Streaming service Ustream has suspended the use of the third-party DRM tool Vobile after the system automatically shut down a broadcast of a popular science fiction awards ceremony on Sunday night. Viewers tuning in to Neil Gaiman's acceptance speech during the annual Hugo Awards were confronted with the message "Worldcon banned due to copyright infringement" — the ban was triggered by clips of the British drama Doctor Who, for which Gaiman had written a script.
As io9 points out, not only did the Hugo Awards have explicit permission to broadcast the clips, but they would also likely be covered by fair use provisions in US copyright law. Writing in a post published on the official Ustream blog yesterday, CEO Brad Hunstable admitted that "our editorial team and content monitors almost immediately noticed a flood of livid Twitter messages about the ban and attempted to restore the broadcast," but noted that "we were not able to lift the ban before the broadcast ended."
Users have expressed disbelief that Ustream was unable to override the DRM tool, raising questions about Vobile's use on other sites. According Hunstable, "users of our paid, ad-free Pro Broadcasting service are automatically white listed to avoid situations like this," a thought that is unlikely to console fans forced to miss the ceremony.