Pundits Want Presidential Debates On YouTube

    April 25, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

Some of the most influential pundits on both sides of the political stage are petitioning the Republican and Democratic National Conventions (RNC and DNC) to ensure all Presidential debate video be licensed under Creative Commons, making it legal to share debate video footage online.

If successful, all Presidential debate footage could be legally shared, re-used, edited, and blogged about without fear of legal repercussion.

Stanford Law’s Lawrence Lessig initiated the movement on his weblog, publishing open letters to both the DNC and RNC with 75 signatories, including Wikpedia founder Jimmy Wales, Craig Newmark of Craigslist, MoveOn.org and Arianna Huffington on the left, and blogger Michelle Malkin and RedState.com founder Mike Krempasky on the right.

Currently, the major television networks hold full rights to debate content, limiting the reach of the content as well as controlling what is done with it. Lessig and company feel the Presidential debates are too important face the barriers of copyright in an age of Internet video sharing on sites like YouTube and Blinkx.

The signers are pressuring the committees, especially the DNC, which recently announced it would sanction six official Presidential debates, so the committees can pressure the TV networks. Networks are notoriously heavy-handed regarding use (even fair use) of their content.

“The big TV networks should not be the only ones determining which sound bites are newsworthy after a debate," said Adam Green, MoveOn’s Civic Action Communications Director. "Everyday people should be able to put candidates’ positions on YouTube and share them with others without fear of breaking the law.”

“Technology has exploded the opportunity for people to comment upon and spread political speech,” said Lessig.  “I am very hopeful that both the Republicans and the Democrats will help encourage the extraordinary public discussion around the election that the Internet has enabled, by removing any uncertainty about the right of the people to comment upon the speech of presidential candidates.”

Lessig admits that many "rightly and fairly struggle over" copyright issues, the place of copyright in political debate is one more difficult to justify. In order to ensure a more genuinely participatory democracy, any network broadcasting the debates would be required to license them freely after the initial broadcast by putting them in the public domain.

"I am confident that I won’t like much of what this freedom will engender," Lessig writes on his blog. "But if that were a legitimate reason to regulate political speech, this would be a very different world."

Already dubbed "the YouTube Presidency," the 2008 election coverage has fully crossed all media. The Internet is living up to its potential as candidates and politicians post messages at video-sharing sites, and social networks like MySpace announce their own Presidential primaries.