Houston, We Have A Copyright Problem

from the not-this-again dept

Parker Higgins has a troubling story over at Medium about how he received a bogus copyright takedown on a recording of the famous "Houston, we have a problem" audio snippet from the Apollo 13 mission, which Higgins had uploaded to his Soundcloud page. As Higgins notes, the audio is clearly, without any doubt, in the public domain and free from any and all copyright restrictions -- yet it was still taken down. This is particularly stupid on a variety of levels. Not only is Higgins an activist with EFF who works on copyright policy, his job before that was working for Soundcloud, in part helping them get more historical archival footage on the site! The takedown itself was obviously questionable, given the nature of the content, but bizarrely, whoever sent the claim in claimed to be the crew of the mission itself:
Perhaps more annoying, as Higgins notes, is that the reasons that Soundcloud gives for disputing the takedown... don't apply in this situation, because they all assume copyright:
As Higgins notes this shows the rather nasty assumptions of "permission" culture that everything must have a copyright and everything must be licensed:
It's a dangerous myth, that we should all need permission any time we're getting value out of a piece of culture. And it's one that gets entrenched deeper each time we accept the idea that we're able to make use of a work because a copyright owner is or would be OK with it, and not just because we have a basic right to participate in culture that is more fundamental than anybody else's desire to maximize profits.
Every time we discuss the public domain and how it's increasingly difficult to (a) get anything new into the public domain or (b) determine if something is in the public domain, people seem to dismiss this, as if it's not really a problem. But it is a big problem -- and much of it brought about because of our over aggressive copyright laws, and the potential liability it puts on companies.
We've lost a valuable chunk of the public domain, then, even without the complicity of online services. But those sites feel pressure, too: the minimum they must do to stay inside copyright “safe harbors” is prescribed by law, and many go further in efforts to be on good terms with media companies. That looks like overzealous algorithmic copyright enforcement, like the automated system that caught my upload after some partner presumably laid claim to it (and who knows how much else).

Even as these companies and services strive to be massively accessible public spaces—SoundCloud bills itself as “the world's leading social sound platform where anyone can create sounds and share them everywhere”—they reflect mostly corporate priorities, because they face far too little pressure from the other side. That is, from users who wish to participate in culture, and who don't want to be treated like criminals.
This sense of copyright being the default and everything else the exception is backwards. It was never intended to be that way. In fact, the system was explicitly designed to be the reverse. It is supposed to be about providing limited protections for the purpose of benefiting the public. But now it's turned into a giant "minefield" in which everything is simply a potential liability, creating a dangerous "permission culture," that chills speech and innovation.

Higgins titled his essay on this, Houston, we have a public domain problem -- but the public domain is not the problem here. The problem is the overaggressive nature of copyright laws that have totally flipped the equation. Copyright is supposed to be the exception, not the rule. And yet, decades of fierce lobbying has completely changed that around, much to the detriment of arts, culture and innovation.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Trevor, Jun 25th, 2014 @ 9:04am

    Artist: The Crew of Apollo 13

    I hear they're playing at Lollapalooza this year.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2014 @ 9:05am

    honeypot

     

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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2014 @ 9:06am

    How come nothing on SCOTUS going 6-3 against Aereo?

     

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    Roger Strong (profile), Jun 25th, 2014 @ 9:23am

    OK, Everyone Take a Deep Breath

    In the crew's defense, carbon dioxide buildup is affecting their judgment.

     

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      Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Jun 25th, 2014 @ 9:30am

      Re: OK, Everyone Take a Deep Breath

      Putting a square peg into a round hole is a pretty good analogy for public domain and modern copyright law.

       

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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Jun 25th, 2014 @ 9:29am

    Wouldn't "The copyright work has been mistakenly identified" fit in this situation? Adding a note saying "The audio in question is blatantly in the public domain, so no copyright can apply" should be enough.

    Or does soundclound not work that way? Do they not allow making extra arguments?

     

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      Rikuo (profile), Jun 25th, 2014 @ 11:39am

      Re:

      "The copyright work has been mistakenly identified"

      One could argue that that would only apply to a work that is under copyright, not a work that is in the public domain.

       

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      Bergman (profile), Jun 26th, 2014 @ 4:11pm

      Re:

      The last reason in the list would be more accurate. Since the sound clip is in the public domain, EVERYONE has a license to use it.

       

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      John85851 (profile), Jun 27th, 2014 @ 6:15pm

      Re:

      Well, sure, writing them an e-mail and explaining that copyright doesn't apply is one solution. Though the sound file (and maybe the entire account) will be down while SoundCloud decides on whether the claim or dispute is valid.

      The better solution would have been for SoundCloud to tell the fraudulent "copyright holder" to go jump in a lake. But as Mike said, if they did this, they open themselves up to liability if the person decided to push the issue.
      So, to save their own a***, SoundCloud errs on the site of copyright claims.

      Of course, this mess could be avoided if hosting companies required more proof than a simple takedown request. If the "copyright holder" says he's part of the Apollo 13 crew and owns the copyright, let's see some proof.

       

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    identicon
    Manok, Jun 25th, 2014 @ 9:31am

    No, no, I've clearly heard Tom Hanks say it in some movie, and that derivative work then of course entered copyright. The fact that NASA doesn't claim copyright... silly them... now the movie studio was first-to-file.

     

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      jackn, Jun 25th, 2014 @ 9:41am

      Re:

      It don't work that way. Did he use the bite from the movie, or the mission? I think the actual mission.

       

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      Bergman (profile), Jun 26th, 2014 @ 4:12pm

      Re:

      NASA didn't have the copyright because by law nothing they produce can be copyrighted. It's automatically public domain right from the start.

      Someone using that public domain content in a movie doesn't give them any rights to the public domain content -- although they might have copyright on a clip of Tom Hanks saying those words.

       

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    Jessie (profile), Jun 25th, 2014 @ 9:35am

    Ask not what copyright can do for you, ask what copyright can do for big media.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2014 @ 9:44am

    is why i use only opensource sites and things. It's a you have permission by default culture and it fucking rocks

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2014 @ 10:09am

    i need to make you all aware that i have the rights to the word 'the'. you should refrain from using the word until my attorneys have completed arrangements for licensing. right now they are still working on the alphabet and numerals six through nine.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2014 @ 12:26pm

    I wonder how long SoundCloud will remain a popular site. There's the bogus takedown notices including the removal of works by the original artist.
    http://ragetracks.com/blogs/70-of-kaskades-soundcloud-removed/

    I've also heard of people's accts. being removed for posting mashups (mixes/edits of 2 or more songs to make a new song). They've also removed people's dj mix sets.

    I'm a working dj and on a facebook group I'm in for djs in my town there's already discussion of moving to other services since soundcloud is becoming shaky ground.

     

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    Blaine (profile), Jun 25th, 2014 @ 1:58pm

    It's easy

    You are the copyright owner, so am I.

    If everything must have a copyright, then the copyright for anything in the public domain is owned by the public.

     

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    David Muir (profile), Jun 25th, 2014 @ 3:07pm

    Valid Reasons to Dispute a Claim

    I am part of the public. The work is in the public domain. Therefore, I choose option 1: I am the copyright owner. In other words, I have the right to copy this snippet of culture.

    If the "permission culture" is so firmly entrenched, maybe we have to push back creatively against it.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2014 @ 6:59am

      Re: Valid Reasons to Dispute a Claim

      The government doesn't care at all about the public. Do you grease the palms of politicians? No? Then get lost!!!

       

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    Homer (profile), Jun 25th, 2014 @ 6:15pm

    Same thing happened to me

    Except in my case the fraudulent claim was over a JFK speech in the public domain.

    http://torrentfreak.com/music-distributor-claims-right-to-monetize-jfk-speech-140511/

     

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


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