YouTube's automated copyright-checking system is allowing fraudulent copyright claimants to make money off legitimately uploaded videos of the Curiosity rover landing.
Lon Seidman isn't a big news corporation. He runs the website CT Tech Junkie out of Connecticut about all things tech; and for the Curiosity landing on Mars, he hosted a three-hour Google+ Hang Out.
When he uploaded the video to YouTube, though, he encountered a problem. After ContentID scanned his video and found footage from NASA's video of the landing, he received no fewer than five copyright infringement notices — none of which were from NASA — due to footage that NASA had released into the public domain.
ContentID is an imperfect system, at best. While it does allow legitimate rights holders to flag violations of their copyright, it also doesn't have any checks for those who simply want to rort the system. As Seidman noted, he is the one who now has to prove that he owns his own content — the fraudulent copyright claimants, on the other hand, are not examined with anything close to such rigour.
When a rights holder puts in a copyright claim under the ContentID system, YouTube offers them two options: they can choose to have the video removed or they can choose to put their own ads on it, thus it earning revenue — and denying revenue to the uploader.
In this way, many legitimate uploaders have been tricked out of their YouTube earnings, as a quick Google search will reveal.
To make this story just that little bit more ridiculous, last week, NASA's own upload of its Curiosity landing footage was removed from YouTube under a copyright claim from publisher Scripps Local News. In that instance, Scripps hastened to rectify what it called a "mistake", but if we hadn't already known that the ContentID system was broken, that would have absolutely confirmed it.
In fact, as NASA said according to Motherboard, its YouTube channel gets a video taken down on copyright grounds around once a month, even though NASA is working with Google to rectify the problem.
This "guilty until proven innocent" approach may have been implemented to combat piracy, but in the end, it's achieving exactly the same result as the thing it's trying to stop: allowing the unscrupulous to make money off the back of other people's work.