NBC Universal Caught Using Infringing Graphic From Apple, Probably Won't Learn Anything

from the teachable-moment?-we-wish dept

Copyright infringement is easy. It's so easy that virtually everyone does it sometimes without even realizing—including some of the loudest cheerleaders for stronger copyright enforcement. We've pointed out several examples in the past: France's copyright three-strike agency pirated a font, SOPA sponsor Lamar Smith used an infringing photo on his website, label-owned streaming company Vevo illegally streamed an NFL game, and one of our own readers caught industry mouthpiece Lily Allen offering multiple infringing downloads from her official EMI website. Now TNW has discovered yet another instance of this grand hypocritical tradition on a website from vocal SOPA supporter NBC Universal.

The company has apparently decided to copy the premise of ABC's successful Extreme Home Makeover for their own show, Home Transformers—but that's not infringement (if it were, reality TV would be the world's most brazen P2P piracy network). On the casting call website, however, TNW noticed a familiar graphic: Apple's copyrighted icon for their Xcode development suite. It has been removed since the TNW post went up, but lives on in the screenshots (and as a file on the server):



Oops!

Now, as we've said before, the real point of these stories is not to laugh at the hypocrisy, but to remind supporters of stronger copyright just how easy and common accidental infringement can be. As someone who worked in graphic design departments for years, I can immediately think of several ways this might have happened, even beyond TNW's suggestion that it might have been a design intern making a mistake. Sometimes you get an email from a higher-up playing designer on a whim and saying, "here, use this graphic," and while you can push back and ask them where they found it and whether you have the rights to use it, as often as not they will brush off your concerns and leave you powerless. Sometimes an image is used legally and correctly at some point, but then routinely filed away in a stock graphic folder by mistake, and re-used later in an infringing way. Sometimes a random image from Google is used in an internal mockup for convenience, then accidentally makes its way into the finished product. Sometimes people slap fraudulent open licenses on copyrighted graphics and upload them to one of the many free design resource websites out there. And sometimes, yes, a rushed or lazy intern screws up.

It is impossible for a large company to completely stamp out the possibility of accidental infringement. For that matter, it's practically impossible for the average person to avoid it in their normal online activities. This is one of the biggest reasons that draconian copyright legislation is a slippery slope: it may start with the intention of targeting "bad actors" and career pirates, but it inevitably provides the tools to target innocent incidental infringement.

NBC Universal has always been an aggressive enforcer of copyrights. They're big on producing propaganda for the cause, such as their NYC anti-piracy campaign and their poorly-produced video defending ICE's domain seizures. They recently attempted to shut down a fan-funded web series, and also block a Mitt Romney campaign ad that was almost certainly fair use. Most famously, their general counsel, Rick Cotton, once claimed movie piracy was hurting the American corn farmer. Meanwhile, this isn't even the first time they've been caught violating copyright—they've even been known to promote pirated versions of their own stuff. While it would be nice to believe that this latest example will help them realize that copyright infringement is complex and requires a more nuanced solution than just constantly ramping up enforcement, their track record isn't very encouraging, so I'm not holding my breath.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    fogbugzd (profile), Mar 30th, 2012 @ 6:45pm

    In the paragraph following the OOPS! you mention several things that might lead to copyright infringement, such as using the image in a mock-up or an executive attaching it to an email. I think it is important to note that by the definitions that the maximalists want there is no fair use. So by the definitions that the maximalists would like to apply the copyright infraction already have occurred in the mockups and email attachments.

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2012 @ 6:49pm

    Since the graphic is no longer on the site, I presume that the company recognized the error of its ways. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for a host of others who simply could care less about copyright law.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    jupiterkansas (profile), Mar 30th, 2012 @ 6:54pm

    Re:

    Oh, they realized they did something illegal and then tried to make it go away? Well that's alright then.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2012 @ 7:06pm

    Re:

    I don't know why you bother bringing up this tired trope again and again. You and your friends would never accept "oops, sorry!" as an excuse or defense.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2012 @ 7:28pm

    Re: Re:

    Read the paragraph starting after "oops" again. Got it? That's why they bother. Over and over we hear about people having their works pulled down and/or their domains seized because someone else perceived that the work were infringing. Too often, the infringement is either non-existent or totally unintentional. This article illustrates how that can happen.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2012 @ 7:33pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Umm, yes, I know. Read in threaded view.

     

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  7.  
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    Spaceboy (profile), Mar 30th, 2012 @ 7:39pm

    Re:

    And how many people viewed that website? Each view counts as a separate infringement because that image was copied each time it was viewed.

     

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  8.  
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    silverscarcat (profile), Mar 30th, 2012 @ 7:43pm

    Re:

    They're still dirty pirates and owe ABC $500,000 for each time the image was viewed on their website.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2012 @ 7:45pm

    Re: Re:

    It's an NBC show, so about six people viewed it.

     

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  10.  
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    V (profile), Mar 30th, 2012 @ 8:54pm

    To Quote "The Passion of the Christ"

    "Crucify them! Crucify them!"

    Or, directed at NBC

    "Let he without sin cast the first stone."

    Ok... it was paraphrasing actually... and it's not copyright infringement from The Passion, since it's actually from the Bible... which I believe God left with creative commons license to use as long as you don't modify...

    So... if someone claims copyright on the Bible because they changed something... then... well... their creative commons license is revoked... and they are violation of God's copyright...

    May the lightning bolts and plagues begin...

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2012 @ 9:03pm

    Re: Re:

    FYI, your opinion does not reflect federal court decisions at all levels of the judiciary.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2012 @ 9:10pm

    Re: Re:

    No attorney who actively practices this area of law would even raise an eyebrow about such a de minimis matter.

    My takeaway from your comment is the you look for every opportunity to claim "See, they do it too!", thus ignoring the uncomfortable fact that many of the worst infringers discussed here seem to be held in high regard for "sticking it to the man".

    Sorry, they made a minor screw-up and corrected it. I hardly see this as a newsworthy article. In fact, the article reads more like a PSA for the "Let's Make a Mountain Out of a Molehill, LLC."

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2012 @ 9:47pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Yes, viewing is certainly not copying or a public performance.

    Mind telling that to PRS?

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2012 @ 10:04pm

    Re:

    "Since the graphic is no longer on the site, I presume that the company recognized the error of its ways."

    Who cares?
    They BROKE THE LAW!
    They MUST be PUNISHED!

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 30th, 2012 @ 10:17pm

    Re: Re:

    Fine, then go buy the rights from Apple and sue them!

     

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  16.  
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    Keii (profile), Mar 30th, 2012 @ 10:20pm

    I doubt they'll even bother the effort to muster up a care in the world until they themselves are hit with a DMCA takedown and/or their domain is seized by the government.

     

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  17.  
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    Atkray (profile), Mar 30th, 2012 @ 10:27pm

    Re: To Quote "The Passion of the Christ"

    I think you should write that up as a screenplay.

     

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  18.  
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    G Thompson (profile), Mar 30th, 2012 @ 10:44pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    The problem with your theory is that you assume that de minimus is being used succesfully as a defence by those caught up in the propaganda and legal actions by the copyright maximalists and other trolls.

    When in fact those trolls/maximalists are shouting from the bar and media blitz's that de minimus is no defence whatsoever.

    When they stop doing it then maybe the nitpicking should stop, otherwise your philosophy seems to be that Everyone is entitled to de minimus, except those that aren't. No fear nor favour remember? Good concept when it works and great for those with the money to enact it.

     

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  19.  
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    G Thompson (profile), Mar 30th, 2012 @ 10:49pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    As you know if Apple themselves after knowing of this alleged infringement do not take some initiative in stopping it, even at the minimum a nicely worded letter of "do not do this again" Apple will have a harder time doing anything against anyone else who allegedly infringes upon the same work.

    As the Copyright trolls constantly keep reminding everyone, they need to protect their copyrights (and other IP) at all times or they will lose the ability to control them

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 31st, 2012 @ 1:37am

    NBC, bunch of no good dirty stealing filthy thieves! Wheres the justice? /sarcasm

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 31st, 2012 @ 1:47am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Uh huh. It's a de minimis matter when a commercial entity uses another commercial entity's logo to promote their own commercial product.

    Download a song for personal non-commercial use? Evil pirate who must pay $150,000 and be destroyed at all costs.

    As always, your desperate trope is a failure.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 31st, 2012 @ 3:02am

    forget all about the common accidental infringement. make a serious point of what they did. they would certainly not have done anything less!

     

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  23.  
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    PaulT (profile), Mar 31st, 2012 @ 3:42am

    Re:

    "It's OK when we do it. Now bend over, peasant, we think you infringed copyright and we want all your money for it."

    "I presume that the company recognized the error of its ways. "

    Yet, you attack the DMCA when companies use it to allow them the same privilege. Hypocrite.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    abc gum, Mar 31st, 2012 @ 7:26am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Why has the site not been seized?

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Nelson, Mar 31st, 2012 @ 7:31am

    "Now, as we've said before, the real point of these stories is not to laugh at the hypocrisy, but to remind supporters of stronger copyright just how easy and common accidental infringement can be. "

    I laugh at their hypocrisy - does that make me a bad person?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 31st, 2012 @ 9:01am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Is anyone aware of an instance where a person has downloaded a typical single song (e.g., mp3) and been sued for having done so? If so, please provide a citation to the case.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Grant, Mar 31st, 2012 @ 9:18am

    infringed upon

    I was once infringed on by NBC. I made this video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FiHfDZ0RiG8
    which ended up on a segment on Jay Leno. they didn't ask me for permission or pay me or anything(as others have) but I was just excited that my video got on TV.

    I then put the short 20 sec clip of it on Jay Leno. aaaand
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2HHWtRjo_E&list=UUAvJnWKB3ke5DWXILLa1jdg&index=8& ;feature=plcp

    seriously these guys only like copyright law when it benefits them and allows them to control everybody else but heaven forbid if they have to inhibited by it.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 31st, 2012 @ 9:44am

    Re:

    "I laugh at their hypocrisy - does that make me a bad person?"

    No, just an honest one. ;-)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
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    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Mar 31st, 2012 @ 10:39am

    "...the real point of these stories is not to laugh at the hypocrisy..."

    ...that's just a bonus. :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    icon
    techflaws.org (profile), Mar 31st, 2012 @ 11:08am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    German users are being sued (abgemahnt) by lawyers in droves for as much as an mp3 album or audiobook. And you can bet they don't hesitate to do so if the (unknowingly?) shared folder had only one copyrighted song (look up Bushido and his crusade).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 31st, 2012 @ 3:00pm

    the plot thickens

    Anyone else notice the text layout in the first screenshot looks like...an Apple?

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Mar 31st, 2012 @ 3:43pm

    Re: Since the graphic is no longer on the site...

    The graphic is still on the site.

    You know how MegaUpload is being prosecuted in part because it only removed links to files, not the files themselves?

    Well, guess what? NBC is doing a MegaUpload.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 31st, 2012 @ 6:07pm

    It's okay.

    They get a DMCA, and they take it down, and no harm no foul, right?

    Grow up children - if it's good for your side, it's good for everyone else!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    icon
    PlagueSD (profile), Mar 31st, 2012 @ 6:41pm

    Re: To Quote "The Passion of the Christ"

    Actually, I think the bible is now Public Domain...The copyright on the Bible expired about 2000 years ago.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
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    DannyB (profile), Mar 31st, 2012 @ 7:14pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    If nobody else gets to use a de minimus defense "Oops, sorry", then neither do the maximalists.

    In fact, since they don't think anyone should get to have a de minimus defense, maybe they should get to pay double statutory damages?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
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    DannyB (profile), Mar 31st, 2012 @ 7:15pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Bu, bu, but . . . when the shoe is on the other foot, the copyright owner does not have to sue and it's not a civil matter.

    It's a criminal matter and government (using our tax dollars) goes after the evil dirty piracy criminals at NBC.

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 31st, 2012 @ 7:46pm

    Re:

    *woosh*

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 31st, 2012 @ 9:28pm

    HAH Fucking retards!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), Apr 1st, 2012 @ 4:07am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    There's plenty of instances where totally innocent people have been sued, as well as proof of concept trials where devices that could not possibly have been used to download music (e.g. a laser printer) have triggered lawsuit threats. Get off your lazy ass and look at the evidence instead of swallowing the RIAA's false claims whole.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2012 @ 6:49am

    Re: Re:

    Why woosh? Are they suddenly being held to a higher standard? Wow.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2012 @ 7:41am

    Re: Re: Re:

    No harm no foul, but they still need to be punished in the same way that rightsholders have demanded their pounds of flesh.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2012 @ 8:28am

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2012 @ 9:29am

    funny, but that exact icon is listed as being posted in 2008 here http://www.geekpedia.com/icon55_Hammer-and-Blueprint.html so who stole from who???

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
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    Thomas (profile), Apr 1st, 2012 @ 11:25am

    Content industries..

    believe it is perfectly legal for them to copy anything thy want; after all, the content industries own the content, right? I'd love to see two of the big companies engaged in a legal battle over copyright misuse.

    The content industry sincerely believes that they are doing "fair use" when they are the ones doing it, but when other people invoke fair use they refuse to believe it and don't even believe there is such a thing as fair use.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Apr 1st, 2012 @ 11:40am

    Re: Re: Re:

    The 'no harm no foul' thing would only work if that's how they, and other big groups/companies worked with regards to accidental infringement by individuals or smaller groups/companies.

    When they(the smaller ones) infringe, they don't get a 'take it down and we'll consider the matter settled' letter/email, they get a 'we are now going to sue you until you and/or your business is totally and completely ruined financially, and then sue you some more' email/letter.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
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    Niall (profile), Apr 2nd, 2012 @ 2:43am

    Re: Re: To Quote "The Passion of the Christ"

    Even the bits that hadn't been written? Anyway, it is touted as a work of fact(tual reporting). It could only be copyrighted if it were a work of fiction...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    identicon
    Ric, Apr 2nd, 2012 @ 11:11am

    Re: infringed upon

    LMAO The link to the video for the segment on the Jay Leno show has been blocked by NBC Universal for copyright infringement. So they stole your video put it on the Jay Leno show and now claim that video as their property. Time to press charges...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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