Universal Music uses false copyright claim to censor news program about its false copyright claim

The saga of Universal Music's fraudulent attempt to censor the video major music recording artists produced in support of MegaUpload continues. Not content with perjuring themselves with a false claim of ownership via YouTube's takedown system, Universal has now sent a takedown notice to censor a news report that reproduced the video.

Universal had Monday's episode of Tech News Today pulled off of YouTube for simply reporting on the controversy. Host Tom Merritt and crew played two clips of the "Mega Song" video while discussing the issue and MegaUpload's pending lawsuit Monday afternoon, which was too much for Universal: it filed a copyright dispute and had the episode pulled from YouTube by Monday night. Never mind that news reporting and commentary are core elements of the traditional fair use analysis, of course — or that no audio from the video was even played during first clip.

Tom tells us he wasn't informed of the video's removal until a fan told him on Twitter, and that the episode was promptly restored when he complained using YouTube's automated dispute process — but Universal followed up with an official DMCA takedown request on Tuesday morning, and the show is currently down. Tom's filed YouTube's corresponding DMCA counter-dispute and the video will go back up in 10 days unless Universal decides to go full-on crazy and actually file a lawsuit, but at this point the damage has been done. As Tom says, "In 10 days a daily news show is worthless, so Universal was able to censor this episode of Tech News Today."

Universal has 'Tech News Today' episode yanked from YouTube for reporting on MegaUpload promo video [The Verge]


  1. maybe if Tech News Today wouldn’t rely on what is essentially a free hosting service to distribute their news program for them, this might not have happened.  YouTube is such a large operation that many of its functions must be taken care of automatically, and when errors occur they review them manually but that takes time.  I can only imagine how many disputes happen daily – thousands, most likely.  How to decide which to deal with first?   Obviously large players like Universal and the rest of their ilk can use this system to their advantage.  What I don’t understand is why Tech News isn’t just hosting the video elsewhere given that YouTube can’t take care of them.

    1. Tech News Today is hosted across other services, but that’s not even the point. UMG’s original copyright claim is questionable as is, but to have the power to force YouTube to pull down and censor news programming that is completely legal under fair use is beyond outrageous.

      1. that’s the thing.  They’re not -forcing- YouTube to do anything-  when they hit that takedown button, the video is suspended by default pending review.  When they respond disputing the claim, the video goes back up automatically, and then the DMCA complaint comes in and it’s 50/50 whether a human being has ever been involved on YouTube’s side up to that point.  Even if it is, like I said, YouTube’s server likely deals with thousands of takedown requests each day, and hundreds of DMCA requests.  YouTube is too large to be able to deal with this sort of thing in anything resembling a responsible manner.

        1. I’m totally missing your point. So nobody’s in the wrong here?

          The whole automated system was put in place (I seem to recall) because of a lawsuit, but it’s not there to give anyone free reign to pull down anything they don’t like.

          Wait, um, what WERE you trying to say?

          1. no, I’m just as pissed at the way YouTube works as anyone else.  I just don’t understand why people even use their service when this sort of thing happens.  I’m not defending YouTube’s handling of disputes in the slightest but people seem to be forgetting why these things happen in the first place.  The way YouTube operates is simply bad business for people like Tech News Today, so TNT should take their business elsewhere.  

          2. The only  ground I could see Universal having was whether those artists were under contract on all created works belonging to UMG. Several other non-art companies like Target have a creative-works clauses that says anything Target employees make (and doesn’t specify whether on/off the clock, or even Target-related) will legally belong to Target.  If the artists created something like this, in breech of contract with a possible creative-works clause, then they may have grounds to have it taken down, though IANAL.

        2. That’s like saying you didn’t kill that guy, but the bullet did. If you pull the trigger you know what happens.

      1. No, I’m not. I’m suggesting that if TNT wants a better mechanism to deal with automatic, arbitrary takedowns such as Universal’s, then they need to move their show to a hosting company that can actually deal with disputes properly – YouTube is simply too large and companies like Universal take advantage of that as we keep seeing.  

        1. Because of the way the DMCA works, *any* host in the US has to work that way, or they risk becoming directly liable for *any* infringement.  Blame the DMCA, not YouTube.

        2. So, you start by saying you are not victim-blaming, and then go on to blame them again.

          I don’t think you’re really solid on this whole concept.

          1. It’s not blaming the victim to suggest how they can fix the problem they’re having.  If enough people take their content-providing business elsewhere then that might compel YouTube to change the way their dispute system works.  We are in agreement that YouTube is evil, Universal is evil.   But they will not change their ways.  They have no compelling reason, business-wise, to change.  Universal pays YouTube plenty of money to host their artists’ pages and official videos.  Both companies have armies of lawyers and yet, YouTube cannot possibly hire enough staff to deal with the disputes that pour in daily.   That’s wrong and it needs to change.  However.  It won’t happen soon.  In the meantime, last I checked people don’t actually go to YouTube first to look for TNT or most other content providers.  They go to the content provider’s website or FB or an aggregator site, and click on the video there.  What I’m saying is that it doesn’t matter where the video is hosted to the user.  TNT could just as easily host their video at another site that has a more productive dispute resolution system.  People do not need YouTube.  But people are convinced that they do.  It’s a load of crap.

        3. Today Youtube – after Sopa ALL websites.  Greedy companies censoring the world, because after all proof takes too much time.

    2. They don’t “rely” on them. YouTube is just one of many distribution channels for them; they do of course host their content on their site (twit.tv). YouTube is high-traffic though, which means Universal cost them quite a bit of money.

        1. This is beside the point really. Because of Universal’s fraudulent actions (and the way the DMCA works) they lost money, period. Anything else is victim blaming.

          1. Ok.  I’m not blaming TNT for anything.  I’m suggesting that if they don’t want this sort of thing to happen again (and it will), they should take their business elsewhere.  This is completely the fault of YouTube for having set up their dispute system in such a way that companies like Universal can run roughshod over it.  Voting with your wallet is not “victim blaming” – it’s just good business sense.  YouTube is broken, they won’t fix it anytime soon, so content creators should encourage them to provide a better service by moving elsewhere.  TNT needs YouTube but YouTube needs TNT as well.   

          2. Again, TNT _is_ available on damn near every set-top box, subscription service, iTunes and on their own high-traffic website. It would be pretty stupid and irresponsible to _not_ use a service as popular as YouTube. They don’t use YouTube as a replacement for anything, it’s just bonus.

            Still, it’s quite simple: no Universal takedown request, no takedown. If you want to blame anyone, blame Universal. They knew very well that what they did was fraudulent.

    3. When they hit the takedown button, the person filling out the complaint form has to certify under penalty of perjury as follows: “I am the owner, or an agent authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.”  UMG doesn’t own that news program, period.

      1. Yes, that’s abundantly obvious to everyone reading this story.  However, we know from past experience that the RIAA and its member companies are only too happy to take advantage of YouTube’s broken system and victimize other legitimate content providers like TNT.   They can issue hundreds of these requests with relative ease because they know that even if their complaint IS spurious, nothing will ultimately be done about it to punish them.  They are still large enough to lawyer down just about any complainant. YES, this is unreasonable and yes it’s fraudulent.   But it is YouTube’s broken system that makes this possible – compel YouTube to be a better manager of their service.   It is already completely obvious that Universal et al do not care about making petty fraudulent complaints in volume, and they still have enough of our money to keep doing so regardless of the outcome.  

        1. And that’s what people are suggesting: That YouTube change its takedown system.
          Or that Congress change the DMCA so there are some actual penalties for filing a false takedown notice.

          1. There actually are penalties for filing a false takedown notice – and it’s a felony, even.

            DMCA specifically states that filing a takedown notice without a good faith belief that it’s valid is perjury.

          2. If YouTube’s service to the public good is to provide entertainment to a maximum number of people, it is in their best interest to remain conservative when it comes to responding to copyright challenges. 

            If most YouTube videos are not challenged and most YouTube customers are not interested in challenged videos, YouTube has no real imperative to come anywhere near involving themselves in even the possibility of expensive litigation.

            In the long run, YouTube will want to make sure they have SOME video to entertain their customers with and sell ads around, but they are not a publicly funded public access entertainment distributor with an expectation of posting any old thing that is submitted. 

            If I wrote a letter to CBS news and they did not read it on the air, they are not violating my First Amendment rights. They are simply making decisions that will benefit their idea of their responsibility to the public good, which is ostensibly how YouTube treats its takedown policy.

      2. I would be very intested to see just how many corporations have been found guilty of perjury for false DMCA claims.

        My gut feeling is a leper could count them on one hand.

  2. On the upside, they might get a few more subscribers to their channel as this news is covered on allot of sites and makes Tech News Today look good.

  3. Call me ignorant, but is that the way DMCA takedowns work?  That YouTube is forced to immediately remove something without it being contested beforehand, and even when it is contested, it’s not immediately put back up?  It’s funny how companies are legally required to revoke people’s Constitutional rights without any legal due process.  Wait, not funny. Abhorrent.  That’s the word I’m looking for.

  4. And you people doubted that draconian copyright laws would be able to serve their intended purpose. They seem to be working very well for the people that bought them. Shows how much you know!

  5. Okay so the answer seems pretty obvious to me. Universal has to go.

    How can we, collectively, drive UMG out of business? Seriously. What can we do to shut them down within, say five years? Piracy won’t do it obviously because we’re not stupid enough to believe that. What else will? What could a relatively small group of people do to kill this company, realizing that most of their customers will continue to support them? If we can find a way to make UMG hurt, really hurt, using only the audience of BoingBoing (or only a portion of that audience), we can change their tune. So how do we do it?

    1. Well, I for one haven’t bought a CD from Universal or anyone else in about 4 years.  No, I have not pirated either, I just get all the music I need from internet radio services.

    2. Universal isn’t the problem. Neither is You Tube. The problem is the current state of copyright law and the DMCA. SOPA will make this 100 times worse. Universal and You Tube are both acting in their own best interests. I can’t blame corporations for doing that. What can be blamed are the laws that result in this kind of behavior, and the lack of laws that prevent it.

      1. I disagree. Universal is absolutely the problem. Copyright law is what it is today because of UMG and other companies like them. The DMCA was passed because of pressure from companies like UMG. SOPA exists because UMG and other companies lobbied for it. The state of our laws is a direct consequence of UMG’s (and others) actions. Putting them out of business is a defensive measure.

        I absolutely agree that legal reforms need to be made. I absolutely agree that our democracy has gone off the rails. But fixing that is a long-term goal. Those problems won’t be fully resolved for a long time and the lobbies which are paid for by UMG profits will be fighting against us all the way. As a short-term stop gap solution though, we could make these bastards hurt. Hurt them enough and it could weaken them (and their lobbies), making the ultimate goal of legal reform easier to obtain as well.

      2. Funny, I have no *problem* blaming them for acting in their own best interests. Ethics are not for things you would have done anyway. You need to get your moral compass straight on that.

  6. Here’s a handy tip for UMG: if you’re in a hole, stop digging.

    I’m pretty sure that isn’t the only megaupload song related video that UMG took down. There are probably hundreds, most of them probably showing no content whatsoever of the megaupload song. Could those so discriminated youtube accounts please come forward so we can have a proper class action lawsuit?

  7. Folks, I’ve started commenting about these ridiculous practices on the official Youtube blog:


    Start going there and talking about these practices of theirs.  Get this out in the open on their public area, and maybe they’ll start doing something to change.

  8. This extends beyond just Tech News Today and TWiT. You have a company abusing copyright claims to bully small content creators via the legal system because there’s not much recourse for creator. Leo Laporte of TWiT has pledged to fight this take-down to the extent that the law allows because it’s a concern for not just him and TWiT but everyone. Fair use is being ignored here, and we’re poised to get an even more draconian copyright law enacted soon.

    What if UMG gets the entire TWiT domain seized under SOPA for copyright violation? TWiT doesn’t have much legal recourse. We already have examples of domains being seized when the content posted had expressed permission from the corporation that filed the take-down, yet it was over a year before the domain was returned. The potential for abuse is enormous and needs to be fought.


  9. This is indeed a disturbing story. However, I think YouTube has a defensible position.

    YouTube is an entertainment company. Its contribution to the public good is entertainment. They are not a First Amendment advocacy organization. It is in the best interest of their contribution to the public good to act conservatively when infringement challenges are brought to them. The legitimacy of the challenges is of little concern to YouTube, as long as they have a bazillion other challenge-free videos to curate and share.

    Especially in the short term, it is in the best interest of YouTube and many of its customers to stay very far away from possible litigation. 

    In the long term, the continual tightening of restrictions on all thing copyrightable might hurt YouTube’s ability to entertain, but so far that is not the case. YouTube  customers who are upset by this specific case are a tiny majority of the customer base they are trying to entertain.

    These are challenging times for the First Amendment, and the policies we have are scary and need to be constantly monitored and negotiated. But YouTube still has a bazillion other videos to entertain people with and sell ads around, right?

  10. I can’t do this anymore. The further we go in time, the more there are people using the Internet, the more stupid the reactions get. Seriously fuck people, most of them are dumb bitches who deserve every shitty things happening in their life, whether censorship, economical crisis, terror etc…

    There use to be a time when Internet was full of happy, way smarter people who would just stand here saying looser things like “Oh but it’s not Youtube faults, it’s only the law”. How can you be so fucking dumb already? Google, starting with it’s results and now with Youtube IS the reason why the Internet IS already massively censored, manipulated, and we don’t care about a fucking law that written by people, like you and me, except greedier.

    This illegal copyright claim from Universal, is way alarming that what people think it is. I…oh well..fuck you, I just hope all the people naive of fucking dumb enough not to see what’s coming (not I’m not even talking about SOPA, SOPA WILL pass whether you want it or not, under another form, and it’s nowhere the worse in what’s to come).

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