When you've run out of good ideas and constructive actions, there's always IP abuse. It's the perfect accomplice for all sorts of abusive behavior. Don't like someone using your own words against you? Just holler about copyright until the criticism goes away. Pissed off by a bad review? Fire off copyright claims on the footage used in the video.
Fair use and YouTube will never work in sync, mainly for logistical reasons. So it has become a go-to platform for IP abusers. Here's yet another story in which a legitimate YouTube account is a few steps closer to permanent death because a person decided to act vindictively, rather than responsibly.
The backstory: the Cup of Linux YouTube channel handles all things Linux, including coverage of distributions and how-to guides for new users. One Linux developer, Antoni Norman, is the main force behind the Pinguy OS Linux/Ubuntu hybrid. Over the years, he's been a valuable contributor to the Linux community, including the one centered around Cup of Linux. Also, over the years, Shawn Patrick Ryan ("Spatry") has covered Pinguy OS releases in a number of YouTube videos. So far, so good.
But things went bad. Here's Spatry's account of recent events (via email).
Pinguy was banned by moderators of my community at cupoflinux.com for several counts of misconduct while impaired. Pinguy is a great source of information and we have been more lenient with him than anyone else. I was going to consider lifting his ban after a 3 month period to send a strong message to him that we will not tolerate bad behavior from anyone. This act of acrimony makes his ban permanent and is treated as a "trademark troll" attack. The GNU general public license grants us the freedom to use GPL software in any way we see fit with the inclusion modifying, sharing and providing tutorials under FAIR USE.
An announcement at the Cup of Linux forums makes it a bit more explicit
Users who require support for "P I N G U Y - O S" will need to direct their inquiries to their forum. The developer was justly banned from this community for multiple counts of bad behavior on our Mumble server.
In retaliation the developer of "P I N G U Y - O S" filed a trademark complaint against Cup of Linux for having promotional videos of that product. All developer posts have been removed from this board and all related materials have been purged from my YouTUBE channel. The forced removal of such videos do not hurt me personally but causes harm to community members who benefit from the tutorials.
Compiz videos tied to that series will be re-branded and re-released without "P I N G U Y - O S" logos or verbiage.
This is the notice Spatry received.
This has every appearance of being done for purely retaliatory reasons. This concern about his Pinguy trademarks didn't manifest itself until after he was banned from the Cup of Linux forums and server. Spatry has provided more evidence of the previously friendly relationship these two enjoyed, including Norman's appearance on videos produced by Cup of Linux, as well as his willingness to share his Pinguy OS logo with others for their own use.
In this thread, Norman praises Spatry for his How To video series featuring Pinguy OS and raises no objection to the sharing of a "Pinguy OS sticker" created by the Cup of Linux head.
This thread features both Spartry and Norman discussing a recent video featuring the Pinguy OS developer as a guest. Again, everything about the discussion is friendly. The only thing notable about it is Norman's assertion that he shouldn't have done the video "at 3am after 8 beers." Despite the abusive behavior leading to his banning being (apparently) alcohol-related, there's nothing in this discussion that indicates Norman crossed any lines during this recording session.
So, we have a friendly relationship that went south, due to Norman's problematic behavior when impaired. Norman had any number of options available to address this situation if he felt it was unfair. But rather than use any of those routes (appeal to moderators, wait out the suspension, address it at his own forum, etc.), he decided to jeopardize Cup of Linux's YouTube account by deliberately issuing bogus takedown demands.
As Spatry points out, the use of any Pinguy OS trademarks (and there's no evidence any of these are registered -- although ultimately that lack of official registration has little bearing on Norman's right to issue takedowns) was clearly fair use. The marks were used in the context of instructional videos and, apparently with Norman's full support prior to his banning. This is nothing more than Norman abusing tenuously-held "rights" to retaliate against Spatry for banning him.
YouTube has allowed Spatry to make changes in response to the requests and his channel doesn't seem to be threatened with a shutdown at this point. But that could change. The system is easily abused and Norman knows it. The amount of damage he can do is disproportionate to the actual "harm" he's experienced -- both by being banned and (especially) by having his suddenly beloved "trademarks" used in videos that were largely supportive of him and his OS.
Norman experienced no harm from Spatry's use of his trademarks. If he felt he had, he never mentioned it during the previous few years of interaction. It wasn't until he engaged in self-destructive behavior that he suddenly became interested in "protecting" his IP. Spatry is challenging the claims, but everything about the situation will be left up to YouTube's mostly automated processes. Context -- as well as fair use considerations -- won't be considered. No doubt Norman is aware how slanted the system is towards rightsholders. He knew he could hurt Spatry and his channel and suffer zero repercussions. The only damage he'll suffer is to his reputation.
This last avenue is the only route Spatry and Cup of Linux have available to them while YouTube sorts this out. While Spatry points out that Norman has been a useful contributor in the past, his current activity makes him any enemy of the same community he claims to be a part of.
As a community leader, I feel that I would be doing a major dis-service by keeping silent. If Antoni Norman wants to censor the community, maybe he should consider removing GPL licensing and applications from his operating system because this goes against everything the Free and Open software community stands for.
At this point, Spatry has removed an additional
23 videos from his channel in hopes of steering clear of further retaliatory actions -- above and beyond the six being disputed. That's
29 videos gone because of bogus trademark claims motivated by nothing more than vindictiveness. While we can all appreciate creators' desire to protect their creations, the solution isn't a system that can easily be exploited by petty individuals who have run out of good ideas.