September 6, 2012
As live streaming video surges in popularity, so are copyright “bots” — automated systems that match content against a database of reference files of copyrighted material. These systems can block streaming video in real time, while it is still being broadcast, leading to potentially worrying implications for freedom of speech.
On Tuesday, some visitors trying to get to the livestream of Michelle Obama’s widely lauded speech at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday were met with a bizarre notice on YouTube, which said that the speech had been blocked on copyright grounds.
On Sunday, a livestream of the Hugo Awards — the sci-fi and fantasy version of the Oscars — was blocked on Ustream, moments before Neil Gaiman’s highly anticipated acceptance speech. Apparently, Ustream’s service detected that the awards were showing copyrighted film clips, and had no way to know that the awards ceremony had gotten permission to use them.
Last month, footage from NASA’s triumphant Curiosity rover landing was blocked numerous times on YouTube, despite being in the public domain, because several companies — such as Scripps Local News — claimed copyright on the material.
Those incidents foretell an odd future for streaming video, as bandwidth and recording tools get cheaper, and the demand for instant video grows.
It’s important to, yes, Repeal The Hollywood Tax Cuts! but we also need copyright reform that limits the ability of rights-holders to squelch expression — and that makes them liable for stiff damages when they overstep.