Wednesday, March 07, 2007

C-SPAN liberalizes its copyright policies

Daily Kos

We've been trashing C-SPAN for its restrictive copyright policies. While its coverage of floor debate is in the public domain (the cameras they use are owned by the government), C-SPAN has asserted copyright ownership over committee hearings. In fact, it sent Nancy Pelosi a cease-and-desist letter after she posted a clip of a committee hearing speech on her site. [See her blog generally, linked from here.]

The blowback must've been tremendous, and C-SPAN claims it is adopting a Creative Commons license, effective immediately, for all coverage of governmental proceedings. From an email release:

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.
  • In addition, C-SPAN also announced plans to significantly build out its website as a one-stop resource for Congressionally-produced webcasts of House and Senate committee and subcommitte hearings [...]

The new C-SPAN policy borrows from the approach to copyright known in the online community as “Creative Commons.” Examples of events included under C-SPAN’s new expanded policy include all congressional hearings and press briefings, federal agency hearings, and presidential events at the White House. C-SPAN's copyright policy will not change for the network's studio productions, all non-federal events, campaign and political event coverage, and the network’s feature programming, such as Book TV and original history series.

Update: Having given it some quick thought, I still don't think this goes far enough. These are GOVERNMENT hearings, they should be in the public domain, not "owned" by C-SPAN, no matter how liberal the license might be.

Floor video is already public domain because the government owns the cameras. The House and Senate should kick out C-SPAN's cameras from committee hearings and force them to use government-owned cameras. That way, those deliberations are in the public domain.

I have no problem with C-SPAN coverage of political presidential events being under the more restrictive Creative Commons license. Those require C-SPAN to send out a crew to cover events, which costs money. And they are well within their rights to claim standard copyright over the shows they themselves produce (like Book Notes, Q&A, etc).

But any proceedings inside House or Senate chambers should be public domain.

[See Lessig on Malamud's letter to C-SPAN.]

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