Sunday night was supposed to be a celebration of ideas and entertainment with the Hugo Awards broadcast live for all to see on UStream. Instead, the celebration turned into a prefect example of the broken copyright enforcement system and why no new laws need to be enacted until policing the current ones are worked out.
After showing clips from shows such as Doctor Who and Community and right in the middle of the acceptance speech by writer Neil Gaiman, the live stream was cut off. Instead it was replace with this.
We followed up with those who put on the Hugo Awards as well as Ustream, so far only one got back to us as to what happened. Chicon 7, who put on the awards, “did have permission to show the clips that they did, as have all recent Worldcons.”
To the best of their knowledge, a UStream ‘bot pulled the plug; it was not a complaint from a specific entity, but instead an automated system. The awards organizers are investigating the matter and will have more to say eventually; however, anything more than that bit of information would be speculative right now.
What folks are guessing is that the take down was due to pre-programmed ‘bots from UStream that look for copyright violations, and unfortunately don’t understand nuances like Fair Use, which these clips would likely fall under even without permission. So far UStream hasn’t responded and four threads remain open on their website of the complaints.
Having “found” UStream soon after it’s launch and being one who really got it noticed in the political realm (I worked for Chris Dodd at the time and we were the first to employ the service), it’s unfortunate to see the service not more responsive, even with a “we messed up.” The tech companies aren’t like this, but with millions of pieces of content being uploaded and created daily, it’s a deluge their up against. With so much to currently police, many are overly strict, which this is an example of. Better to be that than dragged in court.
But, it’s an example that the system doesn’t currently work. There are massive issues that need to be solved before new laws are enacted. So many at that awards show backed legislation like PIPA and SOPA, but in this case, the laws already on the book bit them in the ass.
We’ll wait to see what else comes of this, but until simple things like this are solved, it’s a perfect example why new laws don’t need to be enacted, the current ones need to be better enforced to punish real criminals instead of ruining a night of celebration.