YouTube blocks clip of Michelle Obama's DNC speech on copyright grounds

A YouTube clip of Michelle Obama's DNC speech, embedded on, was blocked due to a copyright complaint "from WMG, SME, Associated Press (AP), UMG, Dow Jones, New York Times Digital, The Harry Fox Agency, Inc. (HFA), Warner Chappell, UMPG Publishing and EMI Music Publishing." It's not clear what happened, though my money is on some combination of YouTube's copyright bots detecting the incidental background music from the convention; and several broadcasters uploading their own version of the footage and registering it as belonging to them with the YouTube copyright bots.

A YouTube spokesman downplayed the blockage: “After tonight’s live stream ended, YouTube briefly showed an incorrect error message,” he said via e-mail. ” Neither the live stream nor any of the channel’s videos were affected.”

It’s not clear what he meant by none of the channel’s videos were affected as the video was unplayable.

The most likely culprit is YouTube’s pre-emptive content filters, which allow large media companies to upload content they claim to own and automatically block videos that an algorithm decides matches their own. That would make the glitch the second livestream copyright-policing snafu in the span of a few days: On Sunday, a similar algorithm at uStream interrupted the livestream of the Hugo science fiction awards. The award show included clips of copyrighted videos, though the algorithm didn’t know that the clips had been authorized.

In early August, an official NASA recording of the Mars landing was blocked hours after the successful landing, due to a rogue DMCA complaint by a news network.

YouTube Flags Democrats’ Convention Video on Copyright Grounds

(Image: you've got to be kidding me, from @bondad)


27 Responses to “YouTube blocks clip of Michelle Obama's DNC speech on copyright grounds”

  1. RedShirt77 says:

    Shouldn’t there be some sort of punishment for false copy-write claims?

    • Eric Lortie says:

      There should, but there won’t be. That’s not how the system works. That is the antithesis of how the system works.

      Which is, of course, the antithesis of how the system should work.

    • bardfinn says:

      The thing is, many* of them are making false copyright claims – the footage taken with their cameras, pumped through their equipment, marked up and commented upon by their talent, is theirs. The broken part comes when
      1: multiple people have valid copyright and copyright exemption claims on extremely similar material; and
      2: the copyright enforcement algorithm doesn’t / can’t understand that.

      *originally I wrote “none” — I retract that.

      • EH says:

        To be sure, this is all free R&D for YT’s filtering processes, which I predict will someday be incorporated by reference into federal law.

    • EH says:

      If it was a matter for the government, sure, but this is the result of an unaccountable company policy that is out of reach of the courts.

      In other words: SUCK IT

    • jandrese says:

      Why would copyright holders include something that looks like a check on power in a system they designed?  If the government (FCC) had any balls they would require systems like this to have a false claim penalty, but they’re in bed with the copyright holders on this one.  The FCC is basically trusting that the RIAA, MPAA, et. all. will stand by their promise to be truthful and accurate, much the same way the FTC deals with investment banks. 

      I mean it’s not like the MPAA would want to sully its reputation with the public, right?  Just like how Bank of America certainly wouldn’t do anything that might hurt its reputation. 

  2. Thad Boyd says:

    Bet this’ll TOTALLY change Obama’s views on copyright enforcement.

    • BillStewart2012 says:

      Unfortunately, the Democrats seem to be even more into this copyright over-extension nonsense than the Republicans do.  So no, it’s not going to have any more effect on Obama’s policies than getting a whiff of diesel smoke would have had on Bush.

      But still, Bwahahahah!

  3. cfuse says:

    Youtube’s system is broken. Everyone knows it. Big blunders like this one are just the tip of the iceberg and merely more visible.

    • cegev says:

      Given the high political profile of many videos that have been blocked recently, one has to wonder whether Google and other companies are intentionally not fixing the system in order to send a political message. 
      Automated blocking is going to unfairly block videos that don’t infringe on anything. If the videos happen to be of Michelle Obama / a major NASA event / etc, though, it’s going to be noticed far more than otherwise, and might influence future policy decisions on infringement and enforcement.

  4. Egypt Urnash says:

    I guess this is the week for these systems breaking horribly. This weekend, the Hugo livestream cut out abruptly because this sort of thing triggered on the three successive trailers for the episodes of “Doctor Who” that were up for a rocket. And never came back; all anyone outside the auditorium (including people at the con who couldn’t make it inside) got to see were the memorial for people who died last year and “Best Podcast”.

    Ustream has apologized but it’s still clearly a problem. Honestly I’m surprised it hasn’t shown up as news here yet!

    Ustream is using Vobile to do this; I wonder if Youtube is using them as well.

  5. Let me introduce to you our new exciting technology to enforce copyright. We’re fond of calling it /dev/null, and it’s amazing. You can stick anything in, and it never comes out again ever. The content is 100% perfectly protected, and nobody will ever see it. You should try /dev/null (patent pending), it’s amazing.

  6. Elliottw256 says:

    It seems like the heavyweights (corporations) would have something to say about this. Here’s another one from earlier this year:

  7. Isn’t there somebody who can be sued over these things?  A few awards of punitive damages would greatly chill the use of such indiscriminate blocking.

  8. ellen_h says:

    Who has the most to gain by blocking Michelle Obama’s fantastic speech video? They must be really scared…

  9. ryukage99 says:

    Just think about the regular folks who run into problems like these.

  10. bwcbwc says:

    Now here’s a question: Who actually DOES own the copyright to that particular clip of Ms. Obama’s speech. She’s not a government employee and it’s not a work produced by the government, so it’s certainly not public domain. Who shot the video?

  11. YouTube allows copyright trolls to make false claims which benefit the claimer and YouTube. On several occasions, I have posted videos with background music that is in the public domain (over 100 years old, performed by U.S. Military Bands), and MULTIPLE claims were made. I contested them, the claims were dropped, but I’m sure many people just let them post ads, etc. because it isn’t worth the hassle. It is wrong, and would seem to go against the “Do No EVIL” that Google likes to quote. It really is a travesty of the concept of “public domain,” and could be corrected if Google really cared about something besides profit. Well, I’ll admit, as a publicly traded company, why should they care about anything else? Never mind.

  12. Valery King says:

    For pity’s sake, it’s NEWS! this is obviously Fair Use. I’m so pissed about these frivolous “copyright infringement” claims when there are some real content thieves out there who should be taken down.

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