Even cutting-edge technology from outer space can get snarled by intellectual property issues.
While NASA's photographs and videos are freely in the public domain, Motherboard reported that videos of the Mars "Curiousity" rover landing which had been posted by NASA on YouTube were removed for several hours due to erroneous complaints lodged by Scripps Media under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act ("DMCA").
Automated software called "copyright bots" perpetually scour YouTube, looking for videos that contain content that infringe copyrights.
It is not yet known why the bots erroneously assumed that the Mars landing rover footage violated Scripps' copyrights, but it is likely that Scripps had previously copyrighted similar content.
In any event, the takedowns raise broader questions about the legal propriety (and prudence) of using wholly automated bots to make decisions about what content is likely infringing copyright, and what is not.
Typically, a DMCA-takedown demand requires that a human being certify under penalty of perjury that he possesses a good faith belief that a particular use is infringing a copyright. Fair use can also play a role.
However, because of the sheer volume of material available on the Internet, some content owners have delegated this delicate task to bots, leading to occasional problems.
A NASA spokesman reportedly said that these problems have occurred before, and that the space agency has tried to work with YouTube to avoid them from recurring, but to no avail.