News: In letters to the Chairs of the RNC and DNC reproduced on his blog, Lawrence Lessig, the founder of Creative Commons and Stanford Law professor (with other supporters) is asking the two parties to secure agreements from the networks who televise the presidential elections to allow people to make (re)uses of the copyrighted broadcasts provided attribution is given to the copyright holder.
Although the deal would not be limited to YouTube, YouTube is the site that the press (see here) has rightfully focused on, given its influence already on the last midterm election.
Analysis: This is a worthy proposal, but as even Lessig admits “I won’t like much of what this freedom will engender. But if that were a legitimate reason to regulate political speech, this would be a very different world.”
The pluses are potentially engaging voters in the debates in ways unimagined before. Just think voters could create their own “highlight” reel of the presidential debates, focusing on those segments that mattered to them most. Also, voters could create their own video commercials for their favorite candidate, using footage from the debates. Also, the availability of “time shifted” clips on YouTube would allow people who missed the broadcast to have access to the debates (or parts of them). Having more access to what the presidential candidates said during the debates is undoubtedly a good thing.
Of course, with the good, we may also get the bad. Bad, as in more negative ads, for starters. Everyone with a computer could spin out a “swift boat” attack on a candidate, using footage from the debates. Also, putting video clips on YouTube definitely feeds into the “sound bite” mentality of the media — which probably is not great for selecting a president. Moreover, video clips probably would accentuate any gaffe or verbal mistatement (cf. “macaca”) made by a candidate – the prospect of which could, in turn, cause the candidates to be even more pre-packaged during the debates. Some would argue, however, that finding those “gotcha” moments is not necessarily a bad thing.
My guess is that we’ll probably see the “negatives” occur, even if the networks and parties don’t agree to Lessig’s proposal. We might also see some of the “positives” without it, too. But a formal agreement that is announced to the public would serve as an open invitation to voters to engage in the positive activities. And that would be a good thing.