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. identicon
    Guardian, 22 Aug 2015 @ 8:46pm

    public domain

    um a few things we all need straightening

    A) once in public domain you can do with stuff as you will...if some bozo not willing to find or get a copy freely wishes to pay you then you should and could get money for it.

    B) IT SHOULD be a crime however to CLAIM OWNERSHIP of but is not as at that point we all own it...EVEN them they will argue...which start re-reading B)...

    C) The reason PUBLIC domain exists is too foster more creation one could use parts of that video in say a SCI FI movie if one wanted ....just add a credit where its due I might add and most artists with and form it might be ok and even happy...
    THIS BTW is how most if not ALL things we have are HERE TODAY...

    D) what hollystupid has now created is so stifled a creation ability that they have locked up so much that no one ever bothers with anything they own....THIS is why you have friday the 13th part ten....they have no one willing to create new versions or stories off the old...
    It is why while i tmiught be cool to have batman or super man join with your marvel favorites it will never happen cause each sides corporation has such a greedy expectation of money it just won't happen.

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