ACLU Calls On Broadcasters To Stop Stifling Political Discourse On YouTube

For Immediate Release

ACLU
Contact: 

(212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

ACLU Calls On Broadcasters To Stop Stifling Political Discourse On YouTube

Overreaching Copyright Claims Are A Threat To Online Free Speech

SAN FRANCISCO - Television networks should stop silencing political speech on the
Internet, according to a letter the American Civil Liberties Union, the
ACLU of Northern California and a coalition of public interest groups
sent to four major television networks today. Several broadcasting
companies have sent letters to YouTube demanding that they take down
videos containing short clips of news coverage even when those clips
are "fair use" and therefore legally posted.

"More and more of today's important political discussion is taking
place online on sites like YouTube, and it's critical that free speech
is protected there," said Aden Fine, senior staff attorney with the
ACLU First Amendment Working Group. "Unfortunately, this valuable
online political speech is repeatedly being threatened and shut down by
overreaching copyright claims."

CBS, the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), Fox and NBC have all
recently sent "takedown" notices to YouTube targeting election-related
videos containing short clips of news footage for removal. Letters from
the networks have prompted YouTube to take down videos posted by the
McCain-Palin and Obama-Biden campaigns, as well as by individuals.
Today's open letter from the coalition calls on the four networks to
stop using unsubstantiated copyright infringement claims to stifle the
free speech of the presidential campaigns and individuals expressing
their views on the Internet.

The coalition also sent a separate letter to YouTube suggesting two
measures for protecting the free speech rights of its users. First,
YouTube staff should immediately review all counter-notices sent by
YouTube users protesting copyright takedown demands and immediately
restore any videos containing legitimate fair use of the materials.
Second, in cases where YouTube users have provided counter-notice of
their right to post materials, YouTube staff should review any
subsequent takedown notices targeting videos posted to the same user
accounts.

"Content owners and online service providers should think twice
before taking actions to chill free speech online," said Nicole Ozer,
Technology and Civil Liberties Policy Director at the ACLU of Northern
California. "At a time when so much essential political discourse takes
place in online forums, it is in everyone's best interest to protect
the free speech rights of Internet users."

In addition to the ACLU and the ACLU of Northern California, the
coalition includes the Electronic Frontier Foundation; the Citizen
Media Law Project at Harvard's Berkman Center; Anthony Falzone, the
Executive Director of Stanford's Fair Use Project; the American
University School of Communication's Center for Social Media; the
American University Law School Program for Information Justice &
Intellectual Property; and Public Knowledge.

The coalition letter to broadcasters is available online at: www.aclu.org/freespeech/gen/37252lgl20081020.html

The coalition letter to YouTube is available online at: www.aclu.org/freespeech/gen/37253lgl20081020.html

More information about the ACLU's work to protect free speech is online at: www.aclu.org/freespeech/internet/index.html and: www.aclunc.org/issues/ freedom_of_press_and_speech/ internet_free_speech.shtml

 

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