Just As The Copyright Office Tries To Ignore The Problem Of Bad Takedowns, NBC & Disney Take Down NASA's Public Domain Space Launch

from the copyright-censorship dept

The recent Copyright Office report on Section 512 of the DMCA (the notice and takedown provisions) has been frustrating on many levels, including the fact that it simply ignores that the public is a stakeholder (actually the main stakeholder) in copyright policy. But one of the most frustrating parts of the report is that it ignored a ton of testimony (including some provided by me) about how frequently the 512 notice-and-takedown process is abused (either on purpose or accidentally) to take down non-infringing content. The Copyright Office acts as if this is a fringe issue, when the data suggests it’s a massive problem impacting millions.

And just to put a pretty fine point on it, you probably heard about or (hopefully) saw the launch this weekend of the SpaceX Dragon capsule, with the first private manned mission to space, that was done in conjunction with NASA. It was pretty cool, and a ton of people tuned in to watch it live. Of course, many also tuned in the previous Wednesday to try to watch the original planned launch, before it got scrubbed due to weather. NASA had a wonderful live stream going for both (which I watched). And works produced by NASA are in the public domain — which is why many other broadcasters were easily able to use them as well.

But because the numbskulls at NBC Universal work with the default mindset that everything must be owned, and if everything must be owned, then obviously anything that NBC Universal broadcasts must be owned by NBC Universal, it made bogus copyright claims on a ton of others using NASA’s footageincluding NASA itself leading to NASA’s own public domain video being blocked on NASA’s own YouTube page.

Nice work, copyright!

And, that’s not all. Having dealt with a bogus claim on Wednesday, one would hope that people would get their shit together for the actual launch on Saturday and the docking on Sunday. No such luck. Because for Saturday’s launch, National Geographic, a property owned by Disney, did the same thing:

The end result is that people going to NASA’s own feed to try to watch some of the launch/flight/docking got to see things like this:

Now, to be clear, these appear to have been a ContentID claims, which are sort of the ugly cousin of a DMCA 512 notice-and-takedown, but it’s the same basic principle. Copyright is abused constantly, every single day, to censor the speech of people. Sometimes in absurd ways like this, but often in serious and significant ways as well.

That the US Copyright Office doesn’t see this or doesn’t think it is a problem is a travesty and calls into question the credibility of the entire 512 report.

Filed Under: , , ,
Companies: disney, nasa, national geographic, nbc, nbc universal, youtube

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Comments on “Just As The Copyright Office Tries To Ignore The Problem Of Bad Takedowns, NBC & Disney Take Down NASA's Public Domain Space Launch”

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33 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Someone should start a go fund me campaign to create an automatic DMCA takedown request engine for all content posted by any of the big content producers. Base it in India and see how long they put up with having their content taken down constantly

Michael says:

Re: Re:

Actually, they can’t.

These were pulled by ContentID, so there was no copyright abuse. YouTube’s automated system did not work correctly and pulled the videos, NBC and Disney likely did nothing wrong here, but this is the result of bad law, notice-and-takedown liability issues, and the likes of NBC and Disney pushing for this kind of stuff for decades.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s always worth stressing – ContentID exists in part because Viacom were complaining that a manual system took too long, and they were suing YouTube over videos that they themselves uploaded to YouTube. Google have their issues, but not being able to magically create a system that gives 100% accurate results in order to stop them getting sued into the ground due to incompetence of the attacking party is not one of them.

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Nope.

All you need to get around the perjury charge in section 512 is to do this:

Say "Hey, go over the web and make me a list of what you think should be taken down" to someone.

Then when they give you the list, run it through a script that auto-generates takedown notices without actually reading the list yourself.

The result is the person issuing the takedowns lacks the wilfullness and knowledge required to trigger 512(f), while the person making the list didn’t issue any takedowns so they didn’t commit perjury either.

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Automated Garbage

Corps figured this was a big job, and Why hire hundreds of people to run thru Youtube to discover all of the Infringement..
Why not automate it..
They did..
And now hundreds of jobs lost.. Think how YT feels, with all the people they hire to monitor incoming vids.

Anyone know the record of DMCA sent to YT and google in 1 day??

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Automated Garbage

Why hire hundreds of people to run thru Youtube to discover all of the Infringement..

Your figures are a little on the low side. As of may 2019, there were 500 hours of video a minute being uploaded to YouTube, and that requires 30,000 people just to watch all the videos uploaded per hour, no breaks,holidays or time off. Realistically, allowing for shift work, holidays etc, that is 120,000 people just to watch videos.

Just where do you find 120,000 who can recognize infringement on all published works, and able to keep up to date on all newly published works?

Actually, looking at just YouTube, no person can be familiar with anything more that a fraction of published works. which rather indicates that copyright is long past its ell by date.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Automated Garbage

I don’t understand how anyone can accept a ban from an automated system as legitimate.

I take it you’ve never played a multiplayer game with an anti-cheat system…

I see your point, yet there is a sort of logistics problem there. With that idea one notice = one review. Given the en mass nature of the bot notices, you are essentially swamping a person (who is almost guaranteed to be apathetic toward the potential target of the notice) with reviews and no real time to weigh any merits. Even then, having somebody to point fingers at still doesn’t fix the broken one-sided nature of the DMCA.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Automated Garbage

"I don’t understand how anyone can accept a ban from an automated system as legitimate."

Because it’s either physically impossible or incredible expensive to review everything manually.

"A notice from a robotic takedown system ought to be ignored until there is human review"

ContentID exists in part because YouTube were sued for ignoring false claims. They would no doubt be sued again if they did anything to make the process longer.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Automated Garbage

"I don’t understand how anyone can accept a ban from an automated system as legitimate."

Because the way the DMCA is written all the burden of proof effectively lies on the recipient of the notice. Normally in US law if you make an unfounded accusation you’d be held liable to penal or civil consequences. The DMCA provides blanket exculpation to rightsholders over this.

Effectively it means that when the DMCA trawler bots churn out a million takedown notices the recipient will be held liable if even a single one of them proves valid and they do nothing.

"A notice from a robotic takedown system ought to be ignored until there is human review…"

Not enough people exist in the US to review the amount of automated takedowns generated in any proper way. The recipient of a takedown either takes significant legal risk by rejecting any given takedown – or has to employ more people than the Chinese bureaucracy does, just to verify the claims.

So in effect, where copyright law is applied, the paradigm is, in practical effect, Guilty until proven innocent with the burden of proof neatly reversed.

And yes, this is exactly as bad as it sounds. The waves being made around the DMCA in its inception show quite clearly how screwed-up the legislation was.

David says:

Nothing absurd here.

Copyright is abused constantly, every single day, to censor the speech of people. Sometimes in absurd ways like this, but often in serious and significant ways as well.

If you consider this "absurd", you have drunk Disney’s Koolaid. It is not "absurd" if people wanting to view the Public Domain launch coverage have to switch to Disney, but rather it is driving revenue. The more false claims you make on Public Domain works, the more people will come to you for viewing it.

And the brillant thing is that it’s Public Domain, so you can dictate the conditions under which people can receive that content from you and can make a valid copyright claim for changes so small that they fly under the radar of ContentId.

So as opposed to a DMCA claim (which requires stating that you own content sent by someone else), you can make a valid ContentId claim for PD material (namely stating that you own all rights to versions you distribute yourself and that happen to trigger a particular ContentId).

Now we all know how laughably justice works regarding false DMCA claims made under penalty of perjury.

But false ContentId strikes for PD material are not even made with a false claim. You just state that you have the complete right to distribute your copy of PD stuff (correct) and the way ContentId is set up, this automatically takes down all other distributors as an "unfortunate" side effect.

This is not even breaking the law but gaming the system.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Nothing absurd here.

can make a valid copyright claim for changes so small that they fly under the radar of ContentId

While it’s possible that this is true (I have no idea what kinds of matching algorithms Youtube uses, so they may be worse than I thought), the bar for copyrightability of derivative works is fairly significant.

And while I have not seen any of Disney’s broadcast of the launch, I did end up seeing The Guardian’s and nothing even came vaguely close to meeting the requirements. Maybe Disney’s did… but you’ll have to forget my skepticism.

GHB (profile) says:

This isn’t the first time a NASA footage got taken down

Here’s one posted in 9/5/2016: https://youtu.be/hI7NcgNpnSU

Very likely that not only contexts for fair use is needed, but also knowing where the content is from, sometimes that is “nested” which thinks the portions on the screen is also copyrighted. It can’t even tell if portions that are actually from public domain since it’s match-based.

Anonymous Coward says:

Jerks Will Jerk Until Punched in the Nose in Public

Until players with adequately deep pockets and correspondingly deep wells of anger resolve to file and sustain suits against false DMCA/512 and CDA/230 takedowns, it’ll be the same old same old.

As a mere, normal citizen, I’m beginning to lose sympathy, since no one with the power to resist has resisted in a meaningful way.

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