If you haven’t heard already, Ustream, the serviced used by Worldcon to live stream the Hugo Awards ceremony, pulled the stream and banned Worldcon from its site for terms of service violation. What violation would that be? Apparently an awards ceremony is not allowed to play short clips (a la fair use policy) from nominees in film categories. Doing so in the middle of your ceremony will result in a mid-sentence suspension of the feed and an apparent permanent ban (as of writing this, the folks at Chicon have indicated the Ustream will not bring back the feed, despite mounting public pressure).
One would think pissing off a sea of geeks would be pretty low on one’s list. Not for Ustream. Apparently it’s right at the top of their list of “Things To Do When We’re Bored,” which is to say they secretly desire what all slightly deranged institutions desire: a slow, painful death (by crap PR). And they’ve got it. Twitter users have been Tweeting on and off since the take-down of the Worldcon Hugo Awards live stream about the service’s pathetic performance (using the #ustream
hashtag). Others have indicated that Cory Doctorow will likely blog about this very moment at Boing Boing, reminding us all that this is what copyright has done to the world: you can’t even host a teeny little awards ceremony without some disembodied suit cracking the whip (well, the Hugos aren’t actually teeny or little, but you get my meaning).
And that, for me, is the crux of the issue. If an awards ceremony is not an appropriate place to show short clips from films, then what is? If this is what copyright has come to, then isn’t it about time we all stopped and said, “You know what, this is dumb”? Can you imagine this happening at the Oscars? Probably not, but imagine if it did. Imagine the furor. Imagine all those industry CEOs and suits getting lambasted by celebrities.
Okay, I’m dreaming here. Point is: this is a complete failure on the part of copyright and on the part of service providers to do the right thing in the right moment. There’s no logical reason to take down the Worldcon feed. None. The refusal to put the feed back up just makes matters worse. It’s pure dickery to the highest order, and a perfect example of the utter idiocy behind our copyright laws and the people trying to push for further control of the online environment.
I’m not happy. A lot of Hugo Awards watchers aren’t happy. And I’m sure the folks behind Worldcon aren’t happy either.
Edit: io9’s take can be found here.