C-SPAN Recognizes Role of Bloggers and Liberalizes Copyright Policies

C-SPAN has recoginzed the changing role of copyright policies with the growth of the blogosphere. Many sites tacitly encourage bloggers to copy portions of their material by including track backs of blogs discussing them. They realize that ultimately this encourages more links to their site. They also realize that the more prominent the blogosphere becomes, the more valuable it is to encourage blogs to discuss their work if they want to have their material be part of the national discussion. C-SPAN is in a unique position as their copyrighted material often includes coverage of public events.

In the past C-SPAN has taken a hard line on enforcing copyright laws. DemBloggers, where many of my posts here are also reprinted, was forced to discontinue posting videos from C-SPAN in 2005. Recognizing the role of bloggers, C-SPAN has announced a new policy:

Advancing its longstanding mission of bringing government closer to the people, C-SPAN announced today two major initiatives designed to greatly expand citizen access to its online video of federal government activities, such as congressional hearings, agency briefings, and White House events. These actions are intended to meet the growing demand for video about the federal government and Congress, in an age of explosive growth of video file sharers, bloggers, and online ‘citizen journalists.’ The policy change is effective immediately.

· 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

“Giving voice to the average citizen has been a centerpiece of C-SPAN’s journalism since our network’s founding in 1979,” said, Rob Kennedy, C-SPAN president and co-COO. “As technology advances, we want to continue to be a leader in providing citizens with the tools to be active participants in the democratic process.”

James Fallows reports that C-SPAN even told Nancy Pelosi that she could not use clips from Congressional hearings:

After becoming speaker this year Nancy Pelosi used C-Span clips from the Iraq debates on a site showing what the new Democratic majority was up to.

At that point, C-Span did something unwise. It told Pelosi she had to take the clips off her site, because C-Span held copyright on them. This was even though Pelosi arguably “owned” the material as much as anyone did, since she was the head of the organization whose debates C-Span was showing; even though the proceedings themselves were not closed, commercial, or proprietary in any way; and even though the people shown in the clips were public officials, working on taxpayers’ time.

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