Hugo Awards: An apology and explanation

NOTE: Post updated below 9/3

On Sunday night, The Hugo Awards were streaming live on Ustream (The Hugo’s are like the Academy Awards for science fiction). Very unfortunately at 7:43 p.m. Pacific time, the channel was automatically banned in the middle of an acceptance speech by author Neil Gaiman due to “copyright infringement.” This occurred because our 3rd party automated infringement system, Vobile, detected content in the stream that it deemed to be copyrighted. Vobile is a system that rights holders upload their content for review on many video sites around the web.  The video clips shown prior to Neil’s speech automatically triggered the 3rd party system at the behest of the copyright holder.

Our editorial team and content monitors almost immediately noticed a flood of livid Twitter messages about the ban and attempted to restore the broadcast. Unfortunately, we were not able to lift the ban before the broadcast ended. We had many unhappy viewers as a result, and for that I am truly sorry.  As a long-time Firefly, Stargate and Game of Thrones fan among others, I am especially disheartened by this.

As background, our system works like this in order to support a large volume of broadcasters using our free platform. Users of our paid, ad-free Pro Broadcasting service “NOTE: UPDATED CLARIFICATION” ‘and those free broadcasters who notify Ustream in advance they have copyrights permissions (Ustream’s messaging to our broadcaster community how this process works is inadequate.  We are resolving this now)’ are automatically white listed to avoid situations like this and receive hands-on client support.

I have suspended use of this third-party system until we are able to recalibrate the settings so that we can better balance the needs of broadcasters, viewers, and copyright holders.  While we are committed to protecting copyright, we absolutely must ensure our amazing and democratizing platform allows legal broadcasters to Ustream their events and shows.  This is our first and foremost obligation to our users and community.  Additionally, we need to ensure fair use of copyright as permitted by the law.

Ustream is committed to promoting Internet freedom, and we will strive to continually improve our service to provide the best, legal viewing experience possible.

About Brad Hunstable, CEO and Founder

Brad Hunstable founded Ustream more than six years ago with a vision to bring live broadcast technology to the entire world. Since then, the company has established itself as the leading live, social video site. Hunstable has been ranked among 50 "Digital Power Players" by the Hollywood Reporter and on Variety's Producers Guild of America's Digital 25: Visionaries, Innovators and Producers for his work at Ustream. Brad is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and holds an MBA from Ohio State.
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