Apple Vanquishes Evil YouTube Account Full Of Old Apple WWDC Videos

from the one-bad-apple dept

It’s always fun when copyright gets in the way of preservation efforts, especially when it comes at the hands of a mega-corporation like Apple.

Many of you are likely to be familiar with WWDC, Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference. This is one of those places where you get a bunch of Apple product reveals and news updates that typically result in the press tripping all over themselves to bow at the altar of an iPhone 300 or whatever. The conference has been going on for decades and one enterprising YouTube account made a point of archiving video footage from past events so that any interested person could go back and see the evolution of the company.

Until now, that is, since Apple decided to copyright-strike Brendan Shanks account to hell.

Now, he’s going to be moving the videos over to the Internet Archive, but that will take time and I suppose there’s nothing keeping Apple from turning its copyright guns to that site as well. In the meantime, this treasure trove of videos that Apple doesn’t seem to want to bother hosting itself is simply gone.

Now, did Shanks have permission from Apple to post those videos? He says no. Does that mean that Apple can take copyright action on them? Sure does! But why is the question. Why are antiquated videos interesting mostly to hobbyists worth all this chaos and bad PR?

The videos in question were decades-old recordings of WWDC events.

Due to the multiple violations, not only were the videos removed, but Shanks’ YouTube channel has been disabled. In addition to losing the archive, Shanks also lost his personal YouTube account, as well as his YouTube TV, which he’d just paid for.

And so here we are again, with a large company killing off a form of preservation effort in the name of draconian copyright enforcement. Good times.

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Comments on “Apple Vanquishes Evil YouTube Account Full Of Old Apple WWDC Videos”

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22 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Does that mean that Apple can take copyright action on them? Sure does!

No, it doesn’t, because the story gives us no information about who holds the copyrights. It’ll be Apple if Apple (or their contractor) recorded those videos. But if some audience member did, then the audience member would hold the copyright to their video.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

No, it doesn’t, because the story gives us no information about who holds the copyrights.

One can assume that even if Apple doesn’t own the copyright on the video, it owns the copyright on the content that was filmed. That gives Apple all the leverage it needs to claim copyright on those videos. That sucks, but that’s how copyright works until Congress or SCOTUS says otherwise.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

One can assume that even if Apple doesn’t own the copyright on the video, it owns the copyright on the content that was filmed.

If the recording shows slides, videos, etc., then yes. But it seems the copyrightability of the speech itself depends on whether it was written ahead of time. So, were the speakers reading prepared scripts, or just talking based on general bullet points?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Apple might well argue that they have a “personal likeness” interest in the videos. We’ve seen this crap several times in the past decade of Techdirt history, sometimes from unknown individuals, other times from Apple-sized corporations.

We can thank the California Legislature for starting this whole mess. (Well, they simply rubber stamped some Hollywood attorney’s idea of how to make an unwarranted buck.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Does that mean that Apple can take copyright action on them? Sure does!

That looks to me like you might be condoning this action, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt on that score. And for sure, I don’t know how Apple defines fair use, but the Copyright Office itself says this:

“Fair use entails things like……. criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.”

(from https://www.copyright.gov/fair-use/)

I think that if an attorney were to offer his/her services, pro bono, I’d be a fool not to take Apple to the mat. Let them try to prove in court that their presentations in the past have no historical value, that they are worthless to the scholarly and to researchers, be they historians or otherwise.

Being a forerunner in personal tech = $$$
Testifying in court that your tech contributions weren’t worth a shit after all = Priceless!

sumgai

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Copyright NotALawyer says:

Re:

Does that mean that Apple can take copyright action on them? Sure does!

That looks to me like you might be condoning this action

People writing even the most reasonable criticisms of stingy but legal actions have to say it this way to prevent the usual trolls (haters of Section 230, no doubt) from deliberately misreading and responding with their “But, but, Techdirt says that a private company can do whatever they want with their private property” strawman fallacy.

Winning a copyright case on an exception in court will still set you at a loss. Copyright exceptions are affirmative defenses, and it’s very hard to sue someone for a wrongful takedown. That’s why most people hit by false copyright claims decide not to fight. You’d be hardpressed to find a pro bono lawyer who’d die on the hill of 20-year-old videos of one megacorp’s developer conferences.

Technically, this falls under 17 USC 108 (libraries and archives) instead of 17 USC 107 (fair use). Regardldss, courts are pretty narrow about exceptions. I’m not a lawyer, but here’s my reading of 108:

it is not an infringement of copyright for a library or archives, or any of its employees acting within the scope of their employment, to reproduce no more than one copy or phonorecord of a work

“archives” as used in “a library or archives” suggests that the party doing the archival has to be an organization which hires employees. Hobbyists and miscellaneous individuals such as Brendan Shanks don’t count. Second of all, and more importantly, 108 applies to physical copies. You can’t really have a single copy of a purely digital file either.

(b)The rights of reproduction and distribution under this section apply to three copies or phonorecords of an unpublished works …
if—
(1)the copy or phonorecord reproduced is currently in the collections of the library or archives; and

I’m willing to bet that Shanks doesn’t have a physical film roll, tape, CD, or vinyl of the recordings made by Apple. Also, since I don’t know for sure whether the recordings count as unpublished, I’m including the following for good measure:

(c)The right of reproduction under this section applies to three copies or phonorecords of a published work duplicated solely for the purpose of replacement of a copy or phonorecord that is damaged, deteriorating, lost, or stolen, or if the existing format in which the work is stored has become obsolete

Again, Shanks doesn’t have a physical copy from Apple to replace.

In conclusion, copyright law
1. is pretty outdated
2. stacks the deck heavily against the common people
3. stacks the deck even more heavily when digital files are involved.
Seriously, copyright law as written makes no sense in today’s age. Copyright exceptions rarely apply nowadays because most electronics-involved copyrighted works are published only through digital, not physical, means. And that’s before DRM (digital “rights” management, more like digital “restrictions” management) gets involved. Brendan Shanks has a better chance of avoiding another takedown if he puts the files on the Internet Archive, but I can’t say that it’s a significantly better chance.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

As noted, by yourself and others, Sec.108 is appropriate for the IA, but not for Shanks. He may be holding himself out as an archivist, but he’s still a private party, and using a private platform for on-demand distribution.

Pro bono? Yes, that’d be difficult, but I’m not stating that Shanks should go after YouTube, he should go after Apple instead, on the grounds that they ignored the Fair Use doctrine, as provided in Sec. 107. From there he might have his YT channels restored, but that’d be small potatoes compared to a win over Apple.

I agree, Apple doesn’t want to take this game to the next level, a copyright-hostile verdict just may come about, out of all of this. That’s why they “picked” on a little guy, one with zero resources to fight back.

Copyright NotALawyer says:

Re: Re: Re:

Sorry, I should’ve been more clear. I did mean that Apple, not YouTube, would be the relevant party in a hypothetical lawsuit.

However, I highly doubt that the fair use exceptions would apply. Fair use exceptions would require Shanks to do something to the copyrighted material. “Teaching” would require Shanks to make an educational lesson, as a video or a set of written material. Separately, that particular exception might be less favorable outside of a classroom setting. (Again, I’m leaning toward more narrow interpretations to be safe.) “Scholarship” and “research” would require Shanks to use the copyrighted material in a research project, scientific endeavor, or school assignment. Shanks can’t claim fair use over distributing the material for others to use. Other people looking to make fair uses would have to get their own copies in a legal manner. This is why I thought that the archival exception would be relatively more favorable (but not favorable in an absolute sense) than a fair use exception.

melonlord (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

promoting the right to manage one’s own property (esp as to moderation and speech) and criticizing the current state of copyright are not inconsistent positions. copyright is a property right, but pretty much everyone agrees that it’s gone way too far and exceeded its original purpose of encouraging artistic expression and scientific advancement. you can disapprove of the extent of a right without opposing the existence of that right and all related rights.

Anonymous Coward says:

Now, he’s going to be moving the videos over to the Internet Archive, but that will take time and I suppose there’s nothing keeping Apple from turning its copyright guns to that site as well.

Well, if Apple complains to YouTube, YouTube takes down the content and leaves it to the content submitter to go through the arduous process of getting the content cleared to put back up.

If Apple complains to the Internet Archive, they are duly notified that IA has an LoC exemption for archival of historically significant content. Apple then has to actually file a legal complaint (not a DMCA takedown) and explain exactly how the content being hosted on IA is harming Apple. At which point the IA lawyers will read the complaint and decide on its merits whether to take the content down / make it private / ignore the complaint until Apple takes it to the next stage, meaning they file a lawsuit. At which point IA goes to court and wins, setting precedent Apple definitely doesn’t want set.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

If Apple complains to the Internet Archive, they are duly notified that IA has an LoC exemption for archival of historically significant content.

Distribution falls outside the scope of “archival”. Do they have an exemption for that too?

Anyway, archive.org’s copyright policy does not match your claims: “If you believe that your copyright has been violated by material available through the Internet Archive, please provide the Internet Archive Copyright Agent with the following information: Identification of the copyrighted work that you claim has been infringed; An exact description of where the material about which you complain is located within the Internet Archive collections; Your address, telephone number, and email address; A statement by you that you have a good-faith belief that the disputed use is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law; A statement by you, made under penalty of perjury, that the above information in your notice is accurate and that you are the owner of the copyright interest involved or are authorized to act on behalf of that owner; and Your electronic or physical signature.” That sounds exactly like a DMCA takedown, though I hear the Archive is not quite as spineless or anti-user as Youtube.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

An overreaction for sure, but one YouTube took years of legal frustration to settle on. YouTube’s three-strikes rule for copyright is a helluva lot more permissive than typical reality’s one-strike rule.

On the off chance that you’d watch a ~40 minute video on YouTube’s copyright system, I recommend Tom Scott’s “YouTube’s Copyright System Isn’t Broken. The World’s Is.

Copyright NotALawyer says:

Copyright law as written is a chokehold on the common public

I already wrote a ton in another comment elsewhere, but I forgot to mention an important detail. Because of YouTube’s three-strikes rule in the terms of service, Brendan Shanks will never be allowed to make a YouTube account ever again. (He had a vanishingly slim chance of reversing the takedowns by disputing them, but that would’ve put him at greater risk of getting sued by Apple.)

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