C-Span asserts copyright, in part to the WHCD

Stephen should love the fact that Nanci Pelosi is in trouble for having unauthorized C-Span clips on her web site. But the fact that C-Span is paying attention at all is due in large part to Colbert and the popularity of the 2006 White House Correspondent’s Dinner footage on YouTube.

From the New York Times:

Which Videos Are Protected? Lawmakers Get a Lesson
Published: February 26, 2007

As the new Congress experiments with the wide world of blogging and video clips, members are learning the complexities of copyright law, much the way the casual YouTube user has learned that there are corporations out there that own “Lost” and can stop you from posting a favorite episode.

The introduction began awkwardly this month when the House Republican Study Committee issued a news release accusing Speaker Nancy Pelosi of “pirating” 16 copyrighted clips of House floor debate from the public affairs network C-Span by including them on her new blog, The Gavel.

“It is perfectly understandable to me that people would be confused,” he said. “They say, ‘When a congressman says something on the floor it is public domain, but he walks down the street to a committee hearing or give a speech and it is not public domain?’ ”

The issue is of recent vintage for C-Span. In May, C-Span said that it had for first time asserted its copyright against a video-clip site, ordering YouTube to take down copies of Stephen Colbert’s pointed speech in front of President Bush at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. Clips of the speech had been viewed 2.7 million times on YouTube in the 48 hours before it was taken down.

“What I think a lot of people don’t understand — C-Span is a business, just like CNN is,” Mr. Collins said. “If we don’t have a revenue stream, we wouldn’t have six crews ready to cover Congressional hearings.”

Full text of article


  1. Does this mean C-Span has to pay the congressmen and congresswomen as actors, since they have speaking roles? I understand their complaints, she should have asked their permission, but really do we want all congressmen (and women) to have their own camera crews, directors, and sound techs, just to be able to post videos of their statements online? Perhaps C-Span should post their vids online and let people embed them like comedy central…

  2. Elected official clips s/b in the public domain. US Congress people work for the public (supposedly) not viacom or c-span and their pronouncements should not be owned/controlled by either.
    And the Colbert/WHCD clip is now such a piece of internet legend/history that is should remain available as an important part of the zeitgeist.

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