Copylaundering: Jay Leno Airs Campaign Video From YouTube, NBC Claims Ownership Of Original

This is easily one of the best responses to copyfraud I’ve ever read. Sure, Jay Leno is a pretty easy target for a roast, but musician Brian Kamerer does a brilliant job of taking him to task over a bogus YouTube takedown. I strongly suggest reading the whole thing, but here’s the short version of what happened.

A few years ago, Brian helped a friend, who was running for mayor, create an intentionally silly campaign jingle and commercial, which they uploaded to YouTube. Two years later, they heard from another friend that the video had appeared on the Jay Leno Show as part of a segment about local campaign commercials. They just got a kick out of it, and moved on—until now, another three years later. Brian discovered that the YouTube video had been taken down on a copyright claim… by NBC (most likely as the result of a ContentID match as NBC uploaded old episodes into the system). So Leno mines the internet for material to air on his show—without permission or even the courtesy of letting them know—and then, years later, the network claims ownership of that material and accuses the actual creators and copyright holders of infringement. Brian is unimpressed, to say the least—and even supplies a script for how he imagines things went down:

JAY LENO

Hey remember those loser kids, we played their bit once, remember those guys? Let’s get em.

WRITER

What? Who? Why?

JAY LENO

Those guys, we took their video about three years ago and played it, I loved that song, remember?

WRITER

Oh yeah, sure, I remember those guys. So, what is it you want to do to them?

JAY LENO

I want to have the boys at NBC say that we own the video, so that if they try to watch their video on YouTube, they won’t be able to, and it will look like they stole the video, like Carlos Mencia!

WRITER

Or we could just leave those two nice boys alone. After all, you loved that song, remember?

JAY LENO

You’re fired! Secretary! Get me someone who has the balls to frame these two unknown assholes, so that eventually their work will be blocked on YouTube! And I need fifty more classic cars!

He’s kidding of course—he knows that’s not how it really happened. The real problem is that the system is broken: the law favors the accuser and permits this kind of copyfraud, giving NBC absolutely no incentive to narrowly target its takedown efforts. But Brian, quite reasonably, points out that he’s not interested in excuses—everything that happened revolves around the public face of Jay Leno, and he sees no reason that Leno shouldn’t bear the blame.

I know you’re reading this going, “Brian, you don’t understand! It’s not me, it’s just some NBC internet robot that scans YouTube videos and then compares the videos to the vast NBC library and just blocks the YouTube videos that match up, because the robot assumes the video has been stolen. Besides, you don’t own anything on YouTube! Don’t be mad at me, funny man Jay Leno! I liked your video! It’s the robot’s fault. The robot fucked up.”

Don’t hide behind NBC on this one, dude. And don’t blame YouTube. And forget about the robots. I’m not talking to the robot now. I’m talking to you, Jay Leno. Where does the buck stop on The Jay Leno Show, if not with Jay Leno himself? The buck stops with you Jay.

As more people fall victim to copyfraud—including this process whereby a TV network launders your copyrights into their own—and tell the story publicly (and entertainingly) as Brian has done, the aggressive entertainment companies are going to have a harder time recruiting stars as mouthpieces for the anti-piracy cause. Increasingly, they are going to see their own artists rebelling against their bogus takedowns and over-enforcement, as some already are. Combine that kind of pressure with transparency efforts like Google’s newly available takedown data, and eventually something’s got to give—starting with any remaining shred of public respect for copyright law.

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