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Judge Paul Called Me a Thief
I Was Tried In Abstentia, Convicted and Sent to Copyright School

It would be wrong for me to call Paul Brownstein a schmuck. After all, I've never met the man! So why is Paul Brownstein calling me a thief?

Public.Resource.Org runs the FedFlix channel, a popular channel with 6,061 videos gleaned from deep inside the vaults of the U.S. government. The International Amateur Scanning League, a group of volunteers based in Washington, D.C., went to the National Archives and found unused videos produced by the government. They send us the DVDs, we rip them and find metadata, and it gets upload to YouTube and the Internet Archive. We've had over 20 million views for these videos.

On YouTube, there is a system called ContentID, which allows the owner of video to claim ownership of video or audio. The ContentID system then keeps an eye out for kids uploading the video. The purported owner is then able to take a variety of actions, ranging from simply doing nothing to blocking the display of the video in certain countries, to muting the audio, monetizing the video by forcing advertisements before it plays or as an overlay, or the most extreme action of executing a removal of the offending bits.

If the purported owner decides to remove the video because it is in allegedly in violation of copyright, the person who uploaded the offending video gets an Official Copyright Strike on their account. When you get a strike, you have to go to Copyright School, which consists of watching a video about the copyright laws, then taking a test. If you pass the test, and this is only your first strike, your account is put on a kind of probation for 6 months, which means you loose certain powers, such as the ability to designate your videos as Creative Commons licensed so others can use it. If you get 3 strikes on your account, your account is TERMINATED.

Public.Resource.Org has 326 ContentID matches on our account. In many cases, the matches are totally bogus. Using the ContentID Dispute procedure, we're able to submit a brief explanation of why we believe the ContentID match was mistaken, or why this is fair use, or why we have authorization to be using the disputed material. A good summary of these issues and the situation we found ourselves in was printed in the Guardian by Cory Doctorow:

After Doctorow's piece appeared, we finished our research on the provenance of the videos, talked to the General Counsel at NARA and at YouTube, and began to systematically dispute many of the matches. You can view our dispute log here:

Out of the 326 ContentID matches, as of today we were able to clear 250 of the claims and make them disappear. However, there are still quite a few ContentID matches that no action has been taken on and there is really nothing we can do about it. There is no process of our dispute getting answered, either the claim disappears or it doesn't. No reasons are given, no explanations proffered.

Here's where it gets sticky. Out of our 326 ContentID matches, only one had resulted in an official COPYRIGHT STRIKE, and that was back in March of 2010. That was a 1927 film that was indeed still under copyright and we removed it from the Internet Archive and from YouTube. In all other cases, the ContentID matches resulted in monetization of our videos, blocking it in some countries, or in a few cases forced muting of the audio.

One of the videos we protested, on January 4, 2010, is a 1974 film called Pathfinder which was produced (and paid for) by the Fish and Wildlife Service. [If you're looking at the above contentid.html dispute log, it is entry 223.] We submitted our dispute, which was being claimed by a Hollywood Entity called Paul Brownstein Productions:

This video was produced by the United States Government which has SECURED ALL RIGHTS for this NONCOMMERCIAL viewing. The ContentID Match is not valid on this United States Government video production. Please remove it. Thanks!

Statement of Good Faith
I have a good faith belief that the material was disabled as a result of a mistake or misidentification, and that I am not intentionally abusing this dispute process.

Paul Brownstein Productions had been monetizing our video, but evidently felt we were getting uppity by engaging in a dispute, so they went all nuclear and had our video removed. We got a black strike, I went to copyright school, my account is on probation. There is no provision in the ContentID system to protest this action.

So, here's what I did. I uploaded the video twice more:

Pathfinder, ca. 1974, Take 2
Pathfinder, ca. 1974, Take 3 (check out the call-to-action overlays that point to this + post)

Is it possible the U.S. government created this video in 1974 but did not secure the rights for the music or other materials it used? Sure, that's possible, though it is pretty unlikely. Is it possible the government got rights to use the music or other disputed materials only as a VHS tape or only when being shown in a government building? Sure, that's possible, though highly unlikely. What's the offending material? We don't know because the ContentID system doesn't tell us if the whole video is being claimed or just a piece of it, or if perhaps it is some music or other soundtrack materials. All we know is that we were tried and convicted. We didn't see the evidence, we have no appeal.

Judge Paul Brownstein was able to take unilateral action and remove this video created by the taxpayers. Now, Judge Paul has the power to terminate our YouTube account, since once you get 3 official strikes, your account is disabled. There is nothing we can do, the power is in his hands. If he removes the next two copies of the Pathfinder video, FedFlix will disappear from YouTube. It might go dark as soon as January 18, which of course would be ironic since that is the day of the big SOPA blackout.

Judge Paul Browsnstein is a poster child for why SOPA is so dangerous and why the Internet is in such an uproar. Judge Paul took a video created by the American taxpayer, obtained from the National Archives and Records Administration, and unilaterally decided this violated his property rights. Under SOPA, these kinds of unilateral decisions with no due process would be taken all the time. The right to convict me would no longer belong to the government and be exercised under the rule of law, it becomes a private matter where some schmuck can make unilateral decisions about my future.

The public domain belongs to all of us, not to some purported rights holder. You too could be judged. We are all the government. Stop SOPA, support Internet freedom.
Dan Tobias's profile photoPeter Peters's profile photoYves Trelt's profile photoOscar Ricardo Silva's profile photo
Fascinating - and I should say from the sound of it quite troubling. Is there any mechanism for or problem with disputes through hosting on Internet Archive, or is it just via YouTube?
Hi Carl, Wow, that is a huge difference. Sounds like IA offers a much more favorable (legal /regulatory) environment for this type of work. Does the YouTube channel offer more discovery opportunities? It's too bad they don't offer some "trusted" status for an initiative of this type, to shift the burden of proof.
I dislike that i'm unable to change the audio of a video except to youtube provided content. My most popular video was one of my first, i uploaded with copyright audio without knowing, and ended up having to change it to audiosync. Now it has adverts all over it, and somebody other than me is getting money out of it, and im stuck with music im not overly fond of.
I've decided that i will just download and re-upload it with my own music, but its frustrating all the same
The same problem is building in The Netherlands. A number of ISP's were convicted to block access to The Pirate Bay based on domain and IP addresses. That might seem fair. But they now have to block every single domain and IP address the copyright organization tells them to block. They only need to claim the domain or IP address belongs to TPB somehow.
I use music from (Kevin Macleod) (and I have made $ donations to him). He has found his own works restricted by Google because other's have claimed them as their own.

I like to go to gatherings of intellectual property lawyers here in California - they tend to meet in very nice venues - and listen to the Gordian knots they have created about all the different kinds of media, modes of distribution, and the like. They have created a field of land mines. I was amused that for the exact same mp3 encoded tune the entire legal structure of rights is different depending whether those bits are disseminated on a CD/DVD than when disseminated over the net.

Eventually these copyright land mines are going to take down a major studio's multi-million dollar production that is unable to buy its way out or to edit-out the material.
I don' know SOPA in details, but for meregarding piracy, if the basic principles are :1) against piracy centers and not end users(always centers in piracy due to the need for catalogs and search amongst otherthings, "peer to peer" also a lot of hypocrisy in the terms andeverybody knows it)2) No monitoring at all of end users flow,or collection of their IPs, a formal complaint required from somebody about auser acting as a center3) All procedures are legal and publicThen it clearly is the right way to do it,not to forget that if piracy doesn't create any revenues for authors andcreators, it does create some (and not a little) for some people : Note : above more developed below (but inFrench) : "zero piracy" doesn't matterin anyway (not more than school kids exchanging files), problem is when itbecomes the default and easiest access method for works and publications.But on this, in order to have a real"user experience" added value in buying instead of pirating, and thisin a non quasi monopolistic environment (or with just 2 or three"monsters"), clearly something like below would be needed : a little cartoon :
You might need to file suit against Paul Brownstein Productions to get a court declaration that your video is noninfringing (and possible damages for their filing of a bogus claim).
I've had my video of a Arduino playing "The Star Spangled Banner" (tinnily, through a paper cup) attempted to be monetized by Taylor Swift's record label. I know Ms Swift can hit the high notes, but she doesn't sound nearly as squeaky as that!
I just don't understand how this is right. You showed that most of the claims weren't valid. Why don't those people have to go to some "ContentID school": don't claim what isn't yours or your account will be blocked.
+Oscar Ricardo Silva Most parties allowed to use ContentID are big copyright holders. If you send them to school before they are allowed to continue they will claim their copyright will be pirated during that time. They will hold Youtube responsible for any damages. And they have the lawyers to back that up.

The will also claim that in every system there are some errors. Given the number of ContentID's they have one, two, ten, a thousand errors are "normal". So any number over which they should go to school is arbitrary and up for discussion.
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