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5 September 2012

Democratic National Congress thrown off YouTube for copyright infringement

Michelle Obama's speech infringed copyright, some robots believe.

By Alex Hern

Remember how I was saying that robots will take all our jobs (paraphrasing slightly here)? Well, if they’re going to, they have to get better than this. Wired‘s Ryan Singel reports on an embarrassing screw-up from YouTube’s copyright-eforcement robots:

While First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech won rave reviews on Twitter Tuesday night, those who got inspired to try to watch the livestream of the convention on BarackObama.com or YouTube found the video flagged by copyright claims shortly after it finished.

YouTube, the official streaming partner of the Democratic National Convention, put a copyright blocking message on the livestream video of the event shortly after it ended, which was embedded prominently at BarackObama.com and DemConvention2012.

It’s unclear, at the moment, what actual content the video contained that caused it to be blocked, but YouTube’s automated takedown notice claims it contains content from:

WMG, SME, Associated Press (AP), UMG, Dow Jones, New York Times Digital, The Harry Fox Agency, Inc. (HFA), Warner Chappell, UMPG Publishing and EMI Music Publishing

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This comes shortly after the somehow even more forehead-slapping-stupidity which occurred during the live stream of the Hugo awards, a science fiction prize.

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That broadcast was pulled shortly after Neil Gaiman accepted his award for “Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form”, which he won for his episode of Doctor Who, The Doctor’s Wife. It seems the award show tripped the enforceobots when it aired short clips of the five TV shows nominated.

The whole thing is particularly stupid because the Hugos actually got permission to air the clips, but even if they hadn’t, it’s the sort of thing which is covered under fair use. And while we can’t tell what, precisely, caused the DNC livestream to be pulled, it seems unlikely that the Obama campaign hadn’t cleared their media use.

Passing control to robot lawyers of almost the entirety of new media doesn’t seem like the best way to effectively guarantee freedom of speech. When even the President’s wife can get cut off in case she might be given penniless teens a way to listen to chart hits without paying, it seems like the pendulum has swung too far in a direction which nobody will like.