The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has become the latest victim of copyright fraud. The Demo-2 coverage of a launch was taken down.
Copyright fraud continues to be a systemic and widespread problem on social media. Content is routinely taken down by those who do not own the content. YouTube has been one of the most notorious platforms for allowing such fraud to permeate across their platform. This is thanks to the ContentID system which allows bots to automatically take down content regardless of context or even evidence. In addition, even when creators have a strong case that their post is legal, it can be extremely difficult to fight such claims.
To be clear, reasons for copyright fraud taking place is wide ranging. Sometimes, copyright fraud takes place when a malicious actor wants to extract money from victims. An example of this is back in 2019 when YouTube took the highly unusual step of suing the copyright troll after. Other times, however, copyright fraud takes place due to an automated false positive. That occurred two months ago when C-SPAN had one of their videos taken down.
Regardless of the reason why so much fraud takes place, this problem continues unabated. This is largely because, at almost every level in the system, there is a reluctance to even take baby steps to address the problem. The most we’ve seen over the last few years is back in December of last year when YouTube released DMCA tools in an apparent effort to help creators navigate the DMCA system. When we delved deeper into these tools, those tools turned out to simply be revolving around helping creators cave to copyright trolls faster. This is through a feature that allows the muting of a certain part of a video that is being claimed. Later on, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) agreed with us that the tools don’t go far enough to help creators.
Since all of this is in the US, there is very little hope that lawmakers will even look into this problem. This is because big multinational corporations are lobbying heavily to continually tighten copyright laws, making the system even more susceptible to fraud and abuse. Given how little power digital rights and civil rights activists have in the US over corporations, the only thing that can be accomplished is gradually chipping away in the copyright review process. On a regular basis, the DMCA gets reviewed for whether or not new exceptions need to be added. Small basic rights are won here, but they are very small in the big picture. Ultimately, corporations pretty much rule the political realm at the expense of people.
So, with little movement being achieved in trying to address these problems, it really comes as no surprise that we are seeing yet another case of copyright fraud hitting a big name player. This time, the victim is NASA. The US space agency shot footage of the launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. It was a historic moment where a private company, partnering with NASA, launched human beings into space from the United States. It’s been almost a decade since the last time that has happened and the moment is renewing hopes that human space-flight capabilities could finally be advancing again. In a time of the COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest, that moment of inspirational human achievement stands in sharp contrast even if it only took place for a brief period of time in the public conscious.
In that moment, even though this is largely a test flight, human space flight is becoming a very real possibility beyond just hitch-hiking off of an aging Russian space program. The idea of humans returning to the moon doesn’t seem so far-fetched. Many people even commented that we, as a human species could not only be returning to the moon, but also make it all the way to Mars as well. For space astronomy observers, so much of that possibility came rushing back. What really is possible for the human race?
That moment was then archived on YouTube for people to re-watch in case they missed that moment or if they want to relive that moment. Unfortunately, for a short period of time, the video was taken down on copyright grounds. National Geographic laid claim to the video and pulled it offline. From ArsTechnica:
The May 30 launch was streamed live to NASA’s YouTube channel and then archived, along with several shorter clips and highlights taken from the day-long livestream. NASA footage, like photo and video from other government agencies, is generally published into the public domain, not under copyright, and other entities can mirror or rebroadcast it. National Geographic also covered the launch, and its footage incorporated some of the NASA content. Then things got stupid.
By Sunday, the archival NASA video was no longer available to view, Twitter users spotted, because of a copyright claim from National Geographic. Attempts at that time to play back some of the NASA videos resulted in an error message saying, “Video unavailable: This video contains content from National Geographic, who has blocked it on copyright grounds.”
NASA got involved by Sunday and pushed the companies for a fix. “Over the last few days our team at NASA has been in touch with YouTube who escalated the issue,” NASA Communications Director Bettina Inclán said on Twitter Sunday night. “We also have been in contact with NatGeo who is committed to releasing the claims for Demo-2 coverage.”
For some observers, all this magic and inspiration came crashing back to earth by the ridiculousness of the US copyright system. That reminder of greed and so much of what is wrong with humanity came roaring back. The good news, however, is that the copyright claim has been lifted. The video is now available for all to see:
While this one had a happy ending, there is always that reminder that NASA has the resources to fight such a claim. Ordinary creators on YouTube generally do not. In this case, NASA had the capabilities of effectively walking up to the organization making the claim and giving them a slap up the back of the head for their stupidity. For ordinary creators, this is almost exclusively an avenue that does not exist. This is, unfortunately, the system that we have. With very little hope that this will change, so this is going to be the system we continue to have for quite some time in the future as well.