An Example of When Large Companies Abuse Copyright Law

Whenever you buy a film on DVD or Blu-Ray, you are told about how it is illegal to copy the film and sell it. Whenever you buy a music CD, you are warned about piracy. The same thing happens in books and other types of content.

What you may not know is that many of the companies and organisations that spend a lot of time threatening customers with legal action are prone to abusing copyright law themselves.

This does not justify customers ripping off content, but it is infuriating that large companies are not held being held accountable in the same way that the rest of us are.

I have seen many instances of companies abusing copyright law. Movies are notorious for copying ideas from books and screenplays and not getting credit. Advertising companies have been found to be using music without the artists’s consent.

This week I came across a bizarre incident in which media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s Fox network published content from YouTube without consent and then had the original video removed.

Allow me to explain what happened.

The Curious Case of Double Dribble

Last Sunday Fox aired an episode of Family Guy entitled “Run, Chris, Run“. The episode featured footage from the classic NES basketball game Double Dribble.

Double Dribble is a game that I have always held close to my heart as I played it all the time with my brother and friends when I was a kid.

One of the glitches in the game was that if you ran to the bottom of the court and shot a three pointer, it always went in. This was referenced in the Family Guy episode and live footage of it was shown.

Watch the video below to see the footage being used in the episode.

Family Guy Double Dribble

All the producers had to do was record footage of Double Dribble from an old NES console. Alternatively, they could have saved a lot of hassle and recorded footage from one of the many NES emulators that are available online.

They did neither.

Instead, they simply used the footage from YouTuber sw1tched’s video that he had recorded. You can see this video below.

Double Dribble - NES - Automatic Shot

This is where the story gets interesting.

Despite the fact that the user sw1tched had uploaded this footage of Double Dribble to YouTube on 21 February 2009, more than seven years prior to “Run, Chris, Run” being aired, the video was removed from YouTube.

Double Dribble Video Blocked
Fox used a video without permission and then managed to get the original video removed on copyright grounds.

I came across this story a few days ago via GameSpot when the story was shared on Twitter. They had covered the story after TorrentFreak covered the issue.

TorrentFreak reported that the footage of the NES game Tecmo Bowl used in the game also meant the original video was brought down.

Final Thoughts

It was wrong of the producers of Family Guy to use content that was not theirs; especially when you consider how much effort networks such as Fox spend tackling illegal downloaders.

Those videos have been restored, but the whole incident highlights the problems that can arise when an automated copyright system such as YouTube’s Content ID is in place.

YouTube Content ID

Google is notorious for offering terrible support. Sorry, that is a lie. Google is notorious for offering no support.

I have read many scare stories from Adsense publishers and Adwords advertisers who have had their accounts closed without any explanation why. Despite earning tens of thousands of dollars or spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, they were unable to get anyone on the phone to rectify their account issue.

That is what concerns me as a publisher. It’s worrying to know that not only can large companies use my content without permission, but they can automatically flag my content as stolen. If that happens, restoring the video could be a real pain in the ass (not to mention the revenue that would be lost).

This whole story is a little bizarre, but I think it illustrates the hypocrisy that many large organisations have about content.

I fully agree that TV studios and movie networks should protect their intellectual properties, but if they want the general public to comply and not download content illegally they have to lead by example and not steal content from others.

What’s your view on this issue?

Let me know in the comment area below :)

Kevin

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