Boston Public Broadcaster WGBH Files Bogus DMCA Notice On Public Domain Video Uploaded By Carl Malamud

from the nice-work,-geniuses dept

It's amazing the kind of trouble that Carl Malamud ends up in thanks to people not understanding copyright law. The latest is that he was alerted to the fact that YouTube had taken down a video that he had uploaded, due to a copyright claim from WGBH, a public television station in Boston. The video had nothing to do with WGBH at all. It's called "Energy -- The American Experience" and was created by the US Dept. of Energy in 1974 and is quite clearly in the public domain as a government creation (and in case you're doubting it, the federal government itself lists the video as "cleared for TV."

WGBH, on the other hand, has nothing whatsoever to do with that video. It appears that some clueless individual at WGBH went hunting for any videos having to do with the PBS show WGBH produces, called American Experience and just assumed that based on the title, the public domain video that Malamud uploaded, was infringing. Because that's the level of "investigation" that apparently the censorious folks at WGBH do when looking to issue takedown notices.

Malamud reached out to WGBH and apparently the folks there were most unhelpful. The station's general counsel refused to apologize and simply told Carl that since "American Experience" was "unusual" to be in the title, it was okay for them to issue a bogus DMCA notice. Another lawyer , Eric Brass, told Malamud that they wouldn't be able to do anything about it until next week.

Thankfully, someone at YouTube found out about all of this and restored the video so you can watch it:
The video is also available at the Internet Archive.

While some may argue this is no big deal because by making noise about this, Malamud was able to get the video reinstated, that's ridiculous. WGBH is a public television station that claims in its mission statement that its "commitments" include:
  • Foster an informed and active citizenry
  • Make knowledge and the creative life of the arts, sciences, and humanities available to the widest possible public
  • Improve, for all people, access to public media
I'm curious how issuing bogus copyright takedowns on public domain material matches with any of those "commitments." Hell, why is such a public television station worried about so-called "copyright infringement" in the first place?

And, as Malamud notes, this little "accident" wasted the time of a bunch of people, and put his own YouTube channel at risk, since it initially counted as a "strike" against him. WGBH owes Malamud not just an apology, but an explanation for why this happened and what the station will do to prevent it from happening again.

Filed Under: american experience, carl malamud, contentid, dmca, public broadcasting, public domain, takedowns
Companies: wgbh, youtube

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  1. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Aug 2015 @ 8:28am

    TOO MANY TO CHECK! -- If that excuse is valid for Megaupload, then it's valid for WGBH.

    Oh, right, it's always that those trying to take content down are evil.

    By the way, this is an example of monetizing the public domain that should be explicitly outlawed in statute: for no more effort than uploading valuable content made long prior, this whoever nor Youtube shouldn't get a cent, but should pay to public treasury. Whole 'nother topic, but you pirates are giving to the rich what's yours, ever think of that?

    2nd topic: Daniel Ek of Spotify yesterday shortly after my brilliant comment here, yanked the rug from under Masnick and abjectly apologized for violating privacy of users. Read comments to follow-up at The Register: Masnick's "it's crazy, but surrender your privacy" would not be welcome there.

    Of course Ek is lying: that'll all be put back in place slowly because Spotify is STILL losing money even with over 15 million paying and 50 million freeloaders subject to advertising! Spotify is clearly ready to monetize the hell out of even paid subscribers, but found that most people agree with me: streaming is not "social media"; just send me data, don't steal mine.

    One of these days, as with NSA, the corporate spying will reach even the dimwits and they'll be sort of vaguely outraged. I don't claim that will stop it any more than NSA is even slowed, BUT as with Trump suddenly popping to top, there's a burbling undercurrent of common sense that elitist lurbles like Masnick simply don't understand, and it can suddenly form solid and lasting anger.

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