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How robots killed science fiction's Hugo Awards

1:02 PM, Sep 4, 2012   |    comments
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(WXIA) -- While the best in science fiction was honored at the Hugo Awards Saturday night, fans watching the ceremonies online were unceremoniously blocked during the middle of author Neil Gaiman's acceptance speech.

The Hugo Awards are the most coveted and revered awards among science fiction writers and fans alike. The awards are handed out each year at Worldcon, one of the largest science fiction conventions in the world. This year's Worldcon was held along with Chicago's Chicon convention, and the annual Hugos were being streamed via Ustream to thousands of fans around the world.

However, while Gaiman was delivering his acceptance speech for his "Doctor Who" script, the internet feed was cut and replaced with a slate that said, "Worldcon banned due to copyright infringement."

Outraged fans took to Twitter to express their anger.

"Oh, FFS. Ustream just shut down live worldcon feed for copyright infringement," tweeted best-selling author Tobias Buckell.

Just before Gaiman took the stage, the awards program showed clips from his winning episode, along with other television episodes that were nominated for the screenplay award. Automated copyright robots, which monitor live streams for copyrighted material, detected the episode clips and pulled the plug automatically. Never mind that the Hugos had explicit permission to carry the clips as part of their award ceremony.

After much outrage was expressed around the world, the official Twitter feed from Worldcon and Chicon said that Ustream would not be resuming the video feed from the ceremony.

Monday, Ustream CEO Brad Hunstable posted an official apology on Ustream's official blog, explaining that their "3rd party automated infringement system, Vobile, detected content in the stream that it deemed to be copyrighted."

Hunstable went on to say that they were not able to get the ban lifted before the awards show ended. A number of tweets and blog posts pointed out the irony of robots killing the biggest science fiction awards show out there.

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