A 1985 gift to Jobs meets 2012 copyright law

Last week we learned that not even reverence for the memory of Steve Jobs can protect a YouTube video from a copyright-wielding entertainment industry behemoth.

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We also learned that the blocking of such videos can work in strange and mysterious ways.

The background: A video tribute produced by Apple employees in 1985 for Jobs to celebrate his 30th birthday, first widely circulated on news sites and blogs after his death last October, was recently yanked off of YouTube by Sony Music Entertainment.

The 5-minute film, a photo montage of Jobs' early life and Apple accomplishments, is set to the song "My Back Pages" by Bob Dylan, an SME artist. The takedown message on YouTube reads: "This video contains content from SME, who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds."

(The Internet being the Internet, SME has not been able to erase the video altogether -- at least not yet - as it is still available on the website NDTV, New Delhi Television.)

After Jobs died on Oct. 5, 2011, the clip was posted to Facebook by former Packeteer CEO Craig Elliott, who worked at Apple when it was made. From there it was moved to YouTube by Technologizer editor Harry McCracken, who wrote:

"On February 24th 1985, Steve Jobs turned thirty. His Apple coworkers helped him celebrate by creating a short film for him. They set it to the wonderful song "My Back Pages" by one of Steve's idols, Bob Dylan, and filled it with images from Jobs' first three decades. You know some of them, but only some. And they include many ones of a happy, relaxed, even silly Steve Jobs that most of us never got to see."

McCracken noted a few days later that the video had drawn more than 200,000 viewers.

Many others picked it up, too. Among the sites showing the now-unwatchable video are: PCWorld; Peter Kafka's blog at All Things D; Business Insider; Philip Elmer-DeWitt's blog on Fortune.com; International Business Times; Cult of Mac; Mac Observer; Mac Daily News; The Next Web; The Geek Center; Apple Web Master; BuzzFeed; and, The Venture Edge blog. Even Software.com CEO Marc Benioff posted the video to his Google+ page.

While I don't know when the video was removed from YouTube, the most recent comment on McCracken's Technologizer post indicated that it was still accessible four weeks ago. And the fact that I wasn't able to find any complaints about its removal on any of the sites that hosted it had me thinking it wasn't disabled all that long ago.

Even McCracken wasn't aware that the video he had posted was blocked until I let him know.

And that's where things got stranger, because while McCracken at first saw the same take-down notice that I and everyone else was seeing, he later that night reported that the video had been restored, or at least that he could see it again. Turns out, though, that the discrepancy was apparently a function of YouTube weirdness that allows the original poster - and only the original poster - to continue to see a video once it has been blocked and provided they are logged in to YouTube.

Don't ask me why.

By the way, Jobs would have turned 57 last Friday.

Do you have your own long-lost Steve Jobs video? The address is buzz@nww.com.

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.