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Corporate Claims On Public Domain YouTube Videos 320

Posted by Soulskill
from the arrr-me-hearties dept.
esocid writes "Cory Doctorow has written a Guardian column, 'The pirates of YouTube,' about how multinational copyright-holding companies have laid false claim to public domain videos on YouTube. The videos are posted by the nonprofit FedFlix organization, which liberates public domain government-produced videos and makes them available to the world. These videos were produced at public expense and no one can claim to own them, but multinationals from CBS to Discovery Communications have done just that, getting YouTube to place ads on the video that deliver income to their coffers. What's more, their false copyright claims could lead to the suspension of FedFlix's YouTube account under Google's rules for its copyright policing system. This system, ContentID, sets out penalties for 'repeat offenders' who generate too many copyright claims — but offers no corresponding penalties for rightsholders who make too many false claims of ownership."
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Corporate Claims On Public Domain YouTube Videos

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  • API, NOW! (Score:5, Funny)

    by durrr (1316311) on Monday December 12, 2011 @03:27PM (#38346980)
    Give me an rightholder-claiming API, I'm doing a study in greed and subjective inflation of bank accounts.
  • by liquidpele (663430) on Monday December 12, 2011 @03:29PM (#38347018) Journal
    Youtube has no standards AT ALL for this kind of stuff... it's why you can't use them to seriously host anything. But then again, it's a free service... so...
    • by sneakyimp (1161443) on Monday December 12, 2011 @03:34PM (#38347090)

      I disagree they have *no* standards. It's apparent that Google wants to make money off content providers and is kissing their giant smelly ass. I think if there is any standard, it's to kiss up to the movie studios, the record labels, and any other big content organization so they can get their itunes/amazon prime equivalent up and running.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 12, 2011 @03:47PM (#38347260)

        Yea, how dare Google cater more towards the people who pay them actual money than the people who use their service for free. I mean, I gave them my zero dollars and all they gave me in return was something close to but not exactly what I want. I hope those bastards rot in hell goddamnit.

        • by gtirloni (1531285) on Monday December 12, 2011 @03:55PM (#38347356)
          How dare people demand ethical behavior from Google in a capitalist economy! The horror!
          • by LordLimecat (1103839) on Monday December 12, 2011 @04:12PM (#38347630)

            What part of "free service", "no SLAs", "no guarantees", "use at your own risk", ad naseum do you not understand?

            • by gtirloni (1531285) on Monday December 12, 2011 @04:25PM (#38347794)
              What part of "offering a free service doesn't grant you the right to be unethical" do you not understand?
            • by gumbi west (610122) on Monday December 12, 2011 @04:30PM (#38347850) Journal

              There is also an implied, "do the right thing" clause that, when violated, can get a real nasty backlash. Its human nature, not contract law, get used to it.

        • by AdamJS (2466928) on Monday December 12, 2011 @04:14PM (#38347648)

          You are defending a company for stiffing their entire userbase in exchange for cash from a third party.
          It's a dick move for ANY business to make regardless of whether it is profitable or not.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            They're stiffing their entire userbase? Hyperbole isn't really the best way to make your argument. It is, however, a good way to make sure no one actually reads what you have to say. In any event, when a corporation (or a person or a small business) has to decide between their users and their customers, the people who pay the bills are going to win 9 times out of 10. That's just reality, regardless of how "dick" you may think it is.

            • by hplus (1310833)
              IMO they are stiffing their entire userbase. Reducing the breadth of content devalues it for everyone.
            • by Artifakt (700173) on Monday December 12, 2011 @11:18PM (#38351872)

              How is this hyperbole? The videos in question are of government origin, produced using your and my tax dollars, paid for by us (if you are also a US Citizen and taxpayer). Google is allowing people to fraudulently claim stuff you and me paid for and have paid for a legal right to see. Yeah, it's not their entire user base, it's only the entire taxpaying population of the US and of any foreign power who also signed the Berne convention. It doesn't include North Korea or Burkina Faso or wherever , but it sure as hell includes literally billions of people, so again, how is this hyperbole? And while you're at it, you can give away your rights all you want, but please stop being so eager to give away mine.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Hatta (162192)

            Google is an ad company. They're not stiffing their user base, they're delivering product.

            • by peragrin (659227)

              google is like newspapers.

              you have the company,The client, and the customer.

              the thing to remember is that you the end user is the customer not the client. you are less important than the client, and as such the client rights superseed anything you might say. Even if you go somewhere else, you are still just the customer.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 12, 2011 @03:57PM (#38347398)

      Youtube has no standards AT ALL for this kind of stuff... it's why you can't use them to seriously host anything. But then again, it's a free service... so...

      They have standards... filing a takedown notice results in a takedown. Filing a false takedown notice theoretically carries the penalty of perjury (theoretically because in spite of plenty of instances of false takedown notices, it's never been enforced). You may file a counterclaim to put it back up.

      These are the standards put forth in the DMCA, and the ones which they follow.

      • by wierd_w (1375923) on Monday December 12, 2011 @04:16PM (#38347666)

        This sounds like it needs to be counter exploited, and hard.

        The only way to establish precident for enforcement of false copyright claims, is to have a phyrric entity serving in the public's interest do exactly what big content is doing, but directed at big content.

        An example might be to create a software program that outputs every possible combination of notes permissible under the rules of standard musical notation, then file copyright on it. Using this copyrighted "song", file DMCA takedown notices of every single big media production featuring a musical score, claiming that they are profiting illegally from a partial inclusion of your copyrighted "song".

        Keep spamming the shit out of eg, the CBS and pal's youtube offerings with dmca notices, exploit the one-sidedness of the reporting system in the same way they exploit it against far use and public domain assets, and keep after it in earnest.

        After a few weeks of that, the big media giants will sue. When they do, they will use their lawyers to win, and in so doing, establish a poisonous precedent against this practice.

        The only way to get the assfucks to work for you is to socially engineer them into painting themselves into a corner.

        I suggest that we (ordinary people) endeavor to do exactly that.

        • by spidercoz (947220) on Monday December 12, 2011 @04:24PM (#38347772) Journal
          Sounds good. Get on it. Oh wait, you meant someone else do it, didn't you?
          • by wierd_w (1375923)

            All we need is an organization to operate under.

            This would shield individuals from the litigation the same way that corporations shield board members.

            I would happily become "employed" by such a "company."

            What I lack is the knowledge of proper process to create such a sacrificial company.

            • by tnk1 (899206) on Monday December 12, 2011 @05:52PM (#38348944)

              That's just the easy part. You also need to be able to get legal representation of the right kind. If you can't afford a lawyer, you won't get the precedent that you need.

              You will have to be very careful to:

              a) Have someone show up the the trial or the case will be summarily dismissed without any precedent being set.
              b) Have a lawyer who keeps the argument on-track enough so that the corporation's slimy lawyers can't avoid the counter-arguments that you need to have heard in court.
              c) Avoid having a judge order you to attempt to settle or go into some sort of arbitration or dismiss the case as frivolous. Judges will not like your attempt to game the system and clog up their already huge caseloads and will make it very difficult indeed to get the right precedent that you want. Since they write the decisions that create the precedents, it's as much about painting a judge into a corner, as it is the corporations.
              d) Have a lawyer who can stand up to possible ethics and professional charges when they try trickery like this. There are rules, even among thieves.
              e) Not win your case.

              Point E is sort of funny, but you can easily end up doing the work of the corporations for you. And both the respondent and even the judge may well collude to give you a victory, especially if they understand your motives.

        • by gman003 (1693318)

          An example might be to create a software program that outputs every possible combination of notes permissible under the rules of standard musical notation, then file copyright on it. Using this copyrighted "song", file DMCA takedown notices of every single big media production featuring a musical score, claiming that they are profiting illegally from a partial inclusion of your copyrighted "song".

          Problem: Copyright applies to the recordings, not to the score. Hence why many copies of Bach or Chopin are still under copyright - they may have been *written* centuries ago, but they were recorded *now*, so the copyright is *now*.

          If it weren't for that, what you propose would've effectively already happened naturally via old music entering public domain.

          • by b4dc0d3r (1268512) on Monday December 12, 2011 @05:43PM (#38348826)

            Since the other comments were not informative at all - There are separate copyrights for the recording and the score, often owned by different companies.

            Smart artists who still want major-label backing will given in to RIAA contracts, but retain publishing rights. RIAA is left to police the album recording only, and the artist can either police or ignore any other representation of the music. Underinformed artists sign away all rights, and the RIAA or more likely ASCAP can go after any other version of the song as well.

            Harry Fox, ASCAP, and BMI are usually the ones which "represent" songwriters, trolling bars to see if they are performing music (karaoke, live bands, or the Happy Birthday song) withoput having paid a performance license.

            There are Bach scores in copyright because they have had editorial marks or updated notation (a direct copy with a new cover would not qualify). There are Bach recordings in copyright because they were recorded recently. The opposite is true as well. Many fine recordings and scores are public domain because they happened long enough ago.

    • by Galestar (1473827)
      Anyone here ever considered laying claims to random videos?
      1. Claim 10,000 random videos
      2. Collect ad revenue
      3. ???
      4. Profit!!
  • No Public Domain (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Catiline (186878) <akrumbach@gmail.com> on Monday December 12, 2011 @03:30PM (#38347024) Homepage Journal
    Is this is the end stage for the ownership of ideas: that just as there is no longer "public land" in the sense that every piece of land has an owner (even if it is the government), every idea will need an owner?
    • by jd (1658) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <kapimi>> on Monday December 12, 2011 @04:24PM (#38347780) Homepage Journal

      I believe New York ruled a few years back that there was no such thing as "public ownership" and that "public domain" does not exist, so there has been a steady deterioration of public rights for some time.

      When I retire, my plan is to buy some woodland (if there's any still left) and put up notices "trespassers will be served tea and cookies". The total lack of discussion on the idea of Common Land, the total lack of awareness in many places that such a thing could, or ever has, existed -- these things horrify me. Private property has a place and a time, and that's good, but it shouldn't be the ONLY place and time you're ever allowed to have, whether it be land, ideas, whatever. The exclusive existence of private ownership is a monoculture and we know that in EVERY field of endeavor that monocultures are toxic. We NEED discussion and awareness, even if the conclusions from that are that public ownership has no place. If we don't discuss it and it simply bleeds away, as it is doing, we won't have a choice in the matter and we won't have an opportunity to seriously examine if it is the appropriate mechanism for avoiding the lethality of monocultures.

      At the present time, there is a prevailing belief that ownership is everything - that what isn't owned doesn't exist, that if it exists, it's owned. I have seen no studies, no analysis, no proofs that this is either necessary or even useful. Without a methodical approach to the issue, what you have is not modernization but religion. It is merely an article of faith, until the actual legwork is done to establish if the belief has credibility or not. We should not be running a 21st century (AD) country on articles of faith. 21st century BC, it might be more excusable. If the stone-age tribes of Papau New Guinnea or the Amazon wish to run their societies by articles of faith, well, that seems fine to me. It suits the culture and technology they're using, so it's appropriate to do that. I like balanced societies where all aspects are working at the same level. By the same logic, a modern, high-tech, scientific culture, to be balanced, has no business picking the rules of society from political theology. Regressing science is stupid, so advance the culture.

    • Re:No Public Domain (Score:4, Interesting)

      by dead_cthulhu (1928542) on Monday December 12, 2011 @04:47PM (#38348044)

      I'm no Constitutional scholar, but I've always taken the bit "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." to mean that ultimately, Intellectual "Property" ultimately belonged to the Commons and copyright was merely a limited grant to allow creators to exclusively draw profit for a short while. Whether or not that was the original intent, the system has gone too far in allowing thuggish "squatters" on public "property" control it via force of (government) arms. Even the creators who should be the ones benefiting from copyright have it taken away in a Devil's deal just so they can get what pittance these cartels are willing to grant.

      It has gone beyond any reason and I wish there was some hope of a Pirate Party gaining any traction in my country. (Sorry, would have modded you up, but I felt the need to comment).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 12, 2011 @03:31PM (#38347040)

    Counter-notices are an invitation to sue and ContentID suffers from a horrendous number of false-positives. Good luck fighting a GEMA claim by the way (they claim everything, even if the artist in question isn't a member).

  • by zill (1690130) on Monday December 12, 2011 @03:32PM (#38347066)

    but offers no corresponding penalties for rightsholders who make too many false claims of ownership

    That's just like our legal system then!

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Actually, there are penalties for people who make frivolous legal claims: If the claim is really really frivolous, the judge can award attorney's fees. So, if, for instance, Viacom sued FedFlix (or Google, for that matter) over stuff that was plainly public domain, after FedFlix won, Viacom might be responsible for paying FedFlix's legal bills.

      • by Marc Madness (2205586) on Monday December 12, 2011 @04:01PM (#38347468)
        Something tells me that Viacom has enough money to prolong any legal battle until such a time when FedFlix is no longer solvent and has to give up the fight regardless of whether they are right or wrong.
        • Re:Wait a minute... (Score:5, Informative)

          by LordLimecat (1103839) on Monday December 12, 2011 @04:16PM (#38347662)

          If its truly frivilous, the judge can decide that hes had enough of the shenanigans, award attorney fees (which in a drawn out fight can be quite high), throw in contempt of court damages, etc. It can also open the door for countersuing for "SLAPP" tactics, and a lawyer who does this too much can be disbarred.

          Our system allows a lot of crap through, but you really dont want to piss the judges off with trivial crap no matter who you are, because they can hit back very hard.

          • by Svartalf (2997)

            In light of the shenanigans that've gone on with the John/Jane Does lawsuits from RIAA and the bullsh*t that was SCOX vs. IBM, you may find it taking a LONG time, if at all, for the Judges to say enough's enough on the bogus crap. By then, you'll be broken upon the wheel- crushed financially and legally.

      • So if they're only issuing take down notices but not suing there are no penalties?
      • by Svartalf (2997)

        This presumes you'll have the resources to litigate the case. It can take millions to do that. Most won't have those deep pockets.

      • Re:Wait a minute... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by jd (1658) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <kapimi>> on Monday December 12, 2011 @04:40PM (#38347974) Homepage Journal

        Yes, there are penalties for frivolous legal claims --- if it's proven that the claim is indeed frivolous. You'll have noticed that a lot of claims reported by Slashdot never make it to court. They're either settled or the victim wilts under pressure. Because of that, the claims are safe from court scrutiny. Even if the claim does get to court, awarding fees only is not much since this is usually one of the first motions to be put forward if it's going to be. $3.25 isn't much of a penalty.

        No, to deter frivolous claims, the penalties have to be a lot more severe. If the person targeted can show probable intent to harm (versus intent to recoup losses), then that should automatically kick in a criminal investigation for 'demands with menaces' (commonly referred to as blackmail). Criminal cases aren't funded by individuals, so individuals don't have to pay for the cost of two competing lawsuits at the same time.

        Further, I'm not keen on this absolute frivolous-or-not thing. The UK provides the judge with the right to divide up costs as appropriate according to how frivolous either side is being. It's not either/or. Of course, this only works in theory, as judges in the UK (anyone remember Judge Pickles?) can be incredibly... ...strange at times and are just as prone to bias as any other judges, and Legal Aid won't help civil cases. (IMHO, it should help in any case where either one of the sides has an unfair advantage likely to pervert the course of justice or where the penalty for losing the case would likely exceed the limits traditionally considered acceptable under Common Law. But that's just me, I like justice to not merely be done but to be SEEN to be done.)

  • thomas jefferson (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MichaelKristopeit400 (1972448) on Monday December 12, 2011 @03:33PM (#38347076)
    when injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 12, 2011 @03:39PM (#38347158)

    I just spent a few hours making a video and set it to public domain music. A day later, Youtube blocked it in Germany and said it might put ads on it. The appeals process went straight to the company claiming ownership of the music and was unsurprisingly rejected with no other course of action.

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Monday December 12, 2011 @03:40PM (#38347176) Journal
    Seriously, these two should sue the pants off of these companies and make money on it. False known claims for youtube and ask for all the money that was made on the videos x 10 (amount + 9x). FedFlix can use libel and ask for all the money that was made on these videos x 10 (amount + 9x).

    Once disney and a few others have to pay for EXPENSIVE lawyers AND massive penalties, they might think twice about stealing and lying.
  • by Neil_Brown (1568845) on Monday December 12, 2011 @03:41PM (#38347188) Homepage

    If you are short of some good Christmas reading, you could do a lot worse than James Boyle's excellent book, "The Public Domain." It looks at a number of similar issues, critiquing the rise in the enclosure of the public domain, with the call to arms that, without defenders actively arguing in favour of the public domain, it will be gradually eroded by the proprietary claims of third parties, since it has no voice, nor lobbying power, of its own.

    He has made it available [thepublicdomain.org] in PDF under (CC) BY-NC-SA 3.0 [creativecommons.org], so you can "try before you buy" or else not buy it if you do not want to but, in my opinion, it's worth every penny. (Although I feel rather stupid having a hard copy sitting untouched on my shelf, just so James and his publishers receive money, when the electronic copy was worth far more to me!)

    David Bollier's "Public Assets, Private Profits [indiana.edu]" (sorry - Google link) is definitely worth reading, too, for those who care about the preservation of the commons.

  • Devil's advocate (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mwvdlee (775178) on Monday December 12, 2011 @03:41PM (#38347190) Homepage

    Just because the government made something, doesn't mean it was completely legal. Governments can break their own laws too.

    Just because the films were made at public expense by the government and nobody can claim ownership of the films, doesn't mean all content used to produce the films was properly licensed for release in the public domain.

    The copyright system may be immoral and ethically wrong, the corporations are (probably) still within the legal boundaries. Hate the game, not the players.

    • by syousef (465911)

      Hate the game, not the players.

      Shitty philosophy that allows corrupt and immoral games to continue to be played. You should seek to correct the law, and at least plug the loopholes people are abusing, but better yet hold them accountable.

  • These videos were produced at public expense and no one can claim to own them, but multinationals from CBS to Discovery Communications have done just that, getting YouTube to place ads on the video that deliver income to their coffers. What's more, their false copyright claims could lead to the suspension of FedFlix's YouTube account under Google's rules for its copyright policing system. This system, ContentID, sets out penalties for 'repeat offenders' who generate too many copyright claims — but off

  • by Animats (122034) on Monday December 12, 2011 @03:41PM (#38347206) Homepage

    That's a criminal offense. See 17 USC 506(c) [justice.gov]: "Fraudulent Copyright Notice. -- Any person who, with fraudulent intent, places on any article a notice of copyright or words of the same purport that such person knows to be false, or who, with fraudulent intent, publicly distributes or imports for public distribution any article bearing such notice or words that such person knows to be false, shall be fined not more than $2,500. "

    The Department of Justice is squishy-soft on enforcing this. It's apparently never been enforced. Nor does it create a private right of action, so you can't sue under it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by 91degrees (207121)
      Fraud requires specific intent though. You need to prove beyond reasonable doubt that they don't hold the copyright, that they knew they don't hold the copyright and they deliberately did this with malicious intent.

      It's tricky to prove. The defence of an honest mistake is way too plausible for this to stick. A legal strategy that's a lot more likely to succeed is a civil lawsuit, where the standards of proof are much lower, and you can still claim damages (just less) if you can't prove they acted wil
    • by spidercoz (947220) on Monday December 12, 2011 @03:55PM (#38347360) Journal
      See, the loophole is right there in the text: "with fraudulent intent." How often is something intended to be fraudulent? This law was written to be undermined.
      • by Svartalf (2997) on Monday December 12, 2011 @04:33PM (#38347890) Homepage

        Making knowingly false statements is all that is needed. You can't say "oops, we made a mistake" in most jurisdictions on that score. When it's a knew or should have known type situation (this would be it...), you're going to face the Fraud music- the big problem there, though, is getting the DoJ to own up to it being their responsibility and acting upon the same.

    • by TheSpoom (715771)

      a) The Department of Justice is subject to the same corruption as the rest of the Federal Government. The money points away from enforcing that law.

      b) The law is carefully worded such that "fraudulent intent" is required. All the company needs to do is say "sorry, we thought it was ours!" and they're off free. The burden would be on the Government to prove fraudulent intent, and good luck with that.

      c) Organizations like GEMA who have warped national laws such that they legally do own all music within the

  • A little while back I was watching this video of someone playing a newly released game he'd recently imported from Japan on his PSP. (The device and his his desk were in shot, so it wasn't footage ripped from some website.)

    ...It was removed on the grounds of "copyright infringment" by the developers/publishers.

    I mean, seriously? Sorry, but fuck you!

    YouTube really needs to grow a spine when it comes to copyright cases and at least determine if something actually requires removing instead of just doi

    • by spidercoz (947220)
      If they had any grounds to do so, but the idiotic law is worded to favor the claimant, no proof necessary.
    • by jeff4747 (256583)

      The developers have a copyright on their game. Showing the game in his video violates that copyright unless he falls under a few exceptions.

  • This system, ContentID, sets out penalties for 'repeat offenders' who generate too many copyright claims — but offers no corresponding penalties for rightsholders who make too many false claims of ownership.

    I don't think that word, "rightsholders," really would be appropriate in this circumstance. Unless it means something completely other than what I would think -- which is a possibility, given that my spell check doesn't even recognize that it's an English word,

  • GEMA (Score:3, Informative)

    by roman_mir (125474) on Monday December 12, 2011 @03:44PM (#38347234) Homepage Journal

    Yeah, there are all sorts of copyright pirates out there.

    GEMA is an example [youtube.com] of an organization that lays millions of fraudulent claims.

    • by khipu (2511498)

      Germany has elevated rent seeking to a form of government. Germany's quasi-governmental societies, guilds, and "rights organizations" impose vast fees on a wide range of devices that are ostensibly used for copying the content of German artists and then redistribute it to their members. Even German television is based on this principle, forcing people to pay for content many of them don't want and never watch. Of course, the vast majority of the content that is being delivered is either free or forei

  • by Tridus (79566) on Monday December 12, 2011 @03:46PM (#38347248) Homepage

    Another issue with this system is that it's easily trolled. There's people who put false claims in claiming to be a company when they're really not associated with the company at all.

    It's a common problem with My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic videos on Youtube. Hasbro (the owner) allows them to be up, including full episodes. Someone else claims to be Hasbro and has it pulled, then the poster has to go to real Hasbro to get them to tell Youtube to reverse it. Eventually the account gets "flagged" for repeated violations even though they've all been false positives.

    The system just plain sucks at handling this stuff.

  • by khipu (2511498) on Monday December 12, 2011 @03:53PM (#38347342)

    Why put this stuff on YouTube at all? Why not post it to the Internet Archive and other archival sites?

    (Of course, false copyright claims should be prosecuted as fraudulent and punished accordingly.)

    • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Monday December 12, 2011 @04:24PM (#38347768)

      Why put this stuff on YouTube at all? Why not post it to the Internet Archive and other archival sites?

      (Of course, false copyright claims should be prosecuted as fraudulent and punished accordingly.)

      The stuff is already archived before FedFlix does anything. FedFlix is seeking to make these more available, that is, "share" them. Which is what YouTube is for. It's even in the Summary: "The videos are posted by the nonprofit FedFlix organization, which liberates public domain government-produced videos and makes them available to the world.".

      And according to TFA: "Malamud's group pays the fees associated with retrieving copies from the US government ... and posts them to YouTube, the Internet Archive and other video sites."

  • Come on, Soulskill and esocid. Its Cory [xkcd.com], not Corey. 10 out of 10 for attempting attribution, but couldn't you at least cut-and-paste the name correctly?

  • The *AA engage in bullying, theft, "hollywood accounting", and false claims of ownership or copyright violation to generate revenue.

    My God. They're greedy. Apparently the writer of this article was the last innocent who didn't realize that.

    The question is not whether they're greedy pilfering thieves laying false claims, but what can be done through the courts to sue the bastards for their attempts to steal public domain content and claim it as their own. I want to see the *AA paying the government w

  • Counter-measures (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Coeurderoy (717228) on Monday December 12, 2011 @04:04PM (#38347520)

    FedFlix should create "derivative works" who would then not be in the public domain.
    Adding one image at the begining telling "FedFlix brings you !", and one at the end with "Thank you for watching" and maybe a small watermark would be enough and trivial to automate.

    This would create an "infringable" copyrighed notice, and then anybody who would want to benefit from the FedFlix "marketing" to push their adds would be "infringing" could be "expulsed" and potentially be "banned" from youtube (it would be fun to see FedFlix asking google "why isn't this dangerous repeat offender "CBS" banned ?

    Of course it seems "pointless" but just as the GPL is using copyright to implement copyleft, you need sometime to use private means to promote the public domain.

    I wonder why they didn't do it ...

    • by marga (455344)

      I don't think this would work at all.

      The ContentID system is prepared to match parts of video and parts of songs. You have to modify more than just a few frames at the beginning and the end to fool ContentID.

      The only solution is to complain until they listen.

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Monday December 12, 2011 @04:06PM (#38347544) Homepage

    We've actually come a long way in the last decade in terms of being able to make public use of the public domain in the U.S. The vast majority of works that are PD in the US are ones that were copyrighted after 1922 but reverted to the public domain because their copyrights were not renewed. It used to be that if you came across a book from 1927, you could be almost certain that it was PD (simply because, statistically, few books had their copyrights renewed), but you wouldn't have any way of making sure, because the renewal records weren't online. But the good folks at Carnegie Mellon, Project Gutenberg, and Distributed Proofreaders did all the hard, dreary work of digitizing the records and putting them online [blogspot.com] in searchable form. So for example, a creative-commons-licensed physics textbook that I wrote includes a drawing of a boy hanging by his arms from a bar. The drawing is from a 1927 physics textbook, which I know is PD because I was able to check online that the copyright was not renewed. Another great thing about living in the US is that our law says that a faithful reproduction of a PD work can't be copyrighted (Bridgeman Art Library, Ltd. v. Corel Corp., 1999). I have a portrait of Isaac Newton in my book that is a photo of a 17th-century oil painting. I got a nastygram once from the museum in the UK that owns the painting, saying I was violating their copyright. Sent them back an email saying, "Sorry, not copyrightable in the country where I live," and that was the end of that.

    It gets a lot harder when you're dealing with sound recordings and moving pictures. The records aren't digitized by the government, and even if they were to be digitized, it would not necessarily be easy to index and search them. Unlike a book, a sound recording doesn't always have any clear labeling as to its title. Indexing sound and movies is a hard problem. It requires a ton of computing power to do well. What we really need is someone with a super-huge CPU farm who is willing to put tons of computational effort into indexing these things. I wonder who has the facilities necessary for that? Uh, Google, that's who. Google owns YouTube.

    Here [youtube.com] is a PD video I put together of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsing -- a classic staple of American physics education for three generations. About 10 years ago, you could only get this by paying a ton of money to an educational video company. I found two newsreels about the bridge at archive.org, one silent and one with music and narration. I spliced them together. Since the first one was silent, I found a recording of some vintage jazz that fit, and voila, I had a PD replacement for the laserdisc that my college had bought for hundreds of dollars.

    About a year later, I got an email from YouTube saying that the jazz tune I'd used in the video (Boot It, by Bennie Moten) actually wasn't PD. I was originally annoyed and sure they were wrong. But I looked into it, and it looked like sure enough, it was still in copyright. Archive.org had apparently not realized that a certain percentage of Bennie Moten's work was still in copyright. The rights holder is selling the recording online. And you know what? YouTube didn't try to crush me. They didn't sue me. They didn't send me a DMCA notice. They didn't take down the video or make me take it down. They simply started pulling revenue from it and giving some of that revenue to the copyright owner. Really not a problem.

    So although it sounds like FedFlix has a problem, my own experience with YouTube was that they performed a service for me that nobody else was willing to perform: they figured out whether an old piece of music was actually PD. The end result is that it's a big win for everyone.

    And I can't help feeling that Cory Doctorow, as in many of his hand-wringing advocacy pieces, is being a little overwrought. The problem here is not that FedFlix is being su

    • by KeithIrwin (243301) on Monday December 12, 2011 @04:39PM (#38347964)

      I'm glad you've had good experiences and it's interesting to know what's happened to you, but none of that changes the fact that YouTube's content ownership framework doesn't allow people to dispute claims of ownership on public domain material. How would you feel if someone claimed ownership on your Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse footage you assembled and chose to block it worldwide?

      Well, that's what's happened with the famous Duck and Cover educational video. It's public domain, but Image Entertainment (whoever that is) has claimed copyright of it and are blocking it from being seen in all countries except the United States. This is described in the report [resource.org] which Cory mentions.

      The issue isn't really whether or not YouTube are good guys or bad guys. The issue is that the system they have in place doesn't effectively allow for disputing whether or not something is in the public domain. This allows people to claim content which they don't own and to profit from it. People like yourself who want to use that public domain content can have their accounts suspended or blocked for using video and audio content including content in the public domain. Now, in your case, someone made a legitimate claim to some of the content you used for your video and YouTube handled that appropriately. That's good. But when people make claims to things they don't own, they're handling that in exactly the same way, which isn't appropriate. So, if you worked hard and created an interesting video using public domain content, a random company can siphon off some of your revenue from it simply by falsely claiming that they own the copyright on something which is actually in the public domain.

  • I think Corey Doctorow expecatations are too high for Googles ContentID system. It is an automated system. It shouldn't be handling ownership disputes. This dispute can only be handled in court. If I were Google I wouldn't create a 1 click lawsuit button either.

    • by s73v3r (963317)

      I think his expectations are perfectly valid. It's Google who's made the mistake of thinking that something like this can be automated without some kind of oversight.

  • Works of this nature are usually done subject to Federal Acquisition Regulation Clause 52.227-17 Rights in Data- Special Works [acquisition.gov] which says

    (2) The Contractor shall have, to the extent permission is granted in accordance with paragraph (c)(1) of this clause, the right to assert claim to copyright subsisting in data first produced in the performance of this contract.

    Its not unusual for the Government to allow a contractor to assert copyright, as long as the Government itself has unlimited rights. It really

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