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. icon
    saulgoode (profile), 22 Aug 2015 @ 8:56am

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

    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.
    You forgot to provide the link to the website where you are hosting the video and ensuring that the public gets access to their valuable content.

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