YouTube Copyright Crackdown on Irish Language TV Programmes
Yesterday I received a “DMCA notice” from YouTube informing me that a video I had posted of a TG4 news report on the launch of my radio series, An Líonra Sóisialta, had been removed by them, at the request of a company called Servecast Ltd, who alleged copyright infringement.
A quick search of YouTube (Gaeilge+TG4) reveals that several more videos of TG4 programmes which had been posted by other users have similarly been deleted.
It would appear that Servecast have a deal with TG4 for the online rights to their programmes – or else they are agents acting on TG4’s behalf. Whois records indicate that Servecast operate the tg4.tv domain used for TG4’s Web TV.
This follows a recent similar action by the American entertainment company Viacom to defend its intellectual property on the video-sharing site.
The last 2 years has seen a proliferation of content posted on YouTube and, while some of it is “home-made”, a large proportion of it is traditional television content and is an infringement of copyright.
We talked about this last October on An Líonra Sóisialta, around the time Google bought YouTube for $1.6bn. As an example, we included a YouTube clip of virtuoso musician (and TV producer) Tony MacMahon recorded in the 1980s. That clip too has been taken down.
I want to make this clear: TG4, RTE, Servecast and anyone else who owns intellectual property have a right and a responsibility to protect the copyright on their material, and to license it as they see fit.
As regards the video I had posted: because I was the subject of the news report, I had expressly sought and received permission from TG4 to post it online. In fact, they were so kind as to mail me a CD containing the video files. I was grateful for the courtesy, and I do accept that they may find themselves bound by contractual obligations to adopt a more vigorous stance in relation to their IP.
While RTE and TG4 are state-owned companies with a mandate for the public-interest, they operate in a world of broadcasting which is commercial. Commercial broadcasting and public-service are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and a generation of Irish emigrants are glad of the opportunity to pay to see Irish sport on Setanta’s chanels around the world.
Adam Curry speaks passionately about the travesty of musicians’ back-catalogues being locked up by copyright law in spite of the fact that they no longer command “shelf space” on “legitimate” channels. I feel the same way about the gems of Irish culture which are gathering dust in the archives of our national broadcasters. I was amazed last year when two friends in their late thirties, one a musician, the other a DJ, told me they had never heard of Seán Ó Riada.
Of course, the broadcasters will point, quite rightly to series like Come West Along The Road. This is an excellent way for them to exploit their archives in a traditional-media way. But I’d like to see them to develop new models for this as well. YouTube has shown the way, but I’d be perfectly happy to browse similar content on a site operated by RTE or TG4, or by Servecast or some other such company. And if doing so helped support the public service work of national broadcasters, so much the better. And if they made it searchable, linkable and amenable to social-media, so that afficionados of Irish culture could help to promote it, then everybody gains. And if some people can make a living, or – dare I say it – a profit from providing a service of value, then I would be very happy indeed.
The vast majority of those who post copyright material on the internet without permission do not do so to make a profit. We simply wish to share our tastes, promote the artists we enjoy, and engage with others who share our appreciation. Content owners should not regard us as thieves, but as allies.