YouTube's Merry Christmas: Letting Large Music Publishers Steal Money From Guy Singing Public Domain Christmas Carol

from the contentid-is-broken dept

Yet another in our ongoing series of stories concerning YouTube's broken ContentID system. While the company has still mostly remained mute over its recent policy change, which resulted in a ton of bogus ContentID claims, an even worse problem is that ContentID does serious harm to fair use and public domain videos. The latest example of this comes from Adam Manley, who recently posted a nice video about the month of December and how awesome it is. The second half of the video has him singing the famous song "Silent Night."
"Silent Night" was composed in 1818. It is, without question, in the public domain. There is no question about this at all. Adam's rendition of the song is him singing it alone (so not using anyone else's recording). There is simply no question at all that what he did does not violate anyone's copyright. At all.

So, what happened? YouTube's ContentID told him that he received not one, not two, but three separate copyright claims on the video, from three of the largest music publishers in the world -- basically all of the publishing arms of the major labels. Actually, it's worse than that. Because when he first published the video, he got a notice that ContentID had found a hit from "one or more music publishing rights societies." Adam disputed it, pointing out that the work was in the public domain, and YouTube "acknowledged and dropped" the claim. The very next day, however, he got hit again, with completely bogus claims from BMG, Warner Chappell and UMPG Publishing (Universal Music's publishing arm).

Yes, not only did YouTube's ContentID hit him with an initial bogus claim, even after he disputed it with the basic logic that the song was written in 1818 and is in the public domain, YouTube came back the next day anyway and hit him with three more bogus copyright claims from three of the biggest music publishers in the world. Basically, the music publishing world, with an assist from YouTube, is making sure that Adam can't get any of the money he rightfully earned from singing a public domain song -- with those publishers stealing it instead. Adam has disputed the claims as well, and while BMG was quick to relent, the other two have not, leaving Adam in a lurch.

Adam's post is interesting. He points out that he's used YouTube to make claims against others using his own work, so he sees the value of ContentID, but his mind is changing on the overall value of the program:
As an independent content creator, it is absurd, ridiculous, and downright insulting that I can have my content de-monetized based on a completely fraudulent claim. The fact that the claims are based on an automated system doesn’t make it any better. If anything, it makes me think the automated system should not be in place. Or at the very least, it needs a major overhaul, and a lot more human eyes involved before action is taken.

Now, I’ve been on the other side of this a few times. I didn’t deal with the automated system, but I’ve had to have content taken down for infringing on my copyrights (I generally leave remixed videos alone, but I’ve had to keep an eye out for complete re-uploads of entire videos). So I do understand the point of view of the rights holders who are trying to keep hold of their content. And when I’ve been in that situation, I’ve appreciated the prompt action taken on my behalf against infringing content.

But we’re playing with people’s income, here, and I don’t think an automated system should be in charge of that. Certainly not one that apparently has public domain songs registered to it. Anything fitting that description should only be acted upon once a human eye has reviewed it. Perhaps a different category within the content ID system is needed. A category for protecting specific recordings and arrangements of public domain content, but without YouTube’s entirely too impressive ability to recognize the similarities of someone singing their own version.
This has been a major complaint against ContentID for years, and it's one of the main reasons why people are so concerned with automated determinations of potential infringement -- something the recording and movie industries have been pushing to be mandated by law in various places. This is yet another reason why the idea that it's "easy" to automatically find and deal with infringement is so technically illiterate. The false positives have very real consequences -- sometimes to the point of taking money from independent content creators like Adam, and handing it over to the major labels represented by the RIAA and NMPA.

But it's also a condemnation of ContentID itself and how YouTube handles it. If you're dealing with a work that has already been reviewed to be public domain, YouTube should make the system recognize that any future claims should at least be reviewed before being applied.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Shadow Dragon (profile), Dec 24th, 2013 @ 6:26pm

    time for a big fat class action lawsuit

    Time for a big fat class action lawsuit.Hopefully that will teach them. Jejeje

     

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  2.  
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    CharlieBrown, Dec 24th, 2013 @ 6:44pm

    I Quit YouTube

    I put up some public domain cartoons. They were cartoons known to be in the public domain since the 1960's at best, 1980's at worst. One, from 1942, got a copyright claim by INgrooves claiming it was a recording by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. I disputed it. They upheld the claim. So I deleted the video. No money for them! But no views or comments for me either. And already being fed up with their new comments system, I just quit. Dealing with YouTube is not worth the hassle in my opinion.

     

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  3.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Dec 24th, 2013 @ 7:13pm

    Re: I Quit YouTube

    Yeah, unless YT/Google does something to solve the massive problems the ContentID system has currently, where people and companies can just go around claiming everyone else's stuff with no penalty for clearly bogus claims, more and more people are likely to follow suit and leave.

    Why for example would a game reviewer, like AngryJoe, want to spend dozens of hours(I believe he estimated something like 20 hours of work for a single review vid) on a review when as soon as he puts it up it's claimed by someone else, and all the revenue from it goes to them instead of him?

    People like that make their livings off of the money from their videos, and with no money, that means no vids created. Same thing with those that review movies, or do lets-plays for games, with how the system is setup, and the greed of companies pushing it to be even more broken, it's only a matter of time before people like that leave the site for good.

     

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  4.  
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    Atkray (profile), Dec 24th, 2013 @ 8:06pm

    Not to troll ootb...

    But what if Google is trying to mess with people so much that it creates a massive backlash and people finally rise up and abolish the copyright system leaving Google free to let people post anything, without having to worry about it?

     

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

  5.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Dec 24th, 2013 @ 8:18pm

    Re: Not to troll ootb...

    While it's certainly a nice idea, their actions in the past suggest that they don't really have the ability to think ahead that well('I guess we'll give in to the *AA's just this once, I'm sure they'll be content with that and not come back later demanding more'), so I'd lean more towards a modified Hanon's Razor, 'Never attribute to intelligent forward thinking that which is adequately explained by stupidity.'

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 24th, 2013 @ 8:23pm

    Gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme...

    That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

     

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  7.  
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    Applesauce, Dec 24th, 2013 @ 9:14pm

    Need an override

    Leave the automated system in place, but allow a human reviewer to place a hard override that will block further automated hits once the reviewer has verified there is no copyright violation.

     

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

  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 24th, 2013 @ 9:54pm

    Youtube is a place I don't go. It has enough problems without my getting all hyped only to find either it's not up, I'm in the wrong country, it's filled with ads, or some such other crap like needing one of the most hacked softwares out there, flash.

    Not been all that long ago that flash was recommended to be removed from your computer. Between that and the spying through the flash cookies, it's not on this computer.

     

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  9.  
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    Just Sayin', Dec 24th, 2013 @ 10:15pm

    The real issue here

    The real issue is that there are any number of valid, COPYRIGHT versions of this song out there right now. This guy is a "victim" of contentID, but he is also a victim of a system so full of people ripping others off that there has to be an automated way to check it.

    The problems for Google / Youtube is that they absolutely insist on avoiding humans working, relying entirely on automation and NOT hiring enough people to review claims properly. They are bottom line oriented companies who figured out that keeping the content companies happy was way better for their bottom line than making their filtering system work correctly and to deal with consumers directly. Just try to get tech support from Google or Youtube, there ain't no humans to be found!

     

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  10. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 24th, 2013 @ 10:25pm

    Re:

    TIN FOIL HAT KIDS. BIG MEAN GOOGLE IS TRYING TO TAKE AWAY THE TOYS THEY GAVE ME FOR FREE, HOW DARE THEY! I AM SO UPSET, A WHITE PERSON IN THE FIRST WORLD HAS NEVER BEEN THIS UPSET BEFORE!

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 24th, 2013 @ 10:27pm

    Re: Re: I Quit YouTube

    Google really had to start getting hard on items like this because they never intended to allow people to make money directly off YouTube. That wasn't the point, all its done is open up Google to a vast legal responsibility, as the content publishers can attack the big Google instead of some random internet troll using videos as a replacement to a minimum wage job.

     

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  12.  
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    Angel (profile), Dec 24th, 2013 @ 10:31pm

    I just want to know why I get copyright notices for home videos that happen to have music playing the background. It's so annoying...

     

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

  13.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Dec 24th, 2013 @ 11:25pm

    Re:

    because the Dancing Baby case still isn't dead.

     

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

  14.  
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    Automatic Grammatizator, Dec 24th, 2013 @ 11:53pm

    It's not just that a robot is in charge of filtering YouTube's content.

    It's that said robot is not three laws safe either. It doesn't care how many humans it harms with its functions.

     

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

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 25th, 2013 @ 1:30am

    Re: I Quit YouTube

    Youtube is spiraling. Their playlists are very buggy, their playback quality random and their comments locked down to G+-only. Add a massive ramp-up of harrassment on the people uploading by bots and a semimonopoly and we are talking a massive target on their back from all sides (copyright holders of larger size will never be satisfied with online competition on attention span)!

     

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

  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 25th, 2013 @ 1:53am

    Google is evil. And they are probably building an army of robots and a solid ai to go with it. Seriously look into it. These guys are crazy. ContentID should be the least of your worries.

     

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

  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 25th, 2013 @ 2:10am

    ...and that's the point

    The false positives have very real consequences -- sometimes to the point of taking money from independent content creators like Adam, and handing it over to the major labels represented by the RIAA and NMPA.

    That's why they want automated systems and 'quick action.' Law of Averages and plain old legal/lobbying muscle will ensure that they get paid more often than not. And if they can get royalties on public domain works, and there's no one to claim those monies, well...

     

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

  18.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Dec 25th, 2013 @ 2:51am

    Re:

    I'm sorry, but we've already got one paranoid person obsessed with Google, you'll have to apply elsewhere for the position.

     

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

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 25th, 2013 @ 6:46am

    G.O.O.G.L.E.

    G.overnment
    O.Oversight
    O.peration
    in the
    G.uise
    of a
    L.oved
    E.nterprise

     

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

  20. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    icon
    samflow (profile), Dec 25th, 2013 @ 7:57am

    good

    Interesting, thanks
    /
    http://www.n2g.us/

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Philly Bob, Dec 25th, 2013 @ 9:24am

    The notes "Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti and Do" and any combination of said notes thereof are all copyrighted, secured and locked away forever and thou shalt never sing or play again without the (expensive) permission of the Dark Lords of Control.

     

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

  22.  
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    balaknair, Dec 25th, 2013 @ 9:30am

    "The false positives have very real consequences -- sometimes to the point of taking money from independent content creators like Adam, and handing it over to the major labels represented by the RIAA and NMPA."

    As far as the **AA's are concerned, that's not a bug, that's a feature. It's the second best option for them (the first being that no-one be able to publish except through them.)

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Carlie Coats, Dec 25th, 2013 @ 10:42am

    Why isn't this slander?

    I don't see any reason this should not be slander. Would someone please explain that to me? ...and why major punitive damages would not be in order in the resulting suit?

     

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  24.  
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    just-some-guy, Dec 25th, 2013 @ 11:27am

    So if there is no down side to a bogus copyright claim why doesn't some anonymous group just bomb the music biz with content claims against everything they ever posted everywhere and anywhere?

    You know, just to force them to admit the system as is sux?

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 25th, 2013 @ 2:26pm

    Re: Why isn't this slander?

    Because the RIAA steal from the public to pay off the power.

     

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  26.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Dec 25th, 2013 @ 6:15pm

    Re:

    Because if it was used against them like that you can bet the matter would be straightened out within days, and the one filing the bogus claims would likely find themselves faced with a permanent ban from ever posting on YT again.

    That's if the major label stuff was claimable like that in the first place, good odds are any claims made against them would just bounce off the system, as it was automatically denied. If one of the major labels (UMG I think) can get it so any claims they make against other people's uploads are automatically upheld, where you can't dispute it, you can bet they've thought ahead enough, and have enough pull, to be immune to all of the system's downsides.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    bubba, Dec 25th, 2013 @ 8:23pm

    Same problem

    I had similar problems. Put up a song in the public domain and it gets tagged and you can fight it for months and months, loosing money all the time. And then someone stole some of my videos and I complained. What does YouTube do? They cancel my account. Not only do they do that, but they make it impossible to go to YouTube to then try to argue your position! My content is still there, someone else is making money on it, and I am blocked from accessing YouTube while logged into my Gmail account! There are no humans to talk to!

     

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

  28.  
    identicon
    Lurker Keith, Dec 26th, 2013 @ 1:21am

    Re: Why isn't this slander?

    Slander has to be spoken.

     

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

  29.  
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    PopeRatzo (profile), Dec 26th, 2013 @ 4:42am

    obsolete concept

    There is no longer such a thing as "public domain".

    It all belongs to them now.

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    David, Dec 26th, 2013 @ 5:13am

    Re: ...and that's the point

    And if they can get royalties on public domain works, and there's no one to claim those monies, well...

    You are confused. When there are royalties for a performance, they are split according to some key between performers, composers, lyricists and so on. If any of the possible royalty recipients has had his rights pass into the public domain, the stuff is just split among fewer parties.

    What we are talking about here is not "nobody claiming those moneys". We are talking about the RIAA stealing most of the royalties belonging to the performer of a public domain work. There is, by default, a claim to all of any related royalties as long as the performer has not explicitly relinquished his performance into the public domain (not even possible in some jurisdictions).

    If you perform a work in the public domain, you are entitled to the royalty cuts for composer, lyricist, arranger and performer.

    That's what "public domain" means: free for the taking. If someone else takes up your performance and works from it, he is entitled to the cuts for composer and lyricist, but if he is taking your arrangement (and you have not died more than 90 years ago, a real concern for most vampires), then you are entitled to royalties for that.

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Carlie J. Coats, Jr., Dec 26th, 2013 @ 5:50am

    Re: Re: Why isn't this slander?

    Point taken: OK. libel, instead -- upon closer examination, the distinction seems to rely upon the transitoriness of the statement (is email transitory? ...under US law, it may well be, which is what I was basing the "slander" on; I was equating email with spoken communication).

    Wikipedia lists three points which need to be satisfied for a statement to be libel in the US:

    • was false,

    • caused harm, and

    • was made without adequate research into the truthfulness of the statement.


    All three seem to be true in this case.

    On the other hand (taking the precedent from the behavior of patent trolls), really massive discovery may be necessary in order to establish the inadequacy of the research and (for punitive damages) the degree to which this inadequate research is an established practice).

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 26th, 2013 @ 6:14am

    Re: Re: ...and that's the point

    You are confused. When there are royalties for a performance, they are split according to some key between performers, composers, lyricists and so on. If any of the possible royalty recipients has had his rights pass into the public domain, the stuff is just split among fewer parties.

    You missed out the biggest entitlement to royalties, the publisher or label.

    /sarc, maybe.

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Azyx, Dec 26th, 2013 @ 7:23am

    Re: Re:

    Youtube earns money with it, it's not "for free". Don't be stupid because its actually The other way around. You spend 20~hours doing a vídeo and then only youtube and The company that made the claim earns the money that was generated by it.

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 26th, 2013 @ 7:40am

    Re: time for a big fat class action lawsuit

    Sounds like the big publishers are colluding to keep the small guys from entering the market. That's something the SEC should be looking into.

     

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

  35. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 26th, 2013 @ 9:37am

    Test comment

     

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

  36.  
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    Canonymous Award, Dec 26th, 2013 @ 9:48am

    Sort of on/off topic

    Just want to say that copyright law is overblown when compared to patent law..the 20 years an inventor is granted protection is BS! Why does an 'artist' get LIFETIME + 50 years for their family (who did NOT create the 'art')? Inventors are the ones who should get lifetime protection, since bringing an item to market is no easy task! Pease, someone with power, take up this cause to turn this around!

     

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

  37.  
    icon
    btr1701 (profile), Dec 26th, 2013 @ 1:42pm

    Re:

    > The notes "Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti and Do"
    > and any combination of said notes thereof
    > are all copyrighted

    I know you were just joking, but those notes don't actually exist. They're markers for the various notes that make up a major scale. The *actual* notes of the scale differ depending on the key. It's like 'x' in algebra. It has a different value depending on the equation in which it's used.

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 26th, 2013 @ 7:11pm

    Re: Need an override

    It appears that's how it works already.

    But the issue is that the harm has already been done once its flagged. If the claim holds after you contested it, you'll get a strike, and that's non-negotiable..

    And, the legalities are becoming such ridiculous nitpicking that even if there was a human reviewer, determining whether it is copyright infringement or not would require a court or someone who actually knows what he's doing, not some random tech support grunts..

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    Jeff, Dec 26th, 2013 @ 8:25pm

    Very easy to fix this problem

    If YouTube etc want to keep their automated "take it down immediately" tools then they should implement a replace lost income plus a big fat fine, for filing a FALSE claim on someone else's stuff. Tere is NO WAY that YouTube nor anyone else (that controls the medium) should have an issue with this. The only ones that would be against this would be anyone who wants to abuse the system the way it is.

    Pretty simple unless the conveyance vehicles are in cahoots with the big players.

     

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

  40.  
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    Jeff, Dec 26th, 2013 @ 8:39pm

    Very easy to fix this

    If YouTube etc want to keep their automated "take it down immediately" tools then they should implement a replace lost income plus a big fat fine and paying all legal fees to harmed party for filing a FALSE claim on someone else's stuff. There is NO WAY that YouTube or anyone else (that controls the medium) should have an issue with this. The only ones that would be against this would be anyone who wants to abuse the system the way it is.

    Pretty simple unless the conveyance vehicles are in cahoots with the big players.

     

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

  41.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 27th, 2013 @ 6:35am

    the biggest problem, as always is that very little notice is usually taken of anyone disputing something over copyright but everything stops, all notice is taken of and all actions taken that can be taken when the dispute involves the major labels and/or studios. no checking is carried out first, which is exactly what those labels and studios want, because it is expensive. had Congress done what it should have and implemented fines for copyright abuse equal to real claims, there would be little of this. i dont understand, with so much going on, why no one has tried to get a new bill introduced that will actually cover this.

     

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

  42.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 27th, 2013 @ 7:10am

    Re: Re: Re: Why isn't this slander?

    Can a person be help responsible for uploading content with an expired copyright to a copyright control system? This is one question that would need to be answered in this case.

     

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

  43.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Dec 27th, 2013 @ 9:21am

    Re: Re: time for a big fat class action lawsuit

    Sounds like the big publishers are colluding to keep the small guys from entering the market. That's something the SEC should be looking into.

    FTC and/or DOJ, maybe. I don't think that's within the Securities and Exchange Commission's purview, though I could be mistaken.

     

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

  44.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Dec 27th, 2013 @ 9:33am

    Re: Sort of on/off topic

    the 20 years an inventor is granted protection is BS!

    I know, that's probably too long these days.

    Inventors are the ones who should get lifetime protection

    Oh, that's not what you meant...

     

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

  45.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Dec 27th, 2013 @ 9:34am

    Re:

    i dont understand, with so much going on, why no one has tried to get a new bill introduced that will actually cover this.

    Because nobody affected by it is making enormous campaign contributions.

     

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

  46.  
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    That One Guy (profile), Dec 27th, 2013 @ 7:37pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Why isn't this slander?

    Were the system actually working, I'd imagine such an act would be considered, by the courts, as copyfraud and enough to trip the perjury penalty, but as it is all they have to do is say 'I made a mistake' and they won't even get a slap on the wrist for it.

     

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

  47.  
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    Bergman (profile), Dec 27th, 2013 @ 11:28pm

    Re: Very easy to fix this

    Hey, the MAFIAA keep insisting that whether or not something is infringing should be obvious to anyone who looks at it...so the reverse would necessarily be true as well, right?

    Just as it's "easy" to know when something infringes, it's at least as obvious when something doesn't infringe or the claim of infringement is fraudulent.

    If someone is obviously making fraudulent claims, then they SHOULD be financially liable for any damage they do, right?

     

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

  48.  
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    PaulT (profile), Dec 28th, 2013 @ 3:02am

    Re:

    You're making the mistaken assumption that the rules are applied equally. They're not - they've bought a system that errs on their side every time.

    Ordinary people trying to game the system will be blocked, banned and perhaps even have the perjury penalties of the DMCA applied against them. Doubly so if they're targeting the major corporate players, who probably wouldn't even have their videos taken down for a second while the claims are being processed. The risks taken by independent artists and creators don't apply to them.

     

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  49.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2013 @ 10:40am

    "...taking money from independent content creators like Adam, and handing it over to the major labels represented by the RIAA and NMPA".

    So in other words, the copyright laws work precisely as they were designed and bought by the publishers.

     

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

  50.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2013 @ 10:44am

    Re: Very easy to fix this problem

    Your argument rests on the supposition that Google/YouTube actually gives a rats ass about small content producers getting the shaft. They clearly don't as can be seen from the mountain of evidence to this fact.

     

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

  51.  
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    Pragmatic, Jan 3rd, 2014 @ 7:54am

    The "Everyday good of copyright" in action, folks. I'm beginning to think that perhaps we should abolish it altogether as I struggle to see any way the little guy can benefit from it at all.

     

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

  52.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 9th, 2014 @ 1:02am

    Re:

    The problem with humans is that there are so many criminals you've got to have policemen shoot every possible civilian to make sure.

    You're a fucktard through and through.

     

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


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