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Television Government Media United States Politics Your Rights Online

C-SPAN Adopts Creative Commons-Style License 86

Trillian_1138 writes "C-SPAN, a network in the US dedicated to airing governmental proceedings, has adopted a Creative Commons-style license for all its content. This follows the network claiming Speaker of the House Pelosi's use of C-Span videos on her site violated their copyright. Specifically, 'C-SPAN is introducing a liberalized copyright policy for current, future, and past coverage of any official events sponsored by Congress and any federal agency — about half of all programming offered on the C-SPAN television networks — which will allow non-commercial copying, sharing, and posting of C-SPAN video on the Internet, with attribution.' Here is the press release. The question remains whether videos of governmental proceedings should be public domain by default or whether the attribution requirement is reasonable in the face of easy video copying and distribution."
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C-SPAN Adopts Creative Commons-Style License

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  • How do you define non-commercial? What about sites with ads on them, are they commercial?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by phantomfive ( 622387 )
      IANAL, but basically if you are doing it for money, then it is commercial. If you are a non-profit organization, then even with ads it is not commercial. If you are a corporation, then you better be able to show you are not doing it for profit. Think of google news: not a single ad on the page.
      • If you are a non-profit organization, then even with ads it is not commercial

        Not so. Not-for-profit does not imply non-commercial. Non-profits, even those classified as 501c(3), can still participate in commercial activity, provided it is not the focus of the organization. For example, PBS (a 501c(3)) cannot use copyrighted works without attribution, and even then still requires permission for otherwise-infringing use, even though they are a non-profit.
        • PBS cannot use copyrighted works in any way that infringes on the copyright law. That has nothing to do with C-SPAN, it's just the law. Allowing use for non-commercial purposes is an extra use that C-SPAN has allowed because they choose to, not because they are required to by law. So if they choose to let organizations like PBS use their materials, they can write that in to the license. If they choose to disallow non-profit organizations from using their material, they can specifically write that into t
          • Right. But my point was that the OP stated that all non-profit use is, by definition, non-commercial. This is not the case. Plenty of non-profits engage in commercial activity that would prohibit them from using the material for that purpose under C-Span's licensing.
        • by jfengel ( 409917 )
          Correct. A non-profit often does participate in commerce, i.e. it sells things to make money. Non-profit status just says what it does with the money, which goes to some stated purpose rather than to enriching the owners of the company.

          A nonprofit doesn't even have owners in the usual sense; it has a management and a document explaining what that company does. Any money it makes must go to that purpose. It can sell stuff, and hire employees. Those employees can even be paid quite handsomely, though usua
  • Does this mean metavid [ucsc.edu] can resume its activities (in high quality ogg theora, as always) using C-SPAN material without problems?
  • What am I missing? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Thursday March 08, 2007 @02:19PM (#18278740) Journal
    Yes, government records, or records of government actions/meetings/debates etc. should be public and free. If C-SPAN spends time and resources to do the recording, why shouldn't they be afforded the attribution?
    • by Aladrin ( 926209 )
      Exactly. If you want it for 'free', get up off your lazy butts and go tape it yourself. If you want it for the low, low price of telling where it came from, you can now use C-Span's media.
      • This is true. C-SPAN can pack up its cameras and go home.

        Trouble is, the content (anything produced by the government) is paid for by taxpayers, and therefore is in the public domain. I work for the government, and images and copy I produce as part of my job can't be copyrighted because anybody in the country could claim partial ownership by virtue of the fact that they paid for the office I sit in, the computer I make it on, the power to run them both, and my time to make it.

        (Whether or not I'm on gov't
        • by PatHMV ( 701344 )

          It's very simple. The copyright is not in the live speech or debate or whatever, but in the recording of that speech or debate. If I happen to bring a video camera to a public forum and record it, that videotape and the footage on it is mine, because I am the one who "fixed" (i.e. recorded) it onto a medium. Imagine 5 guys with a camera taking pictures in a public place. They may take 5 very similar images, but the copyright for each image belongs to the photographer who took it, not the subject. Or conside

          • by Nullav ( 1053766 )
            So does this mean that I can re-record a public domain recording playing on a television and assert copyright on the new recording?

            It makes sense to me why C-SPAN should have a say in what is done with what they pay to record and broadcast, but at the same time it seems absurd that they should be able to do so on something that they merely recorded and broadcasted. They contributed nothing to the proceedings in the way of creativity, other than the camera angle.

            Actually, now that I think of it, I'm pretty s [wikipedia.org]
            • by PatHMV ( 701344 )
              No, because you're merely copying something already in the public domain. There's no copyright in, say, a life performance. It's not a thing which can be copied. It can be recorded, but not copied. Here's section 102 of the copyright law: http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode17/ u sc_sec_17_00000102----000-.html [cornell.edu]

              Copyright protection subsists, in accordance with this title, in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can b

      • Exactly. If you want it for 'free', get up off your lazy butts and go tape it yourself. If you want it for the low, low price of telling where it came from, you can now use C-Span's media.

        No, the real question here is whether going out and taping something is a creative enough act to warrant a separate Copyright on the recording, than is on the original performance or Work. (Which really boils down to, it the taping some sort of creative act, in and of itself, or is it more like mechanical transcription?)

        Co
        • by Baricom ( 763970 )
          I agree with most of what you're saying here and elsewhere on this story, but I can see problems with rejecting the idea of mechanical copyright entirely - it makes the line between a protected work and an unprotectable work fuzzier.

          You say that "setting up a camera and pointing it at someone" shouldn't be protected, but is there a limit to this? Does it matter what the subject is? The environment? Does an EFP qualify for copyright?*

          Let's think about still photographers for a minute. I think it's pretty
          • but I can see problems with rejecting the idea of mechanical copyright entirely - it makes the line between a protected work and an unprotectable work fuzzier.

            Like it or lump it, the Constitution requires that works be creative in order to be copyrightable. There is no such thing as what you're calling a 'mechanical copyright' (which isn't the best term, IMO; I keep thinking of mechanical royalties). Merely turning on a camera isn't quite enough. Rather, the picture taker needs to have some creativity in hi
            • by Baricom ( 763970 )
              I apologize; I should have been more careful with my wording. I'm fairly clear on what the law is now, and I was speaking hypothetically about whether the current standard is fair.
      • by LuYu ( 519260 )

        Exactly. If you want it for 'free', get up off your lazy butts and go tape it yourself.

        Is that even possible? I was under the impression that the cameras in Congress were controlled by Congress itself and that C-Span had an exclusive license to obtain and distribute that footage. Does Congress allow any US citizen with a video camera to tape its proceedings at any time?

        If not, it is obvious that C-Span has no right to exclusivity at all. They probably do not even own the cameras. The public prob

        • by Aladrin ( 926209 )
          That's a good point. I had a few minutes here, so I looked it up. The answer is: Both.

          The United States owns the cameras used in floor debates, but C-Span uses their own cameras for hearings. C-Span even started to revoke their statement against Pelosi, but then found that some of their video was indeed among the stuff 'taken'.

          One idea concerns me now, though... C-Span has initial access to all the video before anyone else, as far as I can tell. Doesn't that leave them open to corruption?

          http://www.th [themoneyblogs.com]
    • "It receives no funding from any government source, has no contract with the government, and does not sell sponsorships or advertising."

      I had no idea :\
    • Carl Malamud wrote an insightful letter [resource.org] which addresses this issue. Part of that letter reads:

      C-SPAN is a publicly-supported charity. Your only shareholders are the American public. Your donors received considerable tax relief in making donations to you. You and your staff were well paid for your excellent work. Congressional hearings are of strikingly important public value, and aggressive moves to prevent any fair use of the material is double-dipping on your part. For C-SPAN and for the American publ

      • The only problem with your logic is that the assertion that "C-SPAN is a publicly-supported charity" is flat out, one-hundred-percent, plain wrong.

        "C-SPAN is a private, non-profit company, created in 1979 by the cable television industry as a public service. Our mission is to provide public access to the political process. C-SPAN receives no government funding; operations are funded by fees paid by cable and satellite affiliates who carry C-SPAN programming." --C-SPAN website [c-span.org]

        If you ever watch C-SPAN, they w
        • by jbn-o ( 555068 )
          We all know that C-SPAN gets money from cable subscribers (which is why C-SPAN stumps for "cable internet"), not direct government payout, but there's more to it then that. Carl Malamud says that C-SPAN gets tax relief. So someone pays for the things C-SPAN would have to pay for with taxes. Perhaps this means city and state funds are paying for C-SPAN's water, waste treatment, and roads that service C-SPAN's studios. To find out how powerful this is in another context, that of Wal-Mart, I recommend you
      • The question shouldn't be, "Why aren't C-SPAN's important recordings in the public domain?" It should be, "If it's so damn important, why isn't the government making its own recordings?"
        • by jbn-o ( 555068 )
          People are willing to buy copies of C-SPAN recordings, license them for commercial reuse, and countless programs air edited snippets of C-SPAN footage. So the works are in themselves valuable.

          The government's unwillingness to make and distribute these recordings themselves means that the recordings aren't necessarily in the public domain and it also means that Americans have far less democratic control over the creation and dissemination of the recordings. It doesn't take much imagination to see how these
    • 1) Can anyone film the proceedings, or is C-SPAN given special permission? If they get special permission, then they should be stripped of all rights including the ability to require attribution. Otherwise we then move on to the next question.
      2) Does C-SPAN send someone in to shoot the video, or are they government cameras with C-SPAN just picking up a feed and rebroadcasting? If it's the former, then sure they should get attribution. If the later, they should not.
      Since I don't know the situation, I'd gue
      • by vrmlguy ( 120854 )

        2) Does C-SPAN send someone in to shoot the video, or are they government cameras with C-SPAN just picking up a feed and rebroadcasting? If it's the former, then sure they should get attribution. If the later, they should not.

        It depends. Congress provides the cameras and crews for the floor of the House and Senate; CPAN sends someone in to shoot comittee meetings and the like. Of course, CPAN has (up until now, at least) aggressively defended its claim of "ownership" of all of that footage.

        • http://cpan.org/ [cpan.org] CPAN is for PERL, C-SPAN is for swine.... had to be said
        • by PatHMV ( 701344 )
          C-Span has only ever claimed ownership of the committee footage, which they recorded at their own expense. They have never claimed ownership of of footage of the floor, because that footage was created by the U.S. government and is thus not susceptible of copyright.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Attribution is necessary so the source can be verified. With today's readily availble editing technology it would not be hard to create convincing fakes. It also enables a way to trace back to the context that a clip may have been separated from.
    • Namely: It wasn't CSPAN that went after Pelosi for posting vids. Summary is incorrect.

      "This follows the network claiming Speaker of the House Pelosi's use of C-Span videos on her site violated their copyright."

      Linked article makes clear: "The House Republican Study Committee is accusing the California Democrat of illegally pilfering video content from C-Span and using it on that blog for partisan purposes."

      The RSC was pist, not CSPAN
  • am i misunderstanding something or is that even eligible for copyright?

    wouldn't a recording of government procedings br considered a government work, and thus not be copyrightable? or does this not apply as C-SPAN is a private-sector company recording and broadcasting public-sector procedings?

    either way, video of government proceding should be open to the public and not subject to restrictions, so i consider this to be a Good Thing.
    • Re:huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Baricom ( 763970 ) on Thursday March 08, 2007 @02:57PM (#18279210)
      It depends on whose doing the recording. If a non-governmental entity does the recording, they own the copyright to that particular taping of the event. This means you could theoretically have CNN, Fox News, and C-SPAN at a Congressional hearing, and each would own the copyright to their footage and would not have access to the other tapes without permission.

      In C-SPAN's case, what they broadcast can be divided loosely into two categories: footage shot by the government and footage shot by them. The House and Senate floor coverage is shot by crews and equipment owned by the Congress; C-SPAN merely takes a feed and retransmits it with their graphics. Thus, the floor sessions are public domain.

      For other C-SPAN programs, the network sends its own equipment and crews to the hearing or event. Therefore, they own the copyright.

      I think this is a good step in the right direction, but I'm concerned that (1) C-SPAN will use this as leverage to get their cameras into the House and Senate so they can restrict these programs and (2) that not using a standardized Creative Commons license adds to the paperwork that potential users will have to deal with.
      • In C-SPAN's case, what they broadcast can be divided loosely into two categories: footage shot by the government and footage shot by them. The House and Senate floor coverage is shot by crews and equipment owned by the Congress; C-SPAN merely takes a feed and retransmits it with their graphics. Thus, the floor sessions are public domain.

        For other C-SPAN programs, the network sends its own equipment and crews to the hearing or event. Therefore, they own the copyright.

        I would say that its all C-SPAN content i

        • by Baricom ( 763970 )

          Seriously - why go through C-SPAN?

          Because no other organization has demonstrated both the financial means to run leased lines, and the willingness to carry the programming gavel-to-gavel. I had difficulty locating the particulars of gaining access, though this site [senate.gov] has some information about how it works in the Senate.

          Unfortunately, TV is very expensive to broadcast - it always has been, and likely always will be. I don't know what the best solution would be, but for the moment, C-SPAN is clearly the most

          • In that case they're obviously adding value, and should -- in my opinion -- be able to regain copyright and control over that data. Especially since an unencumbered feed is available, if difficult to access.

            After all, taking data that's difficult to use/access and transforming/relocating it into a format that's signficantly more usable for the general public -- especially since they don't "use up" the available free feed -- is almost exactly the "services-based" profit model for open-source software and, I
            • In that case they're obviously adding value, and should -- in my opinion -- be able to regain copyright and control over that data.

              Uh, no -- that's a terrible idea. The expense involved doesn't buy you a new copyright, if the content is Public Domain, and you're not somehow incorporating it into a new Work, then it's still public domain when it comes out the other end.

              What you're talking about is exactly the same sort of a "broadcaster's copyright" that WIPO (read: big media companies) wants to push on us,
              • And yet to a certain extent that is true. Let's look at a book that contains content that's in the public domain, such as a copy of Hamlet. I cannot simply photocopy that book and sell the copies. If I do that, I'm profiting from the added value of typesetting, additional content, et cetera. I can, however, take the content from that book and re-release it myself. If C-SPAN adds value to the feed, even by just adding graphics that identify the speakers, that makes it a different product than the one th
                • And yet to a certain extent that is true.

                  And yet, to a complete extent, you're wrong.

                  Let's look at a book that contains content that's in the public domain, such as a copy of Hamlet. I cannot simply photocopy that book and sell the copies. If I do that, I'm profiting from the added value of typesetting, additional content, et cetera.

                  No, so long as no original material has been added, you can copy away. Typesetting isn't generally copyrightable, due to a lack of originality, and it's difficult to imagine a
                • There's nothing whatsoever limiting you from going to the source, just as they did. Nothing at all. The original material still exists.

                  actually its pretty hard to get press credentials... we would love to put a box in there and get direct access to the public domain feed, its just that its very very hard to get access as they are very uptight about credentials. And even if we did manage to get press credentials their a good deal of costs associated with access to that feed. You have to run fiber over to a

      • Each network's footage of presidential press conferences, state of the union address, inaugurals, etc. is copyright by the particular network.
  • Given that flip (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Thursday March 08, 2007 @02:22PM (#18278782)
    I would say someone woke up to the danger of their position on the speaker of the house's use of their video.

    They probably said "You can't do that" then realized they could lose their license to print money if they kept pushing that position.
  • Public domain (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bhmit1 ( 2270 ) on Thursday March 08, 2007 @02:24PM (#18278808) Homepage

    The question remains whether videos of governmental proceedings should be public domain by default or whether the attribution requirement is reasonable in the face of easy video copying and distribution.
    I'd say that the government cannot require a license on their proceedings since their work is implicitly public domain (except when those darn national security requirements get in the way). But if an organization (c-span is owned by the cable companies, not the government) that provides the content decides to place restrictions on their video, especially if it's just to receive credit for their effort, then we shouldn't have any problem with that.

    To put it another way, I enjoy photography myself, and if I take a picture of a public building, the choice should be mine as to whether I provide it to the world without restriction or if I try to make some money for my efforts.
    • I'd say that the government cannot require a license on their proceedings since their work is implicitly public domain (except when those darn national security requirements get in the way).

      Technically, it's "even when", not "except". The difference is that classified material is not to be released to people without any approrpriate security clearance & a need to know. After all, when someone leaks classified info, they're not being charged under copyright law.

    • by VValdo ( 10446 )
      if I take a picture of a public building, the choice should be mine as to whether I provide it to the world without restriction or if I try to make some money for my efforts.

      ...except, of course, when the building [danheller.com] (or other structure [wikipedia.org]) in question is trademarked [bc.edu], in which case you may not make money from your photo without getting sued [bc.edu] by the building's trademark owner.

      W

      • by bhmit1 ( 2270 )
        Thanks for the danheller.com link, great site. And point well made about the trademarks, though I don't think that's going to be an issue with what c-span is broadcasting.
      • Odd choice of cites. The court felt that the building design was probably not trademarkable, but naturally had to boot it back down to be properly decided. This is not to say that it's impossible, but it isn't easy or common, and given that trademarks have their limits (e.g. trademark fair use), it generally isn't a big concern.
  • A congressperson being accused of copyright infringement. Why the hell does a company own the copyright to the Americans peoples only source of in depth legislative coverage? I like many assumed they were a government agency. Do they even show commercials? Whoever is responsible for this should hang, or something unpleasant.
    • Re:priceless (Score:4, Insightful)

      by bhmit1 ( 2270 ) on Thursday March 08, 2007 @02:34PM (#18278936) Homepage

      Why the hell does a company own the copyright to the Americans peoples only source of in depth legislative coverage?

      After the $5,000 bill for a toilet seat, do you really want to know how much it would cost the government to run a television feed and pay for the air time? We've got better things to spend money on when c-span does a perfectly fine job for 99.999% of the country.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Dr. Eggman ( 932300 )
      A company owns the copyright because they're the ones recording it. The government doesn't care about broadcasting proceedings and the only difference between C-SPAN and CNN is the news they cover (maybe a sense of style too.) If you don't like the idea of a company having a copyright on the material they recorded, then you can just record it yourself (after jumping through who knows how many hoops.)

      Of course, you might want to form a company, since you yourself can't cover it all...

      And you'll need some
    • The copyright is on the recording, not the event. The same thing comes up in the music business all the time...it's possible for an artist to own the copyright to a song, but a label to own copyright to a particular recording of that song. If the artist ever leaves the label, they can keep selling that record without penalty, and the artist can re-record it or continue to play it live without penalty.

      For the purposes of this case, for instance, C-SPAN can't tell you to take down a site with a transcript
  • whether the attribution requirement is reasonable in the face of easy video copying and distribution

    The hard part is having somebody run the cameras. Asking for attribution in exchange for using the results seems perfectly reasonable to me.
    • And it's not like the C-SPAN logo isn't prominently displayed on the bottom of he screen and on the crawl in the first place. It's like it attributes itself.

  • Someone slapping copyright issues onto what is the public's business? Gee golly, anything but that! This has happened before, will happen again. Move along. This doesn't mean it isn't right, but it happens all the time. Smacks of profiteering to me, although I can't follow the money myself. I'm sure it's there somewhere.
    • by tygt ( 792974 )
      The White House is a public building. If I take a picture of it, I own the copyright on the picture.

      The Grand Canyon is public. Similarly, pictures of the Grand Canyon that I take have my copyright.

      So, why wouldn't a videotape of a public function belong the he who took the videotape?

  • I think if everyone pursued members of Congress with the vigor that the *IAA does whenever they broke copyright law - we might would see some changes in that law. Don't hold your breath for major companies to make waves however.
  • If attribution for works has ever been reasonable (which of course it is), how can the increase in the ease of copying the material make it less reasonable to give credit to the person or entity that did the work, or had the creative spark or skill to make the material desireable to use? That entire notion - that it's just so easy to lay hands on something now, that it feels by comparison like too much trouble to fret about violating someone's copyright... nonsense. The same technology may or may not make i
    • If attribution for works has ever been reasonable (which of course it is)

      I disagree. Attribution should not be required by law. It serves no necessary purpose. It may be polite, it may be useful in scholarly works or news media, and where the material is copyrighted, it may be required by the copyright holder in exchange for his permission (if needed). But it ought not to be manditory; no one should be compelled to thank or even credit anyone, in every circumstance, whether they used someone's work or not.
  • It is the correct decision. I can't imagine any other outcome. However there should be no license for public hearings of any kind. It must be completely in the public domain. C-SPAN, if they have any business model, should be only first sale to cable operators, which no further encumbrances for any copying.
  • Sirius Sat. Radio wanted to be able to pre-empt their C-SPAN channel for sports events. C-SPAN said no, so Sirius canceled the channel. XM Sat. Radio still has C-SPAN, which also broadcasts on AM and FM in Washington.
  • I fail to see how a video of government officials doing their job would imply copyright protections to further the 'art or science' which is what copyright was supposed to protect.
  • If push came to shove, I have doubts that C-Span would be able to successfully claim a copyright on any particular event they covered. There's still no "sweat of the brow" copyright in the US, and C-SPAN's original input to its footage is near-nonexistent. They could win based on editing and selection, but they could lose everything -- which is probably a large reason for this "liberalized" copyright policy. They don't want this to go to court, particularly not against politically powerful people with to
  • The American people paid for the producers, screenwriters, directors, and actors in this particular film. The cable companies paid for the cameras, operators and the "film."

    There should be a compromise here. C-Span gets complete copyright for the 2 months, people who use the footage must provide attribution for the first 2 years, and after that, it's public domain.
    • I disagree. I think it'd be better to have Congress simply have their own staff (probably via the Library of Congress) film everything so that it's public domain to begin with. Governmental transparency is an important job for government, and leaving this to outside parties with conflicting interests is not acceptable. There's a similar reason for why the government should effectively put Lexis and West out of business, by providing original legal materials themselves, at no charge, to everyone who wants th
      • Good point. Although it would cost extra money, compared to the rest of the government, it would be a drop in the bucket to publish all the laws and all the processes that lead up to those laws to anyone who wanted them. There was a time in ancient Rome, when all the laws were carved in stone around the Senate building, free for anyone to read them. Using the Library of Congress and the Internet, we can go back to that ideal, where all the law is free for anyone to read.

        Question: Which laws must you f
  • Good for them. The attribution requirement is, I think, a good idea. They put the effort into capturing the event, so they should get the credit.

    But more than that, they have the option of editorial control over the content they capture and process. If they pass it through unchanged, it's helpful for us to have attribution so that we can learn what honest brokers they are. And if they alter the content, it's also helpful for us to know the source of the alteration so that we can judge the merit of the edits
  • which will allow non-commercial copying, sharing, and posting of C-SPAN video on the Internet, with attribution

    Why do they exclude commercial uses, while allowing political? Personally, I prefer merchants to politicians...

    Remember the "No Call List"? Businesses must check it, but politicians don't have to (and their automatic calls are getting increasingly annoying with each elections). At the time, the discrepancy was explained by politicians crafting the exceptions for themselves...

    But why is C-SPAN

  • Heh. Am I the only Perl hacker here who glossed over the S in C-SPAN and just read CPAN?
  • "C-SPAN is introducing a liberalized..."

    Bah! More liberal media, undermining the country, blah blah grumble etc....
  • This will make for some interesting re-mixes and mash-ups.

I've noticed several design suggestions in your code.

Working...