Last week, the US House of Representatives' Appropriations Committee held an otherwise unremarkable budget hearing on the judiciary
. The hearing was recorded and streamed live and then released on YouTube
as well as Ustream. However, this morning, Steve Schultze, who works on internet freedom for the State Department (and who has previously done great work at Princeton's tech policy think tank and Harvard's Berkman Center), went to check out the video on YouTube and saw the following
As you can see, the video was taken down from YouTube, with an apparent copyright claim... from Telemundo and Univision, the two famous Spanish-language broadcasters. Telemundo, of course, is owned by NBCUniversal, which has a long history of over-aggressive positions on copyright law. It is difficult to see how anything in a US Congressional appropriation committee hearing on the budget of the US court system would likely infringe on the copyrights of these two television stations. It seems likely that there was some sort of mess up involving YouTube's ContentID. Yet, once again, we see how an overaggressive copyright system, combined with automated tools like ContentID can lead to censorship of content that is in the public interest.
Soon after Schultze pointed this out, the message on the video's page switched from being a copyright claim to that the video had been made "private." So, it's likely this is in the process of being sorted out. And, yes, in the long run, it seems unlikely that a random House Appropriations Committee hearing on the court system's budget is so important that it needs to be available immediately. But just the fact that a questionable copyright claim, combined with an automatic takedown system appears to be making information disappear from public hearings in the US Congress should raise alarm bells.