Late Friday afternoon I received the following email from TVW President Greg Lane:
Dear Mr. Goldstein:
As the President of TVW, Washington State’s Public Affairs Television Network, I am writing to inform you that we are contacting YouTube and requesting they remove video clips posted which violate our copyright.
Because our commitment is to “gavel-to-gavel” coverage of statewide public affairs, TVW does not allow editing of our programming, and our copyright generally requires prior approval before any use can be made.
TVW’s unique contribution to the public debate in our state is to bring the entirety of events such as debates, conventions and legislative proceedings before citizens. As a result, we do allow individuals to link to complete TVW events. For example, if you would like to link to the entire event you posted on your blog on June 4, you can find it here, and you are very welcome to link to the complete event. If you would like links to other events, you can find them by searching TVW’s website. Our staff is also available to provide assistance if needed.
Thank you for your cooperation. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions about our policy.
Notice that Lane (formerly Republican AG Rob McKenna’s chief of staff) didn’t ask me to remove the clip, he simply informed me that they were going straight to YouTube. Well, I wasn’t in a very good mood at the time, and was in a rush to head out the door, so I just quickly and curtly replied that if YouTube pulled the clip “I suppose I’ll just have to serve it myself and leave it to you to sue me.”
And that’s exactly what I intend to do, more or less… though I probably should have explicated my reasons so as not to come off as angry or impolite. My bad.
The clip in question consists of only 37 seconds out of an hour and five minutes of total coverage, and while I sympathize with TVW’s mission, if there is ever an example of the “fair use” doctrine, this is it. I have updated the original post to include a copyright notice and a link to the source video, and if I’m forced to repost I suppose I’ll try to edit the clip down to under 30 seconds. But that’s about as far as I’m willing to go without a court order.
TVW can write whatever it wants into its license agreement, but they can’t automatically impose more stringent copyright restrictions than provided by law. I signed no contract nor agreed to any license; I merely downloaded the WMV file from the TVW website (using perfectly legal software), excerpted a contiguous clip, and uploaded it to YouTube. My actions were both ethical and legal.
There are reasons why the courts have carved out, and Congress eventually codified, a fair use exemption for the purposes of news reporting and commentary, no doubt one of them being that an informed electorate, absolutely crucial to the functioning of our democracy, has needs that clearly trump the prerogatives of the copyright holder. And there is no better indication of the newsworthiness of Dave Reichert’s embarrassing speech within the context of the current election cycle than the fact that his campaign (or his party) has obviously prompted TVW to seek removal of this easily accessible clip, knowing full well that few voters will bother to sit through the entire hour-plus of tedious speechifying.
The disputed clip is far from the only TVW material on YouTube; hell, I’ve had another TVW clip in my publicly viewable YouTube gallery for over a year and a half! Clearly, TVW does not actively search YouTube for potential copyright violations—as far as I can tell they only go after those clips they’re pressured to go after.
Somebody complained to TVW, and it’s not hard to guess who or why. Reichert’s campaign wants to prevent us from easily comparing and contrasting his words before a gathering of the party elite, with his promises to voters, because these words are damaging. And the best way to hide Reichert’s public words from the public is to keep them buried 41 minutes into a 65 minute piece of insufferably boring streaming video.
Of course, if Reichert isn’t embarrassed to have his speech widely disseminated, he could always waive the extraordinary protections TVW is seeking on his behalf, and publicly urge them to grant reproduction without restriction, rather than privately nudging them to harass me for exercising my legal rights. But I’m not holding my breath.
So for now, enjoy Reichert promising to cut Medicare… while you can:
(©2006 TVW. View full source here.)
YouTube finally pulled the clip, so I’ve uploaded it to LiveLeak. (I’m willing to play this game as long as TVW is.)