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YouTube Copyright Claim Strips Audio Out of Conference on Surveillance Overreach

Georgetown’s Color of Surveillance conference produced productive dialog on racist surveillance policies. A YouTube copyright claim silenced it.
Image: YouTube

Yesterday, Georgetown Law hosted an intense discussion on how surveillance has been utilized against people of color for decades. Called The Color of Surveillance, yesterday's nine-hour of presentations was uploaded to YouTube, but good luck getting anything out of it. The audio has been blocked by an unspecified copyright holder.

Whether it was flagged by YouTube's copyright hunting robots or a third party DMCA bot isn't clear at this point. Perhaps it was a song played in between speakers, a snippet of a speech, or a bit of fair use footage used. "It's probably because one or two music clips were played," Alvaro M. Bedoya, a Georgetown law professor specializing in privacy and organizer of the conference, said in an email with Motherboard. He also pointed us at an archived stream of the conference on CSPAN, with audio.

It may not even have been any kind of media used in the presentation. After all, Scripps News Service once took down NASA's own video of the Curiosity Mars rover landing before reversing course. At the time, NASA said it wasn't completely uncommon.

The way to report copyright infringement on YouTube is shockingly simple. YouTube's own procedure for reporting is essentially a three-click process:

The audio to the Georgetown conference may get restored, but that an automated system literally silenced a conference on how surveillance has been utilized against people of color, over a fleeting bit of video or audio that very likely falls into fair use, highlights just how broken YouTube's copyright policies can be.