by Arlen Parsa
CNN announced that it plans to release all debate footage it broadcasts in their upcoming presidential debates under a Creative Commons type license Saturday.
“Due to the historical nature of presidential debates and the significance of these forums to the American public,” CNN said in a statement, “CNN debate coverage will be made available without restrictions at the conclusion of each live debate.”
“We believe this is good for the country and good for the electoral process. This decision will apply to all of CNN’s presidential debates, beginning with the upcoming New Hampshire debates in June,” continued in the media advisory sent to other news organizations and posted online.
Several prominent liberal and conservative bloggers had joined together to endorse a proposal by Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig in April requesting that all television debates during the 2008 Presidential election cycle be released without restriction for internet usage.
Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) was the first candidate to endorse Lessig’s proposal, saying that “As you know, the Internet has enabled an extraordinary range of citizens to participate in the political dialogue around this election.”
“Much of that participation will take the form of citizen generated content. We, as a Party, should do everything that we can to encourage this participation,” Obama continued, later saying he believed that the legal principle of fair use should apply to presidential debates.
Fellow Democratic presidential hopeful and former North Carolina Senator John Edwards joined the call shortly afterwards, saying that the debates should be released specifically under a Creative Commons license and noting that “Much of the content on my own campaign web site is available under just such a license.” Senator Obama’s website is also published under Creative Commons.
So far, no Republican candidates have called for their debates to make their debates freely available, however several prominent conservative bloggers and the former internet director of the Republican National Committee have called on the RNC to pressure the news organizations it has partnered with for the debates to make them available freely.
Among the others calling for the debates to be released under a Creative Commons license are the founders of Craigslist, Wikipedia, BraveNewFilms a former FEC Chair, representatives from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, PBS, the Center for American Progress, MoveOn, the AFL-CIO, and other media organizations.
MSNBC, which broadcast the first Democratic and Republican debates, has refused to release the footage it shot from copyright, preferring to offer only segments of the broadcast on its website in Windows Media format (MSNBC is a dual venture between NBC and Microsoft). MSNBC even went a step further, prohibiting any broadcast of clips on competing television networks after May 26.
But that hasn’t stopped dozens of YouTube users from posting clips of the debate online. No instances of YouTube removing a clip from the debate due to copyright violation have occurred yet. YouTube has tried to attract presidential candidates themselves, and most of the frontrunners have their own accounts.
CNN’s debates, broadcast from New Hampshire, will be in June. Their Democratic debate will be held on June 3rd from 7 to 9PM EST, while their Republican debate will be on June 5th at the same time.
Update: In response to corrections from readers, I have changed this item to more accurately reflect the difference between being entirely uncopyrighted and being released under a Creative Commons license. Thanks for the corrections, everyone!
Update 2: Senator Chris Dodd, another Democratic presidential candidate has now endorsed a Creative Commons release of the debate as well, saying “It is in our interest as a Party to make public our ideas by allowing video of the Presidential debates to be viewed by anyone, at any time. While copyright protections remain essential, I see no cause to maintain copyright on Presidential primary debates.”