For Immediate Release
Public Citizen to McCain and Obama: Fix the Law To Stop Copyright Holders From Chilling Free Speech Online
TV Networks’ Suppression of Campaign Videos on YouTube Flaunts Fair Use,Shows Need to Amend the Statute
WASHINGTON - In a letter today, Public Citizen called on Sens. John
McCain and Barack Obama to support changes that would make Internet
copyright law fairer for users who upload content to Internet service
providers (ISPs) like Google's YouTube.
Both the Republican and Democratic campaigns have had
their video advertisements pulled off YouTube after major television
networks invoked the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to claim
they held the rights to the content, citing clips of news shows used in
But copyright holders - like these major television
networks - are not always correct when they complain that use of their
content violates the law. These ads, for example, are plainly allowable
according to fair use doctrine. Yet YouTube, like many ISPs, lacks the
time or resources to examine every video an intellectual property
holder calls into question, let alone defend the content in court if
necessary. So the content is removed for 10 days, with the idea that
the legal issue will be brought to court within that time.
"ISPs run these services on low profit margins, and in
the long run they generally decide that it is cheaper simply to go
along with the complaint," said Joan Claybrook, president of Public
Citizen. "But in the context of a political campaign, the 10-day
takedown can postpone public access to the speech until it is too late."
In the letter, Public Citizen offers several
suggestions for amendments to the DMCA to shift the balance in favor of
free speech. "That both sides have experienced spurious DMCA takedowns
demonstrates that this is a bipartisan issue," said Paul Alan Levy, a
senior attorney with Public Citizen who has successfully litigated
scores of Internet free speech cases. "Clearly, the chilling of free
speech harms political discussion, regardless of the speaker's
"Next year, one of you will be President of the United
States, while one of you will continue to be a reform leader in the
Senate," said Claybrook. "We ask you to make the commitment now to join
in the effort to restore free speech rights by paring back the most
offensive provisions of the DMCA and other speech-restrictive
intellectual property provisions that regulate the Internet."
You can read Public Citizen's letter to the candidates at http://www.citizen.org/documents/DMCALetter.pdf.