Fox uses an existing Youtube video in an episode of Family Guy, then complains about copyright infringement and takes down the video.

This is just one of the many cases where large media organizations have unfairly used the provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Could blockchain provide a foolproof and fair way of dealing with copyright infringement disputes?

Copyright laws protect online service providers

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a US law enacted in 1998, which helps media companies fight copyright infringement.

The law provides stringent penalties for infringement of copyright on the internet, while limiting the liability of online service providers for copyright infringement by their users.

Companies like Youtube and Google are protected from liability for copyright infringement through a safe harbour provision, provided they adhere to certain guidelines.

These include blocking access/removing material which infringes copyrights when they receive notification of an infringement claim. As a result, service providers are prompt in taking action when they receive complaints under the DMCA.

The Family Guy case - DMCA flip side

An episode of Family Guy titled 'Run Chris Run', that aired on Fox on 15 May 2015, used a clip showing a glitch in the 1980s Nintendo video game Double Dribble. The glitch allowed users to get an automatic 3-point goal every time.

The clip was taken from Youtube, where it was uploaded in 2009. After the release of the episode of Family Guy, Fox complained to Youtube and had the video taken down on copyright grounds.

This episode highlights the ease with which large media organizations can unfairly use the provisions of the DMCA.

It was reported on Torrentfreak and picked up by other media organizations. In response to the criticism on social media of Family Guy and Fox, Seth MacFarlane, the creator of Family Guy,  tweeted -

“Hey Twitter: FYI I don't run Fox, and I'm away from FG working on a new show. However I will look into the Double Dribble issue.”

The Double Dribble clip was subsequently restored by Youtube. Seth MacFarlane then tweeted

“The basketball clip is back up. Was caused by an automated notification by YouTube. You can put down your pitchforks.”

A Fox spokesperson gave the following comment to Torrentfreak:

“The video in question was removed as a result of Fox’s routine efforts to protect its television show Family Guy from piracy. As soon as we became aware of the circumstances, the content was restored.”

Blockchain can provide proof of existence

The immutable nature of blockchain provides an excellent way to validate proof of existence.

The 'hash' of a file can be recorded on the blockchain, proving proof of existence at a particular point in time.

The hash is a string of characters which is a function of a file and is unique to a file.

Since the blockchain is immutable, the recorded hash provides conclusive proof of existence of a file at a particular point in time.

The blockchain doesn't differentiate between big media companies and individuals; anybody can record the hash of a file on the blockchain.

The biggest advantage of using the blockchain to record proof of existence is that it can be done almost immediately and at a very low cost. Arbitrators in disputes over copyright can use the blockchain to recognize ownership of intellectual property.