Getting videos pulled from YouTube seems to be all the rage these days. First we had Viacom pull the trailer for The Last of Us for absurd reasons, and now Universal is following suit by having an episode of Tech News Today pulled from YouTube for the sole reason that the episode covered the MegaUpload song debacle. The episode in question contained two clips of the song — only one of which was played with the accompanying audio — during a discussion of the impending lawsuit between MegaUpload and Universal. Apparently, those short clips felt like salt in the wound to Universal, who had the episode pulled immediately and successfully, despite the lovely little thing we like to call “fair use.”
There are all kinds of weird stuff going on with this pull. First of all, fair use dictates that Tech News Today should be fine using a small clip for the purposes of commentary and news reporting. On top of that, the lawsuit that Universal and MegaUpload are about to get into is about whether Universal has any claim to the Mega Song in the first place, so Universal is issuing takedowns against people who are engaging in the fair use of something that they are currently having to go to court to prove that they own. How is this okay?
Well, it’s not really. When Universal filed the original request, the show was taken down, but Tom Merritt, the Tech News Today host, was able to resurrect it with a complaint to YouTube. The next day, however, Universal brought big guns and filed an official DMCA takedown request. Now if Universal doesn’t file suit in ten days — which they won’t — the video goes back up, but considering a news report is sort of reliant on timeliness, ten days is enough.
So, what exactly is going on here? Universal censored Tech News Today through the use of fraudulent copyright takedown requests. No two ways about it. Whether or not they’d be able to come up with some kind of poor-but-borderline reasonable excuse is a different question entirely. It’s not likely to matter because although filing bogus requests is illegal, it seems rare for anyone to actually get charged for it, presumably because borderline reasonable excuses aren’t that hard to come by. In this case, however, the best I could imagine is “but we didn’t think fair use applied to us,” which is pretty poor.
In any event, I can only find myself hoping that these increasingly egregious misuses of the copyright system will eventually lead to some kind of real disaster which will then lead to some kind of crazy litigation which will hopefully lead to reform. Of course, the other way it could go is that SOPA passes and censorship just becomes a normal part of every day life. I think I like the first better; it’s more interesting.
EDIT: I stand corrected. Apparently there are two ways about it. Universal has a private contract with YouTube concerning video removal. Turns out this was not a DMCA takedown request, or a fraudulent one either. Just a creepy one.
(via The Verge)