Saturday afternoon NASCAR set off a social media storm when it used — technically, abused — the DCMA YouTube takedown tool to block a quickly spreading fan video of a horrific crash at Daytona. NASCAR admitted late that afternoon that the takedown was about controlling the video, saying it was a matter of “respect” for the 30-plus injured fans, while YouTube reversed the block within hours because it was not “copyright infringing.”
Now Marc Jenkins, NASCAR vice president of digital media, has explained the racing league’s actions to the Washington Post‘s Erik Wemple. Jenkins told Wemple they used the copyright takedown as the only available way to stop the Tyler Anderson video out of caution, not because it was a copyright violation. He’d also really rather we don’t see it as censorship or as routine.
So what is NASCAR’s usual policy for fan multimedia? Jenkins told Wemple:
We don’t enforce the guidelines unless the content is used commercially. … We do proactively go after pirated video of the television broadcast, but that’s the only time we use it. … We encourage our fans to take those videos and to send them out on Facebook or to tweet’em out … We’ve partnered with Twitter in the past. Our sport is based on, and one of our great attributes is — it’s open and easy to interact with us.
Jenkins didn’t apologize or say it wouldn’t be repeated, although I doubt NASCAR would do so again by abusing its YouTube takedown power unless it legitimately can claim copyright infringement.
What happened Saturday shows, though, that the policy holds only as long as NASCAR approves of what the fan is doing or is willing to tolerate. As I wrote then:
If NASCAR wants the boost from social media, as it clearly does given its interaction on Twitter, Facebook and other places, it should go all in.
Here’s Tyler’s video:
Earlier this week, Larry Lessig channeled his grief over the death of Aaron Swartz, who he calls his mentor, and his anger at the federal prosecutors and legal system that equated civic activism with felony, into a must-see talk at Harvard Law School. In the lecture to mark his appointment as Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership, Lessig showed us what made Aaron Swartz special — worth watching for that alone if you don’t already get it — then methodically took apart the current U.S. legal approach to hacking and showed how it could be put right. (He also gave a master class in how to use slides and multimedia.) Worth every minute.