stefan-cosma-qa9EuWPsgFU-unsplashWe've placed an awful lot of faith in technology to fix problems and generally bail us out of issues we've created for ourselves as a species, from the biggest existential threats to the smallest inconveniences. Which is all well and good, save for the fact that tech has shown itself to be as smart as we might assume it to be, or rather is only as smart as the people creating and programming it.

In the field of IP, automated copyright detection tools have bedeviled creators and users with their inability to parse fair use from genuine copyright infringement, which, when paired with overzealous copyright holders, makes it impossible for anyone to use copyrighted materials online — even if you're the owner of said material.

Such was the case for Star Trek during the first of its panels for the online-only version of this year's San Diego Comic Con. The franchise's panel for its series Star Trek: Discovery was briefly taken offline by YouTube due to a glitch in its copyright protection system, leaving fans in the dark for about twenty minutes. (Fortunately, hardcore fans are known for being both patient and forgiving.) Deadline's write-up of the incident includes a statement from a CBS All Access representative stating that the issue was a malfunction of its content protection that blocked the video for users that joined mid-stream.

Fortunately for Star Trek, the issue didn't affect any of its other panels, nor is the issue apparent in the recording of the Discovery panel. Still, it does illustrate the larger issue with the automation of copyright protection programs. Setting aside the irony of technology glitches befalling a franchise that features teleportation and the ability to replicate a cup of hot Earl Grey tea out of nothing, the fact that Star Trek was foisted on its own Picard — er, petard— should demonstrate that such systems aren't the best means of managing copyrights online.

Automated copyright software certainly works as a blunt instrument, and undoubtedly Star Trek and other big properties and companies are happy for it to work as such, but platforms and others should at least pretend at an interest in protecting smaller creators who aren't falling afoul of fair use principles. Sadly, this will only ever be a blip for both Trek and YouTube, and the show's promise of better living through technology remains achingly far away.

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