YouTube’s Democratic Convention Live Stream Error: What Happened?

On opening night of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, Michelle Obama fired up the Democratic base by urging them to support her husband’s re-election as President of the United States.

However, if you tried finding Michelle Obama’s speech last night on the Democratic National Convention’s YouTube page after the fact, you got this greeting: “This video contains content from WMG, SME, Associated Press (AP), UMG, Dow Jones, New York Times Digital, The Harry Fox Agency, Inc. (HFA), Warner Chappell, UMPG Publishing and EMI Music Publishing, one or more of whom have blocked it in your country on copyright grounds. Sorry about that.”

A YouTube spokesperson told NMR that the missing DNC content was a technical error, stating,

After Tuesday’s live stream ended, YouTube briefly showed an incorrect error message on the page hosting the completed live stream instead of the standard “This event is complete” message. There was no copyright violation on the video and neither the live stream nor any of the channel’s videos were affected.

Even though YouTube explained the technical error, the live stream video was later marked “private.”

YouTube has had problems with issues related to its automated copyright takedowns before. Last month, NASA had a similar incident when its YouTube video of the Mars Rover Curiosity landing got flagged by a news agency for copyright reasons. Besides the NASA incident, the live stream of the Hugo Awards was blocked on copyright grounds as well.

One reasonable explanation for these incidents is that the automated uploading process blocks content if YouTube’s copyright software finds videos or sounds similar to a copyright holders’. As well, copyright holders can request to YouTube for a video to be shut down if it features their copyrighted content.

NASA’s Office of Communications Deputy Associate Administrator Bob Jacobs suggested to NMR last month that there should be a “three-strike rule” for companies who frivolously request YouTube take-downs. The unfortunate consequence of this automatic error is that these mistakes won’t go away any time soon because real people aren’t manning the copyright stations 24 hours a day.

Should the live stream or any uploaded videos be blocked after President Obama’s speech Thursday night or have error messages like what happened on Tuesday, expect bigger headlines and buzz about YouTube’s automated copyright scheme.

Day 2 of the DNC will still stream, as the video has been prominently placed on the DNC’s YouTube page.

For now, if you’re still interested, you can still watch Michelle Obama’s speech in its entirety below and other speakers on the first day of the Democratic National Convention on their YouTube site:

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