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Sci-Fi fans blow stacks at copybot attacks

Updated: Ustream issues mea culpa

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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". ®

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