Owning the Clouds – Update

Update: An apology from 23/6, inaction from Google.

Update: Good news! I have uploaded my cloud time lapses to Vimeo. To emphasize the authenticity of the footage, I have uploaded the uncut version, with camera jostles and stretches of relatively empty sky that were edited out of the version more popularly distributed as various parodies out on the web.

Timelapse Clouds Compilation from brownpau on Vimeo.

My copyright woes with Google Video and 23/6 got attention from BoingBoing and Enturbulation Forums. Thanks to Cory for the link, and thank you all for your support and understanding in these trying times. A few updates are in order:

First off, the site is behaving weirdly because of intermittent permissions issues on comments and Movable Type dumping core and filling up disk space. A disk space allocation upgrade appears to have fixed the problems.

Google’s video-copyright notifier emailed to say the video was up, and some people have informed me they can see it now, but I still get a “video unavailable” page and a blank embed. This might be an upstream caching problem on my end, or it could be load-balancing sync lag on Google’s side. Either way, I hope the video starts working for everyone soon so that more Messages from Anonymous to Various Entities may be produced from the source material. (I would host it locally if I knew my bandwidth wouldn’t get hosed.)

I must also reiterate that I didn’t make the “A Message to Scientology from Anonymous” video; I simply did a bunch of silent webcam time lapses back in ’06, uploaded them, and pretty much forgot about them. When I saw that the videos had later gotten popular via derivative voiceover works, I was pleased and amused, and made no effort to claim infringement. In that stead, while I can claim copyright for the clip, I’m happy to let it go since the sharing is its own reward. When this is all done and my authorship is settled, I will explicitly release the video into the public domain.

One commenter has admonished me for not going through the official dispute procedure. I did go through the preliminary pre-dispute portion of the process last night, asking for identification of the user claiming my infringement, to which Google responded that the video would be allowed to stay up with 236.com’s permission. Only later did they suddenly disable my video without warning. Now I’m unclear as to whether this was a copyright-flagging bug which will be resolved — as Google’s video-copyright notifier does assert that the video should be back up — or if 23/6 actually decided to enforce an infringement claim after all. In any case, were I to file an official dispute now, it would have to be reviewed by at least one person there at Google, and it’s the Friday before the long Memorial Day weekend. Might as well wait till Tuesday.

At least one person has asked, in true /b/ fashion, to see proof of my authorship of the video by requesting that I capture the same scene again with me somewhere in the shot, plus screen name on a sign. Unfortunately I no longer live in the apartment with that view anymore, but this old photo, shot from the same window but in a different direction, has a building in the background that should look familiar to anyone acquainted with the video in question.

Many of you have asked if there’s anything you can do to help, and a few have mentioned DDOSes. No, and no. As the saying goes, Anonymous is not my personal army — in this case, even when the service is willingly offered. On my end this is really just about a buggy or mistaken infringement claim on a free two minute movie, and the problem for me should be cleared up by next week. But thank you, Anonymous; I love you so much more for your eagerness to come to a fellow’s aid.

Aside from my petty concern, what’s more important in the grander scheme is that Google acknowledge that its current automated copyright-protection scheme is imperfect and burdensome to amateur producers, especially when it flags as infringing an individual’s video that was (1) posted a good year and a half before the corporate claimant’s derivative video was ever uploaded; and (2) released to the internet in good faith that others would respect its free nature without aggressively claiming ownership of the work, overriding the hapless original producer’s authorship. Improvement is obviously still needed, not only to protect producers’ and distributors’ copyright, but also to protect the will of authors who wish to share free original content with the community.

More from BoingBoing, Enturbulation, and for once I’m rooting for the YouTube commenters.

Oh, and one last thing: what do you see here?

Update: An apology from 23/6, inaction from Google.


  1. Anonymous says:

    Vid won’t load for me. :/

  2. Kilia says:

    It says on Vimeo:

    “Sorry-There was a problem loading this video”.


  3. anon says:

    Thanks. Hope you get the vids up soon. Good luck.

  4. anonymous says:

    anonymous is not your personal army to command to attack. you get that. however, anonymous is also not your personal army to which you can declare a cease-fire.

    236.com is offending the internets.

  5. Jak says:

    Move to vimeo…they’ve been much better about this copyright bs through the whole youtube google video debacle

  6. Ben Hutchings says:

    IANAL, but I believe if you release your work into the public domain then you are likely to find it harder to fight against bogus infringement claims like this. I suggest that you retain copyright and use a licence such as CC-BY (Creative Commons Attribution).

  7. SOT says:

    Maybe I should have emphasized more? Oops?

    A simple video with your screen name on sign (and audio?) in the same location would have been enough proof to knock 23/6s douchebaggery out of the park.

    I didn’t want you in the video, because I don’t want you to get fair gamed for something you’ve never done.

    I just assumed you lived in the same place because you didn’t say “old” apartment.

  8. Sean Leer says:

    Awesome video!!

  9. Paulo says:

    Ah, SOT, now I get you. Well, I think my original video complete with unedited bits should be enough to verify my creatorship over 23/6’s thirdhand version. If I’m in the neighborhood of my old place sometime I’ll knock on the door of the guy who moved in and ask him if I can take a quick video. ;D

  10. Anonymous says:

    I say: if this is the result of developmental software on Google’s part, give them the benefit of the doubt, let it go, and whuffies to you for doing what you do.

    If, on the other hand, this is 236’s doing, maliciously badgering you for this, then I say it’s unfortunately your responsibility (civic duty?) to sue for punitive damages. Donate the proceeds to charity or something, but people can’t be allowed to get away with this kind of crap.

    Many people are with you on this. Whatever happens, best of luck.