Noah J Nelson on Tuesday, Sep. 4th
It seemed simple enough.
Over the weekend the Hugo Awards, the biggest honors in all of Science Fiction, were handed out in Chicago. In an effort to be more inclusive, the organizers of the awards arraigned for the ceremony to be streamed UStream. Everybody was happy.
Until the feed shut-down in the middle of beloved author Neil Gaiman’s acceptance speech for a particulrlay well-loved Doctor Who episode. The reason? Copyright protection bots had been triggered by clips from Who and the TV Series Community. You know, the kinds of nominee clips that get shown at, you know, awards shows.
Suffice it to say the internet-enabled Sci-Fi community was more than a little P.O.’d by this turn of events. Annalee Newitz of the venerable blog io9 has a breakdown of the reaction to the event which prevented her from witnessing one of her blogging colleagues win the Hugo for best novelette. She’s also collected the UStream apology which points out that they were unable to reinstate the feed despite internal attempts to do so. Apparently their hands were tied by those bots– third party software which they are abandoning to avoid future embarassment.
Not that this is all the blame that is left to go around. Some of that has to be put on the hands of the Hugo organizers, who entrusted their broadcast to a FREE account on UStream. As UStream’s CEO points out on their blog:
Users of our paid, ad-free Pro Broadcasting service are automatically white listed to avoid situations like this and receive hands-on client support.
Not that the Hugo Awards people probably thought they’d have any trouble. The clips had been aquired through legal channels. The awards are good for the careers of all those involved, after all. It’s just that copyright and common sense don’t mix. A situtaion made even more difficult by the sheer laziness of bot-based copyright enforcement.
The DMCA ruled internet is the land of “ban first, ask questions later”. While both consumers and creators have a stake in the rules being reformed to enable a user experience that makes sense, creators and curators have a duty to stop expecting this stuff to be anything approaching logical. The bots being used to enforce these policies are sublimely stupid, anyone who has watched a video that’s been mirror-image flipped knows this. That still doesn’t mean you should rely on unpaid services, like, at all.
[While we're at it: should the websites for the most prestigious organization in Science-Fictiondom look like a Geocities site circa 1998? Come on, people. It was charming in 2010, now it's just sad.]