But NASA couldn’t prepare for everything. An hour or so after Curiosity’s 1.31 a.m. EST landing in Gale Crater, I noticed that the space agency’s main YouTube channel had posted a 13-minute excerpt of the stream. Its title was in an uncharacteristic but completely justified all caps: “NASA LANDS CAR-SIZE ROVER BESIDE MARTIAN MOUNTAIN.”
When I returned to the page ten minutes later, I saw this:
Stop the band. The video was gone, replaced with an alien message: “This video contains content from Scripps Local News, who has blocked it on copyright grounds. Sorry about that.” That is to say, a NASA-made public domain video posted on NASA’s official YouTube channel, documenting the landing of a $2.5 billion Mars rover mission paid for with public taxpayer money, was blocked by YouTube because of a copyright claim by a private news service.
Within hours, the problem was fixed (and the title switched back to a calmer regular title case — see the video below). But it was still a disappointing blip in an otherwise exceptional moment for humanity, what President Obama called “an unprecedented feat of technology.” It was also an interesting little object lesson in what’s still wrong with online copyright enforcement.
Anyone who’s familiar with disasters in automated trading will know what the next disaster will be: some day a bad update will be pushed out and a big chunk of YouTube will be blocked because all the videos suddenly match something owned by Disney.