Should online video of presidential debates be free for public use and remix?

    by Mark Glaser
    May 7, 2007

    Just who owns the video of presidential debates? Up until this point, the TV networks that broadcast the events held the copyright to that footage and could post it online, monetize it in whatever way they wanted, and restrict usage by other folks. But Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig, a proponent of Creative Commons “copyleft” systems, started an online petition sent to the political parties asking them to demand that TV networks allow citizens to share that video, remix it, and view it online — as long as they give credit to the original source. So far, MSNBC has decided to restrict usage, while CNN says it will open up usage. Some people believe the American people deserve to have the right to comment on the debate and remix it at their whim, while others believe the networks have the right to restrict the video to their own websites. What do you think? Should the political parties demand free usage of the video before making agreements with networks? How far should open usage go in presidential debates, stump speeches and other political speech? Share your thoughts in the comments below and I’ll run the best ones in the next Your Take Roundup.

    Tagged: comments copyright law election politics tv videos

    3 responses to “Should online video of presidential debates be free for public use and remix?”

    1. John Edwards had this to say:

      Senator John Edwards sent the following letter to news networks, asking them to make video footage from the presidential debates that they broadcast available to the public.

      May 3, 2007

      Mr. Jim Walton CNN
      Mr. Leslie Moonves CBS
      Mr. Jeffrey Zucker NBC Universal
      Ms. Anne Sweeney Disney-ABC Television Group
      Ms. Paula Kerger PBS
      Dr. Howard Dean DNC

      Dear Messrs Walton, Moonves and Zucker, Mses. Sweeney and Kerger, and Dr. Dean:

      Selecting a president is the most important responsibility Americans have. In an age of 30-second ads, 7-second sound bites and media consolidation, making an informed decision is harder than ever.

      That is why I am asking each news network to make video footage from the presidential debates that they broadcast available on the internet for the public to view and use responsibly. I am also asking Chairman Dean, who is playing a valuable role in organizing many of the Democratic primary debates, to use his influence with the networks to make the debates more broadly available.

      The Creative Commons license terms offer an easy way to ensure that the networks’ rights are protected. Much of the content on my own campaign web site is available under just such a license.

      Commercial constraints are severe enough in their effect in diluting the substance of our campaigns. Limiting access to long-form televised debates makes matters worse.


      John Edwards

    2. Joseph A. says:

      It will be interesting, even revolutionary, to see what the major networks say to this. It makes sense that an element that is so central to the democratic process deserves to made open and accessible to everyone in the country at any time. Heck, odds are CNN, NBC, etc. will still be able to make at least a little bit of money off the debates even if they were made fully public and CC’d. They could leave their branding and just drop in from time to time that this CreativeCommons work is brought to you by so-and-so.

      It will also be important to see how many, if any, of the networks do end up allowing their work to be CC’d and if only one or two of them following suit will be enough or if the public will demand it from all of them. There is of course the understandable danger in the candidate’s eyes that having such content open and available at anytime and essentially forever could see their blunders and ineptitude put on public display on every corner of the internet. I think it laudable that Mr. Edwards feels this to be an acceptable risk and one I feel should be acceptable to all candidates. If they can’t stand to have their flaws in debate exposed, then perhaps they shouldn’t be running for president. I suppose at this moment, it’s more a matter of wait and see than anything else.

    3. Mike G. says:

      I applaud the efforts by Sen. Edwards to encourage the media outlets to provide their information online to be used with reason.

      As a Government and Politics teacher, I am faced with the yearly task of convincing students that what politicians do and what actions our government takes are important issues. When my students are prompted to list the top reasons why young adults don’t vote I routinely hear the same response: They don’t know anything about the candidates or the issues, and that the candidates don’t care about young America. By making these debates public and free for remixing, it would greatly enhance a teachers ability put their students in touch with the political process and help them identify with the candidate that is best for them.

      As Sen. Edwards said it is one of the most important decisions that an American can make, why suppress imformation that can help people become better informed citizens?

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