are giving up way too much control to non-human entities. I read science fiction. It is never a good thing.

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