Sci-Fi fans blow stacks at copybot attacks
Updated: Ustream issues mea culpa
Ustream has rained on the science fiction world’s big event, with its copyright enforcement bots unplugging the Hugo awards for showing winners’ clips.
We’ll never know just how many award-winners planned to commit “fair use” by accepting their awards in front of screenings of snippets of their work, because a brainless pre-programmed bot slapped down Worldcon’s glittering ceremony while Neil Gaiman was accepting his award for his Dr Who script, The Doctor’s Wife.
io9 is particularly outraged, and for good reason: the Ustream feed was taken out before one of its contributors, Charlie Jane Anders, could accept a best novelette award. io9 also claims that complaints to Ustream have so far gone unanswered.
The copybot attack wasn’t lifted at all for the event, even though the clips the bot blocked were provided by studios – and even though the use of clips in this context probably fall under any normal definition of “fair use” under US copyright law.
As io9 puts it: “In case anyone still believes that copyright rules can't stop free speech or snuff out a community, the automated censorship of the Hugo Awards is a case in point.”
El Reg couldn’t agree more. ®
Update: Ustream has contacted The Register to let us know that it's posted this apology to both its users and the Hugos.
The streaming service's CEO agrees that the broadcast should not have been shuttered by the Vobile third-party infringement-watcher. He says Vobile has been suspended while it's recalibrated, and states that "we need to ensure fair use of copyright as permitted by law". ®
Just like what happened to NASA recently with news agencies pulling NASAs own footage, something needs to be done. The law should be written that if you want to pull something down, a human being needs to be see the content in question, and if you make a mistake you get fined!
Bum? Meet Bite. He just came back.
If I were the Hugo award organisers I'd stop paying them as they're not providing the streaming service they claim to be providing.
I'm sure there are other streaming video providers who would be happy for the good publicity if the Hugos switched to them.
I note on that IO9 article that uStream's CEO has said they're turning off the automatic ban functionality until they can "recalibrate" it - but of course recalibrated autoban bots can be as wrong as the originals. Why take the chance in trusting they'll get it right next time?