Friday, September 14, 2018

If I'm invisible how'd I get caught?

You know that story about the bank robber who couldn't believe that he was recognized on security camera footage? "But I wore the juice!" He thought that lemon juice rubbed on his face would make him invisible, because of that trick where you write with lemon juice as invisible ink. The recipient of the secret message is supposed to know to heat it up with a candle to make the writing appear. (This bank robber led David Dunning to run the tests that would prove the existence of the Dunning-Kruger effect. But that's not what this is about.)

Today I had my Vimeo channel taken down. I had over 100 videos from up to 12 years ago, mostly nature videos. I used to like to pick the perfect song to go with 2 minutes of some animal doing something, like a White Oak snake trying to make himself look big or a spider hunter wasp digging a hole in the sand. The one that got me taken down was a Mason Wasp carrying a cutworm. I have no idea what song I used. But some automated bot decided that video from around 2006 with 8 views deserved a DMCA copyright takedown.

So here's the thing. These videos weren't public. They were private. Only people with the link could see them. I am all about the rights of creators to not have their work product stolen. But I thought it was ethically acceptable to respectfully use a song to accompany a video with full credit given. I mean ethically acceptable to do it for my own personal use, not for any kind of commercial reason.

It would NOT be ok to upload a piece of music to a streaming service that had no additional creative input. I mean, I shot the video and edited it to match the song. I did some creative work. I thought of it as fair use as the little nature videos were for teaching about the behavior of these animals. Granted it wasn't teaching anything about that piece of music which is what the legal definition of fair use probably means.

I'm saying I felt like it was ethically ok, not necessarily legally ok. So now that I've been legally reprimanded, I will quietly accept my punishment.

But it sure does sting. People steal my rocket video and upload it verbatim to their channels on YouTube all the time. They don't do anything creative. Just straight up steal it. And if I happen to find out about it through a link in a Daily Mail article and I file a DMCA takedown then they get mad and retaliate against me, filing false takedowns for videos that were 100% legitimately mine with no music even.

I have no recourse against malicious retaliation on YouTube. I'm not big and important enough for YouTube to accept email from me so they can check the evidence in the claim and see that it is specious. I was kind of impressed that Vimeo actually read my email this morning where I basically asked for verification that private videos were subject to takedown. They sent me a letter back that basically says I should have known better, the law is the law. But it doesn't explain exactly how the bots are able to scan the private videos. I guess Vimeo made a deal with the big publishers to let them go after people like me. I wonder how that's working out for them?

After I got the email from Vimeo I heard a noise in my yard so I went out to investigate. I must have just missed the timber cruiser on a UTV. I could see tire tracks running out through the woods between my house and my lab. Sonofabitch drove down my footpath and took off where my gopher hatchling lives.
Gopher Tortoise hatchling. Still has his egg tooth

Gopher tortoise hatchling with hand for scale
This is not how being invisible is supposed to work! I stay out here so I can protect these woods. But apparently I'm invisible and I can't even stop people from tearing around in the woods between my obvious actual dwellings when I'm here! And when I make videos for my own amusement or to share with people interested in nature, big corporations can apparently still access them to punish me for even making them in the first place.

It's becoming increasingly hard to rationalize my existence. But before I cease to exist and my creative legacy is deleted off the internet I have to go through all my old archive hard drives and find where I saved those movies I made. I don't have them on either the 1 TB drive in my computer or the 2 TB drive of my photo archives. Maybe they're in an old iTunes archive in the house. Or maybe I lost them altogether. I loved those little videos. They made me happy. And I want them back.