February 23, 2013

UPDATE 10:36: A YouTube spokesperson sends along this statement, signaling a reversal in the story: The video is restored.

“Our partners and users do not have the right to take down videos from YouTube unless they contain content which is copyright infringing, which is why we have reinstated the videos.”

Here’s that video.

And here’s an explanation of the scenarios that could have played out with this much-talked-about video this evening:

*Whenever YouTube is notified that a given video stomps all over the copyright of another user, YouTube goes ahead and removes the material, “as the law requires.”
*The site has a “counter-notification” process for users who contend that their work has been miscast as copyright-infringing.
*If the accused party prevails in that process, the video goes right back up.
*Note: YouTube also will reinstate videos after it takes a look and decides for itself that the material doesn’t infringe copyright, or when it feels that there has been abuse of its copyright process.

ORIGINAL: At the very top of this post is a 1:02 video clip of the horrifying crash in the final moments of today’s DRIVE4COPD 300 NASCAR race, a calamity whose toll race officials and media outlets are now scrambling to figure out. Note the source of the video: TheOfficialNASCAR. Meaning, NASCAR is just fine with your watching the clip.

NASCAR, however, is apparently not fine with your watching this video clip. It provides a different perspective on the goings-on, an even more horrifying perspective. It’s classic fan video, shaky and of middling resolution. In it, cars come into view, crashing. Then a cloud of debris and dust crowds the screen while people shout. The camera pans left, and there’s a race-car wheel sitting in the stands. Fans wave for help from emergency responders. Someone, it seems, has been hurt.

What awaits when you head to YouTube to view that video? This message: “This video contains content from NASCAR, who has blocked it on copyright grounds.”

Translation: NASCAR is happy for folks to see the crash from the safe remove of event cameras. From the far less-safe remove of a NASCAR spectator? Nah. Another view comes from an observer on Twitter:

 

And yet another view:

 

In a further iteration of the most rote, over-repeated, obvious lesson of the Internet, the video in question has slithered through official attempts at suppression. It lives here and here and many, many other places, no doubt.

Here’s NASCAR’s position on the matter:

The fan video of the wreck on the final lap of today’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race was blocked on YouTube out of respect for those injured in today’s accident. Information on the status of those fans was unclear and the decision was made to err on the side of caution with this very serious incident.—Steve Phelps, NASCAR Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer

That’s a nicely spun corporate statement. It’s hard to criticize an organization, after all, that takes a step in deference to innocent folks injured in such a scenario. Yet there is another question of respect embedded in this incident—respect for the right of the NASCAR attendee to the full fan experience. For many folks, that experience includes video action with a smartphone or similar device, the better to let their friends in on the fun. Let them post the results of their handiwork, free from the intervention of some giant, deep-pocketed copyright enforcer.

When asked about NASCAR’s policies vis-a-vis YouTube and its approach to fan videos, Matt Humphrey, NASCAR’s manager, content communications, declined to comment, postponing such a discussion until “a more appropriate time.”

The Erik Wemple Blog has reached out to YouTube and the fellow behind the video. Will update.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.