Fox ‘Stole’ a Game Clip, Used it in Family Guy & DMCA’d the Original

This week's episode of Family Guy included a clip from 1980s Nintendo video game Double Dribble showing a glitch to get a free 3-point goal. Fox obtained the clip from YouTube where it had been sitting since it was first uploaded in 2009. Shortly after, Fox told YouTube the game footage infringed its copyrights. YouTube took it down.

familyguyJust when you think you’ve seen every ridiculous example of a bogus DMCA-style takedown, another steps up to take the crown. This week’s abomination comes courtesy of Fox and it’s an absolute disaster.

In last Sunday’s episode of Family Guy titled “Run, Chris, Run“, Peter and Cleveland play the 1980s classic Nintendo video game Double Dribble. Peter doesn’t play fair though and exploits a glitch in the game that allows his player to shoot a three-point goal every time. The clip is available on YouTube.

Perhaps surprisingly the game glitch is absolutely genuine and was documented in a video that was uploaded to YouTube by a user called ‘sw1tched’ back in February 2009.

“This is an automatic shot my brothers and I found on the NES Double Dribble back in the 80’s when it was released. I know others know this also, but as long as you release at the right point it is automatic. The half court shot I took at the end goes in 80% of the time, but i didn’t want to keep recording….HAHA,” sw1tched wrote.

Interestingly the clip that was uploaded by sw1tched was the exact same clip that appeared in the Family Guy episode on Sunday. So, unless Fox managed to duplicate the gameplay precisely, Fox must’ve taken the clip from YouTube.

Whether Fox can do that and legally show the clip in an episode is a matter for the experts to argue but what followed next was patently absurd. Shortly after the Family Guy episode aired, Fox filed a complaint with YouTube and took down the Double Dribble video game clip on copyright grounds. (mirror Daily Motion)

doubledribble-1

Faced with yet another example of a blatantly wrongful takedown, TorrentFreak spoke with Fight for the Future CTO Jeff Lyon. Coincidentally he’d just watched the episode in question.

“It’s most likely that this is just another example of YouTube’s Content ID system automatically taking down a video without regard to actual copyright ownership and fair use. As soon as FOX broadcast that Family Guy episode, their robots started taking down any footage that appeared to be reposted from the show — and in this case they took down the footage they stole from an independent creator,” Lyon says.

“The problem with an automated DMCA takedown system is that robots can never know the difference between fair use and copyright infringement. It is not hyperbolic to call this mass censorship,” he continues.

“Instead of copyright holders having to prove a video is infringing, their scanning software can take it down automatically, and then it falls on the creator to prove they had a right to post it. Creators are discouraged from filing counter-notices to stand up for their work, facing lost revenue and permanent bans from online platforms. This erodes fair use and free speech on the Internet.”

The entire situation is indeed bewildering and utterly ridiculous. The original Double Dribble game came out in 1987, some 12 years before the very first episode of Family Guy aired in 1999. The clip of the glitch was uploaded by sw1tched more than seven years ago. Then somehow Fox came along, copied it, put it into their TV show, claimed copyright on it, and then nuked the original clip from the Internet.

You couldn’t make it up. Nor would you want to.

Update1: The folks at Takedownabuse.org are featuring this story in a petition.

Update2: The video has now been restored

Update3: A Fox spokesperson sent in the following comment: “The video in question was removed as a result of Fox’s routine efforts to protect its television show Family Guy from piracy. As soon as we became aware of the circumstances, the content was restored.”

Update 4: YouTube user Hamza informs TorrentFreak that a clip he recorded of the game Tecmo Bowl was also used in the same Family Guy episode. It too was taken down and later restored.

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