Taming the Pinto-bots

Read this story about how Sony’s automated copyright bots prevented a band from posting their own video on YouTube and you get a great examples of why the way we deal with copyright violations online is utterly broken:

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.

The problem is pretty simple: if you’re a publisher or giant media corporation, there is no downside to this system. You automate the whole thing, and yes, you are going to be firing off takedown notices for fan contributions, a video of a birthday party with a radio in the background, or even footage of news events. Sure, you could try to make the bots better at finding actual copyright violations, but why bother? That takes time and money.

So instead some random individual whose stuff is taken down has to go through an onerous process of appealing the decision and trying to get YouTube or whomever to realize that they got a nonsensical takedown notice, and fix it. Of course many will just give up.

But spamming out takedown notices without some basic effort to make sure they’re legitimate is bad, antisocial behavior. It interferes with the ability of others to use online services to share content in 100% legal and appropriate ways. The way to make it better is to punish bad actors like Sony. And there are lots of ways to do that, from charging a fee for every frivolous violation to simply halting the process for the worst offenders (Hi, Sony!) and if they are not doing it correctly, require them to submit takedown notices created by human lawyers, or stop accepting any at all until there’s evidence shown that the offender has cleaned up their act.

The economics of the situation then change, hopefully dramatically. I call it the Pinto Effect.


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