Seven years ago, a YouTube user uploaded footage of a well-known glitch in the classic basketball video game Double Dribble. More recently, an episode of Fox’s Family Guy used what appears to be this exact same clip. Then the network had the original video temporarily removed from YouTube, claiming it was a copyright violation.
The folks at TorrentFreak noticed that the YouTube video — which shows a glitch that results in an automatic three-point shot every time — had been pulled shortly after Family Guy had two characters playing the game during an episode:
It’s unclear whether the show lifted the clip wholesale or painstakingly recreated it, but the timing of the shots and other details are identical between the two videos.
The original clip, first uploaded in Feb. 2009, has since been restored, and all is right with the world. For the moment.
Let’s be clear that neither the YouTuber nor Fox hold the copyright to Double Dribble. The network, which also runs the studio that produces Family Guy may have a copyright claim against people who upload actual footage from the show, but not footage that the show swipes from other sources.
For example, if Family Guy uses a clip of Wizard of Oz, it can’t go around demanding takedowns of any other video that uses the same footage, even if those videos violate the copyright for the 1939 movie.
It reminds of the story from last year of the musician whose work had been licensed for use in an audio book produced by Universal Music… who then sent takedown demands of his original work, claiming that he was violating their copyright.
In that case — and likely in the Family Guy instance — the takedown demands were not sent by any sort of sneering, evil corporate goon, but by a faceless video/audio-scanning bot that saw the original Double Dribble upload, compared it to its database of copyrighted materials and determined — incorrectly — that it was footage from Family Guy.
At the same time, the lack of malicious intent on Fox’s part only serves to highlight the careless, shoot-first approach to protecting copyright. Had Fox’s copybot done something as simple as a date comparison, it would have seen there was no way the video game footage could have come from a Family Guy episode that only aired in the last few days.
UPDATE: Fox has provided Consumerist with a statement on the matter —
“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.”