Sony's copyright bots remove a band's own release of its new video

The Sheffield-based experimental music act 65daysofstatic has a new album coming out in September, called "Replicr, 2019." Today, the band began its launch publicity by releasing a video from the album, only to have the video blocked on multiple services by copyright bots working on behalf of Sony, which distributed the band's label, Superball.

It's an important example of the kinds of problems created by automated filtering systems, like the one that the EU turned into a continent-wide obligation with the passage of the new Copyright Directive in March (the EU is about to gut its online privacy protections to ensure that any future legal challenges to the Copyright Directive fail).

This kind of absurd situation is intrinsic to the way that these filters work: large rightsholder organizations like Sony add "upload everything to the filter databases" to their workflows, so any time something is being entered into their catalog, they're also automatically blocked from being published by anyone else. But often, these copyright claims include works that don't belong to the rightsholder, who faces no penalties for making false copyright claims.

Sony is a particularly egregious offender: it has claimed copyright over stock art that it licensed from independent artists and then blocked those artists from posting their own work; it claims all piano performances of Beethoven and other classical composers, etc.

But this isn't limited to Sony: Back in 2012, multiple news broadcasters claimed copyright over NASA's Mars Lander footage, having aired NASA's livestream in their nightly newscasts, which were automatically uploaded to Youtube's copyrighted work blacklist. No one has learned a damned thing since 2012: last year, Canal+ claimed copyright over Banksy's shredded painting prank, through the same negligent conduct.

Forcing rightsholders to take responsibility for false claims of copyright would have enormous benefits (including providing a way to punish fraudsters who deliberately make false claims in order to steal money from creators)

But forcing rightsholders to be certain they owned copyrights before they blocked them online would also add expense and complexity to their workflow, so we don't do it. It's classical corruption: "In corrupt systems, a few bad actors cost everyone else billions in order to bring in millions – the savings a factory can realize from dumping pollution in the water supply are much smaller than the costs we all bear from being poisoned by effluent. But the costs are widely diffused while the gains are tightly concentrated, so the beneficiaries of corruption can always outspend their victims to stay clear."