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NBC Believes They Own Political Discourse 259

Posted by Zonk
from the they-the-people dept.
PoliSciASU writes "MSNBC has established draconian rules regarding the use of the Presidential Primary Debates on the internet. Some examples: '5. No excerpts may be aired after 8:30 pm on Saturday, May 26th. Excerpts may not be archived. Any further use of excerpts is by express permission of MSNBC only. 6. All debate excerpts must be taped directly from MSNBC's cablecast or obtained directly from MSNBC and may not be obtained from other sources, such as satellite or other forms of transmission. No portions of the live event not aired by MSNBC may be used.' Kevin Bondelli talks about why this is 'shameful and wrong'. Voters are missing out on the ability to actually have an engaged conversation about the candidates and their debate performances because of NBC's greed." Alexander Wolfe at InformationWeek and Jeff Jarvis at BuzzMachine share similar sentiments, and discuss the matter in different ways.
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NBC Believes They Own Political Discourse

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  • Greed? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Phroggy (441) <slashdot3 AT phroggy DOT com> on Saturday April 28, 2007 @03:36AM (#18909933) Homepage

    Voters are missing out on the ability to actually have an engaged conversation about the candidates and their debate performances because of NBC's greed.
    NBC's greed? I'd be surprised if it weren't the candidates (or their campaign managers) who pushed for this. This isn't about money, it's about control.
    • The media is very well controlled to feed the citzens what they need to know to make the right choices. WMD etc, faked footage in Iraq etc, Jessica Lynch etc, now this. Are you really suprised?

      I once lived in a country with a very muzzled press, but everybody knew this and was suitably skeptical.

      In the USA people live under the illusion of a free and open press which means that they believe the news media. How easily they are fooled!

      • by feepness (543479) on Saturday April 28, 2007 @04:40AM (#18910105) Homepage
        Somehow they also believe that a system where one of two groups has controlled the government for the last 150 years is an open multi-party system.

        It's ironic this incenses people so... these are debates between candidates already vetted by those in control. The powers that be don't care which one gets elected... they own them all!
        • by nadaou (535365) on Saturday April 28, 2007 @06:44AM (#18910473) Homepage

          The powers that be don't care which one gets elected... they own them all!

          I've often heard the "it doesn't matter which major party I vote for, they're the same" line. Baloney and Fiddlesticks! Just a weak rationalization from those too lazy to exercise their responsibilities as citizens I say.

          Do people honestly think that Life on Earth would be the same right now if we had seen a President Gore or President Kerry? Personally I won't give Rupert Murdoch and his fellow corporate media illuminati club that much fnord credit.

          "They" care who gets elected as it touches their bottom line in a real way when, say, the governement tells you that you have to, in one case, clean up your residential toxic waste dump, or in the other case it looks the other way by (the illegal) non-enforcement of laws already on the books.
          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by I_Voter (987579)

            I've often heard the "it doesn't matter which major party I vote for, they're the same" line. Baloney and Fiddlesticks! Just a weak rationalization from those too lazy to exercise their responsibilities as citizens I say.

            However, would you agree with the following sentence?

            Although the pile of democratic nations has been growing, when the ability of U.S. voters to influence their government is considered,- the U.S. voter is close to the bottom of that pile!

          • by SpacePunk (17960)
            It really doesn't matter if you vote Republican or Democrat. It's like voting for one communist party or another. The only vote that matters are the votes that aren't for either a Republican or Democrat.
          • Do people honestly think that Life on Earth would be the same right now if we had seen a President Gore or President Kerry?

            No one who is "fashionably cynical" about the major parties has an answer for this when I ask them, and for good reason.
        • by LS (57954)
          The wonderful thing is that many people now realize this. 6 years ago you would have been lumped in with the tin-foil hat conspiracy nut crowd
        • third parties (Score:5, Interesting)

          by ChristTrekker (91442) on Saturday April 28, 2007 @09:05AM (#18911123)

          If you're not voting third party, you're wasting your vote.

          If you don't vote what you believe, you'll never get what you want.

          The people elect the government they deserve.

          Two options is only one more than they had in the Soviet Union.

          Every November the same party wins: the Politician Party.

          A vote for the lesser of two evils is still a vote for evil.

          It amazes me that for all the talk of reform and eliminating corruption in government, no one ever addresses the fundamental issue: lack of choices, which is caused directly by our (plurality) voting method. Give non-Dem/Rep voices a fair and equal chance to discuss and promote the merits of their platform instead of dismissing them outright. This means changing the voting system to something that doesn't predetermine the "leading two". Anything other than this is a charade. A previous poster had it right - "they" don't care who wins, because it's still one of "them". The real danger (in "their" minds) is if an outsider were to get in and shake things up. Yes, the past 6 years have really demonstrated the truth in "not a dime's worth of difference". Who'd've thought that a member of the "party of Reagan" would preside over the largest budget increase in history? Both parties want bigger government, so they can curtail your rights - whether they grab them from the left or the right makes no difference in the end.

          • by StarKruzr (74642)
            I wish more people would agitate for IRV for national elections, but I think even if a majority of the country knew what it was it would be next to impossible to get Congress to vote for it.
          • If you're not voting third party, you're wasting your vote.

            Sounds good, but first the FEC and CPD need to be fixed. Commission on Presidential Debates sounds like some sort of censorship to me... Almost every argument used in the past election debates could be torn to shreds by a high school debate team. It's a platform for political posturing, and difficult for reasonable third party candidates to take part in.
      • The media has become much more corrupt since the Bush administration began illegally buying influence. See the links provided at #2 here: The Bush administration found support for war through manipulation. [futurepower.org]
      • And you wonder why political weblogs on both the Left and Right have exploded in popularity. Everybody has a major mistrust of the old-time mass media because at Internet speeds, information can spread around the world in a matter of minutes. Look at how weblogs exposed CBS News' sham attempt to show President Bush didn't do his duty at the Texas Air National Guard in no time flat.
    • It's both, of course.
  • by VON-MAN (621853) on Saturday April 28, 2007 @03:57AM (#18909979)
    Well, they've paid for it so it is not too unreasonable. Besides, I thought big business allready owned US politics.
  • by TheNetAvenger (624455) on Saturday April 28, 2007 @04:03AM (#18909993)
    Adaptation of existing contractual usage rights...

    Not here to defend NBC or MSNBC; however, if you look at the industry standard wording for usage of their content is exactly this.

    This applies to CNN using content from the debate to any Radio show across america. The exception here is that this debate was not on free air waves, so they are using industry standard usage right sharing policies.

    Yes they need to update with the times of Internet and people sharing media, but out of ALL the major news outlets NBC and MSNBC have been some of the most liberal about usage on places from Youtube to grandma's website.

    Even Olbermann himself said in the segment prior to the debate that the internet would create the winners and losers of the debate if anything major happened, as it would be shared and up on sites like YouTube before the night was out. So do you really think MSNBC doesn't get it?

    Ya, the wording isn't ideal, but if this was a 'major' issue with MSNBC, they would have had places like YouTube yank Olbermann and other shows a long time ago, and they just haven't.

    I know we like to get excited about things like this here, but I see smoke not fire.
  • by KiraFace (987099) on Saturday April 28, 2007 @04:08AM (#18910013)
    Who cares? Politics is for the Elderly, white middle-aged middle-class, and twelve other people. And then half of them vote. Although, perhaps we shouldn't blame the media...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mackyrae (999347)
      Apathetic wankers like you are the reason this country's going to Hell in a handbasket. Votes matter. If you think there is anything wrong with this country but you did not vote you CANNOT complain. You had the chance to do something about it, but you didn't. Voting is not just for old people. Everyone capable of making an informed decision should vote. Check out a voter guide, decide with which candidate you agree the most, and take 10 minutes out of your lunch hour to vote in primaries and general e
      • by zsau (266209)
        It's apathetic wankers that like him that mean Australia has compulsory voting. Voting is civil duty just the same as jury duty. Go fulfil it. It won't kill you, but it just might save you.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Votes matter.

        Bullshit. Votes matter if you live in a swing state and are completely worthless if you don't.

        I live in a "blue" state (that's a Democratic-party dominated state for non-US readers). Last election I didn't vote for either Kerry or Bush (but I did vote). Didn't make a bit of difference - state went something like 90% for Kerry.

        Thanks to "winner takes all" my vote was essentially thrown out and changed to Kerry since that's what the majority of my state voted for.

        If you want votes to matter, you
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          I guess your state doesn't have a legislature?
        • by dave1g (680091)
          No state goes 90% even Utah only goes like 60-70% for bush. Most "land slides" are 55% to 45% votes
        • by tfoss (203340)
          Thanks to "winner takes all" my vote was essentially thrown out and changed to Kerry since that's what the majority of my state voted for.

          Thanks to "winner takes all" my vote was essentially thrown out and changed to Bush since that's what the majority of my country voted for.

          -Ted
      • by guruevi (827432)
        Really, and what could I have done about it? Vote for extreme-left or ultra-left (or was it right, I don't know). There's only 2 parties in the US and both of them already have their flock of sheep that will vote for them. This elections going to be the same thing, nothing you can do there. There are way too many 'interests' and 'religious' groups in the US that will back a certain candidate. And then there is of course the inevitable fraud that goes on with your vote, Diebold for example can't get their ac
  • Are the voters are missing out on the ability to demand that the candidates not accept this? You have almost a month to be heard, and felt if you watch where you spend your money.
  • by Timesprout (579035) on Saturday April 28, 2007 @04:13AM (#18910033)
    I used to think these televised debates were a good idea until I watched the debates between Gore and Bush. For anyone watching the first debate it was blatently obvious that Bush was totally and utterly out of his depth and could not possibly be considered a credible candidate. Gore was devoid of charisma but was at least informed and coherent. Yet by the time the third debate came round the much of media had managed to portray Bush's lack of awareness and knowledge as a good thing(tm) because he was 'trying' and that Gore was a pompous arrogant know it all because he happened to be properly informed with facts and figures and could substantiate his responses. Utterly astonishing. It seems the debates themselves are irrelevant now and its the media circus that follows them that matters.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by jellie (949898)
      I don't remember the debates in 2000 but do remember that the same thing happened in 2004. One person tried to substantiate his arguments with facts, and the other looked like a moron: "Got wood?" and "He forgot Poland" were some of the dumbest statements to come out of a presidential debate. Somehow the media called it even and barely dissected (or remembered) any of the arguments that were presented by either side.

      I also think it's also the media's responsibility (as well as that of the citizens) to ask s
      • I don't remember the debates in 2000

        In an ideal world, they would be publicly archived so you could easily go review them. Although I was able to find several sites like CNN [cnn.com] and C-PSAN [c-span.org] that had links to the videos, they were always unavailable when actually clicked on. I'm sure that, with a little more hunting, I might be able to find something official that actually works, but most of what I found was audio only and none that were 'authorized' legal, complete, copies, which is the point of this whole

    • by louisadkins (963165) on Saturday April 28, 2007 @04:37AM (#18910095)
      Even better was listening to it on the radio. With no visual tricks, you could hear Bush's IQ rating drop every time he opened his mouth, and Gore came across much less flat. I plan on listening to any future debates. Last time, we played a Looney Tunes tape, no sound, in the background. Amusing was the episode (Duck Dodgers) where every time Bush spoke there was a silent, ranting, Daffy...
    • by saforrest (184929)
      Yet by the time the third debate came round the much of media had managed to portray Bush's lack of awareness and knowledge as a good thing(tm) because he was 'trying'

      Good lord, yes. 2000 was my first time watching an American presidential election, and it was incredible. I remember at the time of the second debate hearing commentators from multiple networks (none of them Fox, we don't get that on Canadian cable) talking about how much he had improved because he could pronounce foreign names better! It w
    • Televised debates have always been fluff and a circus. The issue is picking a responsible leader, not a TV personality or press secretary. Snippy comments and short sound bites don't have anything to do with the real qualities a real leader needs.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by aussie_a (778472)
      So do you still give the media that were a part of this media circus you're attention and money? If so you gave them absolutely no reason to change their tactics. If not, then I salute you.
      • I'm not American so their media don't get my money, but I do check out fox news when I want a giggle at their flag waving reality distortion.

        Unfortunately the influence of the media by biased commentators on US politics is quite disturbing. I was one of the few Europeans I know who were confident Bush would get a second term because large portions of his first term were spent fundraising for a massive media campaign for his second. His re-election frankly shocked many Europeans and caused concern as to w
  • by JavaRob (28971) on Saturday April 28, 2007 @04:19AM (#18910043) Homepage Journal
    It's not as if they just walked in, set up cameras, and said "we'll be running these debates -- everyone else out NOW!!"

    If they have this extreme level of control that basically means they *paid* for it, somehow, and outbid everyone else.

    Or did they just ask all the candidates nicely?

    Personally, I think this should be illegal. The output of our political process should be public domain immediately. Tax payers are paying the salaries already of most of these candidates, and funding the rest of the election process. If MSNBC wants to pay the costs of running the debates -- hey, sure, let them put their logo on the podiums or whatever, but the content of the debates themselves should not be permitted to be sold.

    Pre-election debates are one of the single best ways for the public to actually get a sense of who they'll be voting for... they aren't perfect, but we at least get some back and forth, and some of the more difficult questions get raised.

    I don't know much about how the debates are set up currently, but this just isn't working.
    • If they have this extreme level of control that basically means they *paid* for it, somehow, and outbid everyone else.

      It's not a sports event, you know. I mean, who do you think they "paid" for the rights?

      Or did they just ask all the candidates nicely?

      Presidential debates are decided on by a bipartisan debate commission. Primaries probably by a committee in each party.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by JavaRob (28971)

        It's not a sports event, you know. I mean, who do you think they "paid" for the rights?

        Of course it doesn't work like a sporting event -- that's what I said "they paid for it, somehow".

        That is, how did the bipartisan debate commission decide who would run the presidential debate? I'm sure MSNBC wasn't the only network interested in doing it.

        MSNBC managed to give them everything they wanted (and I'm sure running this thing won't be cheap), and in exchange MSNBC bargained for an extreme level of control over the broadcast and rights.

        That's what I'm talking about. The committees and commissio

        • That is, how did the bipartisan debate commission decide who would run the presidential debate? I'm sure MSNBC wasn't the only network interested in doing it.

          I suspect the primaries are arranged by the DNC and RNC, not the bipartisan commission.

          The committees and commissions were willing to grant MSNBC complete control in exchange for, probably, some control over what questions are asked, the format of the debate, etc. etc. I don't know the details, but I'd like to know....

          I wouldn't jump to conclusions. T
    • by dissy (172727)
      Personally, I think this should be illegal.

      Fortunatly, it is [wikipedia.org].
  • by Facekhan (445017) on Saturday April 28, 2007 @04:23AM (#18910057)
    It should not qualify for copyright protection. It is not an "entertainment performance". It is not a play, it is not a television show, it is not a pundit special. What candidates say is newsworthy and anyone should be able to record their own footage or for logistical reasons MSNBC may record it on their own but they should not be able to claim copyright over the footage of a newsworthy event or else other news organizations and journalists of all stripes including bloggers should be free to record their own versions , whether openly or secretly. This is not an entertainment performance, it is not a professional sporting event, this is a political debate and the public owns it.

    How does a recording of a debate by our presidential candidates in which there is no other content other than the debate itself and the MSNBC is simply acting as the host and moderator qualify as a creative work that is eligible for copyright?

    In addition, is not the debate itself newsworthy and therefore not an entertainment event that could be restricted as to who may record it or later show it.
    • You mixed a couple of things up. They're enforcing their copyright on their production of the debate. They don't say YOU are restricted from something YOU make with your resources. The rub has to do with recording the broadcast from their sources.

      It's interesting they're trying to claim nobody can record from digital sources. In my case, I only have DirecTV with local stations. What about digital cable? How many people really use OTA analog?

      There's actually a very, very simple solution to this: C-SPAN

      They h
      • by bhiestand (157373)
        Right, they're only limiting your use of their recordings of the debates, but I'm willing to bet that MSNBC camera crews are the only ones allowed at these debates. So how is that not the same thing? Other than legally, of course. Slimy lawyers.

        I have to agree with the other posters. Their commentary, analysis, and anything else they really produced should be protected by their copyrights, but video of what the politicians say/do should be either public domain or under one of the Creative Commons Licens [creativecommons.org]
    • by Derling Whirvish (636322) on Saturday April 28, 2007 @05:07AM (#18910199) Journal
      The King family has long held and defended the rights to the "I have a dream" speech that Dr King gave on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. You can't reproduce that speech without obtaining permission and paying a royalty event though it was broadcast live on CBS and is an important part of American political history.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estate_of_Martin_Luth er_King%2C_Jr.%2C_Inc._v._CBS%2C_Inc [wikipedia.org].

    • A presidential debate is not a pro sporting event

      On the other hand, only in America could professional wrestling reach the heights of popularity it (supposedly) has. Yes, I'm already aware of the critical mass moron factor.
  • by VE3OGG (1034632) <VE3OGG@rac.AUDENca minus poet> on Saturday April 28, 2007 @04:40AM (#18910107)
    I was under the impression that any government work was paid for by tax dollars and was therefore covered under public domain laws. Surely the taping of an event does not, by some magical feat, erase the fact that it is a government production, and ergo the public may use any footage of it as they please?
    • The debate is not paid for by the government and it's not a government production. Most federally-created items are open for free use but not all. American citizens don't have full and unrestricted access to every piece of correspondence used within the government, for example.

      It gets hazy when some federal monies are used. Would a candidate who takes federal matching campaign funds have less control than one who does not take them? (Semi-rhetorical question...)

      The campaigns pay for the travel, the network
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by yndrd1984 (730475)
      You're assuming that this is a government work - it isn't. This is a group of private citizens who are trying to get a government job. Public speeches of (for example) senator Clinton, while she's acting as part of her job as senator (or ones made in public places), would be public domain. Speeches she makes in private (like to the AARP, at a symposium, etc) are not.
    • by 1u3hr (530656)
      Surely the taping of an event does not, by some magical feat, erase the fact that it is a government production

      Consider the White House. Owned by the government. I take a photo of it. The copyright of that image belongs to me.

      You can stand next to me and take an almost identical photo. But you can't copy MY photo.

  • by nanosquid (1074949) on Saturday April 28, 2007 @04:44AM (#18910129)
    The when, where, and how of primary and presidential debates are decided by committees. Those committees can negotiate the conditions of the debates and the ownership of the audio/video material.

    I suspect that the conditions for the democratic primaries are decided by some committee in the DNC. So, the people to complain to in this case are in the DNC. If the next debates are held and released under the same restrictions, then you have your answer: the DNC either doesn't care or prefers it this way. Same for the RNC.

    I have a sneaky suspicion that the DNC and RNC prefer the debate videos to be tightly controlled. The idea of hundreds of debate clips showing up on YouTube and being analyzed and discussed almost certainly scare the political control freaks in those organizations, and this way, they think they have at least some means by which they could stamp out unflattering uses of that video content.
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday April 28, 2007 @04:58AM (#18910173)
    Now you can spin whatever story without fearing that someone might rewind and play again to see in the next election that you bullshitted them. Nobody can prove it anymore, nobody can hold it against you that you are afraid of nukular weapons or that you invented the internet. It simply won't exist anymore. Except, of course, in stories and pages picking at you, but it's easy to discount them as slander and propaganda.

  • Oh please (Score:5, Informative)

    by realinvalidname (529939) on Saturday April 28, 2007 @05:39AM (#18910291) Homepage

    In the industry, this is called an "embargo", and it is absolutely typical. MSNBC owns their broadcast of the debate (under copyright law, they're the "creator" of the "creative work"), and these embargoes establish the degree to which they're willing to share their footage with other media outlets, for the sole reason that they depend on others sharing their work with MSNBC under similar terms. That it is a political news event is irrelevant -- similar terms would be used for coverage of breaking news, sports events, etc.

    If anything, it's notable that MSNBC is willing to allow use by websites at all. A few years ago, there would be no such terms discussed, or there'd be a simple "no posting online".

    If the terms were "take all you want and do what you want with it", the prevailing thinking is that anyone could broadcast or post the event in its entirety, without paying a dime, which would be a severe disincentive to MSNBC's production of it in the first place, which in turn would mean that all the MSNBC staffers and freelancers would be out of a job.

    Full disclosure: I worked for CNN for 3.5 years.

    • Or, as Tycho & Gabe once put it, sometimes things cost money [penny-arcade.com].

    • by Qzukk (229616)
      this is called an "embargo"

      Actually, that's a great idea. Who needs the MSNBC debate anyway? Set up a separate parallel debate, bring in the third parties, and let the third parties have a go at similar questions, only this debate will be recorded in its entirety and allowed to be freely distributable on the internet. With enough hype, I think even the first parties will want to appear.

      Now all we need are some navy ships to block the intarweb ports and keep them pirates out of the tubes to make sure our
    • MSNBC owns their broadcast of the debate (under copyright law, they're the "creator" of the "creative work")

      I assume you're going off the whole "fixed medium" thing here. Simply rebroadcasting the whole thing would therefore be problematic, but their restrictions on excerpts aren't restrictions on rebroadcasting. For instance, I think that choosing "highlights" is a fairly transformative process, though of course the courts may not agree.

      ...the prevailing thinking is that anyone could broadcast or post

  • America is not a 2 party system... and yet it is...

    It's all a show folks. Buy into it if you want, but nothing is going to change.
    • I have one name and two numbers for you -

      Obama '08 [poconopcdoctor.com]

      If you think this will be the same country when we elect the first African-American President, then I guess nothing will shake your beliefs.

      Read his book - "The Audacity of Hope." [amazon.com]

      He is different. Give him a chance.

      Peace.
      • by Legion303 (97901)
        I'm rooting for Pelosi '07, personally.
  • MSNBC's debate video use restrictions are bad business -- for MSNBC.

    In their shoes I'd be encouraging everyone and anyone to use that video all over the damn place, either full-length or as a series of excerpts.

    Of course, I'd also put an "MSNBC" logo as a watermark on every frame -- in either the lower-left or upper-right corner so it wouldn't get covered up by the "YouTube" (or whatever video hosting service) logo that would cover it if it was placed in the lower-right corner.

    This would be major FREE ADVER
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by idonthack (883680)

      Imagine millions of people who have been ignoring MSNBC suddenly finding out -- through those watermarks -- that MSNBC carries substantive, public service programming.

      "Can you say, 'more viewers,' boys and girls?"
      I think you vastly underestimate the political apathy of the average American person. The few who *are* politically interested (and thus searching for debate videos) are probably not the type to be influenced strongly by a watermark in the corner.
  • by Tim C (15259) on Saturday April 28, 2007 @08:58AM (#18911095)
    MSNBC has established draconian rules regarding the use of their coverage of the Presidential Primary Debates on the internet.

    There you go.

    Now if theirs is the only coverage that exists, then I humbly suggest that that is the real issue here. Important, planned events should be recorded by multiple independent parties; allowing anything else is just plain wrong.
  • Well..... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday April 28, 2007 @09:11AM (#18911159) Homepage Journal
    Thats because the media controls it, decides what we do and dont see/hear.. yep, they own it.
  • by cojsl (694820) on Saturday April 28, 2007 @10:10AM (#18911449) Homepage
    Remember that the debates are ran by a joint R and D controlled group that excludes third party candidates. There is no real debate. The Libertarian and Green presidential candidates were arrested while trying to attend the 2004 debates: http://worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ ID=40843 [worldnetdaily.com]
  • The election is a year-and-a-half away. Everyone just shut up about it until the summer of '08 and do something more worthwhile with your time. You'll still have more than enough time to beat every conceivable topic to death, I promise, you just won't be boring people to death by drawing it out for a year too long.

  • Good and Bad (Score:3, Interesting)

    by theophilosophilus (606876) on Saturday April 28, 2007 @11:45AM (#18911933) Homepage Journal
    From a Constitutional perspective, this is good and bad. Constitutional analysis generally hinges on text, history, policy and precedent. Article 1 section 8 clause 8 (IP clause) would definitely support NBC's position. Further, the First Amendment would arguably dictate that NBC cannot be compelled to "speak" through the disclosure of its "expressive" production. The history also supports NBC, news organizations have nearly always charged for their political coverage, so the framers arguably had this in mind.

    However, the values or policy behind the First Amendment run up against those of the IP Clause in this instance.
    There are two competing policies at issue here.
    1. The goal of a fully informed voting public.
    2. The goal of incentivising the production and distribution of political information.

    The "marketplace of ideas" and "good government" theories are recurrent in First Amendment jurisprudence. Requiring dissemination would add information to the marketplace of ideas and provide for good government through a well informed electorate. Two other policy factors are relevant, political speech is the most protected form under the First Amendment and monopolies on political information should be highly scrutinized. The policy side seems to be weighted in favor of unrestricted distribution.

    The precedent would tend to view the copyright act as a facially neutral generally applicable law with only incidental effects and therefore, regardless of the political nature, valid. For example, in Cohen v. Cowles Media Co. a Republican campaign worker provided documents relating to criminal charges against a Democratic candidate. Cohen did so under a contract for confidentiality. When the Tribune found out the Democrat's charge was merely for participation in a political protest, the paper published the fact that Cohen provided the information. Cohen sued and won. The Supreme Court upheld the award over a First Amendment challenge because the theory of Minnesota law Cohen won on was generally applicable. The point is, the information at issue was very relevant to the political process but could be regulated regardless. (note that Cohen is a press clause case as opposed to a free speech case). The same is true of copyright law, it is only an incidental regulation and is generally applicable because it does not target political speech.

    Ultimately, if the NBC video showed up on YouTube, an argument could be made that it should not be protected by copyright. The argument would boil down to the policy of promoting political news coverage versus the need for disemination of that coverage. Applying copyright law here is both good and bad (don't forget Slashdotters the GPL is a copyright).
  • by nick_davison (217681) on Saturday April 28, 2007 @02:07PM (#18912887)
    Forgive my asking but where exactly does it say MSNBC are the only ones allowed to record this?

    Rather than assuming they are, how about we go with the assumption they're not? At that point:

    If you want to record your own damn footage, go ahead.

    MSNBC are being helpful and sharing the footage they paid for a camera crew to go to, they paid for the equipment to record, they paid to make available. All they're saying is, "If you want to use the footage that we went to all of this expense for, please credit us and don't broadcast it against the slot we intend to use to make that money back and hopefully, in an entirely American way, make a profit from too."

    Is it really wrong to ask for credit for something you put money in to the creation of?

    Is it really wrong to say, "Hey, you're welcome to share - just not at the one time we're hoping to leverage our investment."?

    Is it really wrong to say, "Please take the original stream rather than post compression or rebroadcast in a way that might interfere with those rebroadcasters' policies."?

    If you get over the assumption that they have some kind of monopoly - and it appears to just be an assumption - the company giving away their work with minimal practical restrictions, whilst letting you still record your own version if you don't like them, is hardly the most heinous crime known to man.

    Of course it's always more fun to assume the worst. But then you know what they say about "assume"
  • by belmolis (702863) <billposer@nOSpam.alum.mit.edu> on Saturday April 28, 2007 @02:23PM (#18912991) Homepage

    There is a simple solution to excessive restriction by broadcasters of the presidential debates and such: change copyright law. Remember, copyright is not some sort of natural right - it is a privilege granted by legislation under a constitutional provision that explicitly gives as its purpose the public benefit. If broadcasters, political parties, and the like use copyright in a way that is against the public interest, let's take away the privilege.

    What I suggest is that copyright law be amended to exempt certain categories of political speech. Perhaps the exemption should be broader, but for present purposes, let's say that copyright will not apply to any speech or writing (e.g. position paper) by a candidate for public office made during his or her campaign. The broadcasters and publishers will still cover these events - they will lose only residual royalties, which are hardly necessary to support their business.

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