It wouldn’t be a virtual event without a few technical difficulties. Though I can’t imagine the media giants showcasing at San Diego Comic-Con’s online event were worried about copyright violations affecting their panels. Considering, you know, they’re the ones that own the copyright.
Of course, that’s exactly what happened.
On Thursday, ViacomCBS livestreamed an hour-long panel for this year’s virtual SDCC to showcase properties in its ever-expansive Star Trek universe such as Picard, Discovery, and the upcoming Star Trek: Lower Decks. The stream briefly went dark, however, after YouTube’s copyright bots flagged the stream and replaced it with a warning that read: “Video unavailable: This video contains content from CBS CID, who has blocked it on copyright grounds.”
The hiccup occurred as the cast and producers of Discovery performed an “enhanced” read-through of the show’s season 2 finale accompanied by sound effects and on-screen storyboards. Evidently, the video sounded enough like the real deal to trigger YouTube’s software, even if it was obvious from looking at the stream that it wasn’t pirated content.
It only took about 20 minutes for the feed to be restored, but the irony of CBS’s own panel running afoul of its copyright (even accidentally) was too good for audiences to gloss over. As noted by Gizmodo’s Beth Elderkin, a later Cartoon Network panel livestream was similarly pulled offline over a copyright claim from its parent company, Turner Broadcasting.
YouTube did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment, but all signs to this being copyright bots getting a little too overzealous. Obviously, Turner and CBS get zero benefit from blocking their own marketing content, particularly at a time when the ongoing covid-19 pandemic has pushed major media events like SDCC online. And given that this has happened twice now, chances are CBS and Turner won’t be the last media companies scrambling to correct an erroneous flag by YouTube’s software during SDCC.
While inarguably a first-world problem, hopefully YouTube can tinker with its overeager copyright bots to prevent this annoyance in the future (after all, who knows how long we’ll be social distancing for at this point). Even though the panel was restored, international Star Trek fans won’t be able to catch it on YouTube thanks to this copyright snafu. The recording (sans embarrassing downtime in the middle) is also available on the series’s official website, as CBS’s Star Trek Twitter account points out.