Should TechCrunch be promoting pirated BBC content? AOL owned site posts Facebook documentary in it’s entirety

AOL owned blog TechCrunch cites posting the documentary in its entirety as 'great marketing' for the copyright holder

TechCrunch BBC Copyrighted

We received some tips today about this post on TechCrunch by Erick Schonfeld, who recently took the position of editor-in-chief at the popular tech blog. The post in question contains an embedded YouTube video which is the full episode of ‘Mark Zuckerberg: Inside Facebook‘ which aired on the BBC.  The website, which is highly influential in the tech scene should surely know better than posting copyrighted content like this. This comes even despite the BBC launching it’s subscription based global iPlayer, specifically designed for international audiences to access BBC programming. Editor in Chief Erick Schonfeld appears fully aware that the content is copyrighted. He is quoted as saying ‘I suspect they will all be pulled soon, unless the BBC realizes what great marketing this is for its brand in the U.S.’. Here he is citing the justification for posting the copyrighted content as ‘great marketing’ for the BBC. Surely a trailer or clip of the documentary would count as ‘fair use’, and would also provide adequate promotion? That’s not the only issue though…

Some commenters on the post raised issue that whilst TechCrunch has no issue posting the BBC content, paid for by the British TV licence payer, it is actively discouraging its readers from using H1Siri as it is illegal and utilises copyrighted code. Created in China by developers who go by the name of CD-Team, the app allows you to use the Siri application and ecosystem to the fullest providing the device is jailbroken and is running the newest version of iOS 5. Commenters have called this out as hypocritical; and it does on the face it appear to be a case of double standards. One  would assume that the AOL backed site would proactively protect the copyright of it’s own content, but it appears happy to completely disregard the content created by the BBC in the UK. Is there a case of double standards here? Would TechCrunch post content and disregard the copyright of content from US services like Hulu or Netflix?

Many who take issue with this are British licence payers; for those outside the UK who are unaware, the BBC is funded by those who pay the Television licence fee and also via British government grants. Others take an even broader view, with some suggesting that TechCrunch has resorted to ‘riding off the back of others material for cheap hits’. Linking to copyrighted material is illegal in the UK, even when the content is hosted on YouTube. Despite the 2010 prosecution of the TV-Links website in the UK (a directory that sourced programmes uploaded to other video websites, such as YouTube), the legal position remains unclear. Surely however, the AOL owned blog should not, out of principle promote such content?

UPDATE: I reached out to the AOL owned Huffington Post Media group for comment, and Erick Schonfeld personally responded to say that “…the BBC can ask YouTube to take down the video”, continuing to say that “It is hosted on Youtube. They can also ask us to take down the embed (which we would happily do).”. I’d ask – does this make it right? The BBC commented and said “…as is often the case with third-party video aggregation sites, this
programme was uploaded without permission. It has since been taken down using our standard procedures”.

What is your opinion of this content? Is it a non-issue? …or do you believe that BBC content, paid for by the UK licence fee payer should be freely distributed to those who don’t pay a licence fee – despite UK citizens having to pay the licence even if they are only streaming on their PC (without an actual television set)