Stealing from the Thieves

Thanks to all of you who have been concerned and inquiring about what my status is on Periscope. The short answer is… I’m in Periscope Penitentiary and it looks like it’s permanent.

Here are a few more details in case the two or three of you who’ve been dying to know want to read on.

On June 4, right near the end of U2’s second Chicago show, my Periscope stream was shut down and I received a notice that I had violated the Periscope community standard. That’s not entirely surprising. I’ve always thought this disruptive use of technology would upset the principalities and powers sooner or later. What was I doing? Essentially, I was stealing from the thieves and I got caught. I was mixing the streams of other scopers who were at the concert, which isn’t really any different than being there and scoping myself. But it sure got someone riled up.

The technical stuff. I wasn’t banned from Periscope entirely, but I was banned from ever using Periscope Producer again. Producer is the tool that let’s me use multiple cameras, mix audio/video signals and play playlists directly into the stream. Without that tool, I’m stuck back in the dark ages of streaming with only on-board audio/video from the iPhone. I can’t split screens, display images or stream live interviews anymore. Bummer. Big bummer.

I’ve tried to contact Periscope. Three times! But it doesn’t seem that there’s a real live human being there to talk to anymore. I just get a bunch of legal jargon like you are in “violation of our rules regarding acceptable content on Periscope,” as if I’m a predator or pornographer or pusher. I’m a blackstar. So, “As a result, the Producer feature on your account has now been permanently disabled.” I could actually agree to not “scoping the scopes” anymore if I could just have Producer back so I could run the Crystal Ballroom post-concert chat, but it’s incredibly irritating not to be able to make amends or correct/rectify the situation. I keep knocking. No one’s home.

So why the ban in the first place? What every streamer needs to realize is that streaming ANY concert is a violation of copyright policies. That’s right — ANY streamer, ANY concert. In fact, it’s virtually impossible to stream without violating some aspect of copyright. Play a song? That’s a violation. Read a poem? Breaking the law. Video from a nearby TV in the background? Busted. Display an image from a published source? Go directly to Periscope jail, do not pass Go.

And here’s the REALLY big detail that few people think about: If you apply the rule used against me regarding copyright violation, then EVERY website, fan club, Facebook group and streamer who wants to use U2 content is in jeopardy of being shut down. No exceptions. Hypothetically, if one of the band members wanted to post their own video of a concert, they could have their account shut down. Same is true of me as an author. If I chose to post or read a chapter from my own book, I could be sued. Crazy.

Some final thoughts:

  1. No one is applying these rules consistently. It’s hit or miss as to whether you will be penalized. But if you do any of the above fan activities, it could be you.
  2. Why me? That’s hard to say. Maybe I was getting too popular. Maybe someone reported me because they don’t like what I’m doing. And it could be a number of different agencies or combinations of agencies that nailed me. It could be a general sweep within Periscope. It could be Universal Music Group, (copyright owner), or Live Nation (tour management), or Maverick (band management). It could even be I’m not saying it’s anyone of those, but those are some of the links in the chain. I’m certainly not accusing anyone. And be sure of this — it’s definitely NOT the band and it’s staff.
  3. This case is a good demonstration of how disruptive technologies outpace and threaten corporate institutions. It’s a common pattern these days. A grassroots technology starts with a strong humanitarian ideal. Periscope was created by a couple of guys who wanted to provide a window to the world, especially to social causes and protest movements. But then the startup becomes a victim of its own success. Periscope was bought out by Twitter, which gave it much more exposure and many more resources, but significantly amped up the bureaucracy. Finally, the young, innovative tech becomes fully institutionalized. I used to be able to communicate directly with Peri’s founders via DM. Now you’d be hard pressed to find a living soul to talk to. I get it — a successful company grows and evolves. More power to them. I just wish for some human touch to remain as well.
  4. One more related thought. The rules/laws/policies that guide the internet are largely archaic and antiquated. The industry — music industry in particular — is struggling to regulate a digital culture. Don’t get me wrong — I WANT ALL ARTISTS TO BE FULLY RECOGNIZED AND COMPENSATED FOR THEIR WORK. God knows I don’t want my book out there in pdf form to be shuffled for free onto any computer. But in the end, it always seems to be the scalpers and pirates that get away with this stuff. The little guy — me — gets crushed for trying to use a new tool to do something good.
  5. Finally, let’s examine the outcome of what I have been attempting to do with the Crystal Ballroom. From the beginning, the goal has been to build community. Nothing I have ever done has robbed one cent from UMG or any associated entities. In fact, I’d argue that I have only helped generate sales and interest in our favorite band.

So sorry to ramble folks! The bottom line is basically: I won’t/can’t aggregate the scopes and streams anymore. The spirit will blow in something new, probably when we least expect it. Love you all. Stay in touch on Twitter and Facebook. You light my way! Peace.