Why The Internet Archive Says It Can Show You Every TV News Program

from the and-why-the-tv-news-guys-may-disagree dept

Like many folks, I saw the news today about the always-wonderful Internet Archive offering up a treasure trove of TV news broadcasting and thought it was a great thing. They're basically making available every TV news recording they could get from 2009 forward, including all of the major TV networks, the news channels (CNN, Fox News, etc.), etc. They'll also have a bunch of local TV broadcasts as well, which is cool. All in all, it's launching with 350,000 clips. They'll even have recordings of The Daily Show as a part of the archive -- which seems fitting, since Internet Archive mastermind Brewster Kahle noted that with this collection, they can "let a thousand Jon Stewarts bloom" by letting them find interesting (or contradictory) news clips.

You can go check out the TVNews Search & Borrow site right now. The search feature is pretty cool, combing through closed captions to find the relevant content. So it's neat to do a quick search on topics of interest and see what they turn up. Of course, there are still a few kinks to work out. Out of curiosity, I did a search on SOPA, and got back some relevant news stories (including the Jon Stewart story about blackout day. But... I also got a bunch of Spanish-language programs about soup. Even when I limited the language to English. I assume those things will get better over time. Each clip is split into 30 second increments, so it's not like you're automatically getting the full broadcast, though you can piece together the clips.

And it's not just a "historical" archive. They're going to continue to add to it, with new clips being available 24-hours after they air.

Of course, all of this made me wonder about the copyright issues involved. The NY Times had this somewhat cryptic statement:
The act of copying all this news material is protected under a federal copyright agreement signed in 1976. That was in reaction to a challenge to a news assembly project started by Vanderbilt University in 1968.
I was curious about that, and a few people pointed me to 17 USC 108 (f)(3), which notes that:
nothing in this section shall be construed to limit the reproduction by lending of a limited number of copies and excerpts by a library or archives of an audiovisual news program subject to [a few other clauses concerning archives]...
This is based on the Vanderbilt Television News Archive, which the Internet Archive directly calls out in its own announcement as being the inspiration for this new project. Inspiration... and legal helper.

Here's a bit of historical perspective from Historians.org:
Indeed, in the early days of the archive, CBS had sued for copyright infringement, claiming that broadcasts could not be recorded without the permission of the networks. At the time of the lawsuit, Congress was in the process of revising the copyright law. Congress recognized the growing importance and influence of television media on American culture, thought, and politics, and felt that news broadcasts should have special protection under the copyright law, to allow the American people access to their own history. Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee introduced an amendment to the 1976 U.S. Copyright Act to give universities and archives the right to record news broadcasts off-air and to make a limited number of copies for research purposes. Following the enactment of the new law with this provision, CBS and Vanderbilt mutually withdrew from the lawsuit.
But does that really make the Internet Archive legal? I'm not so sure the TV guys are going to see it that way. That same report at Historians.org notes that Vanderbilt is not allowed to share nearly all of its collection online -- and it also notes that "The advent of the Internet and the consequent possibility of making digital copies and lending them online have, however, raised new legal problems that need to be resolved." I would imagine that a key one among them is whether or not the Internet Archives' setup qualifies as "lending a limited number of copies."

One would hope that an informed court would recognize that this fits with the intent of Congress in creating this kind of exception, though I fear that the networks are likely to fight pretty hard on this one, even as it seems like this service could really benefit them as well as others, rather than really take away from anything they do.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2012 @ 2:02pm

    So a local news service picking up a broadcast which it then claims copyright take downs on, such as the Curiosity landing from NASA that occurred might be illegal?

    Anyone tell the take down bots that?

     

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    •  
      identicon
      ChimpObama McBinLadenBurton, Sep 19th, 2012 @ 9:05am

      Re:

      Read that quoted paragraph again. Notice anything interesting? I did:

      Congress recognized the growing importance and influence of television media on American culture, thought, and politics, and felt that news broadcasts should have special protection under the copyright law, to allow the American people access to their own history.

      Congress felt that news should have special protection under copyright law. That is to say, the protection was to serve the American people, not to deny them something.

      Normally, when we hear about copyright protecting something, it's in the context of the American people being denied access to it.

      Refreshing perspective.

      COMBB

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2012 @ 2:05pm

    The Supreme Court said in Eldred v. Ashcroft that copyright terms can be retroactively extended to absurdity, and remain "limited" as per the constitution. By similar logic, it is mathematically certain that the Internet Archive is making available a limited number of copies. =)

     

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 18th, 2012 @ 2:16pm

      Re:

      The Supreme Court said in Eldred v. Ashcroft that copyright terms can be retroactively extended to absurdity, and remain "limited" as per the constitution. By similar logic, it is mathematically certain that the Internet Archive is making available a limited number of copies. =)

      This comment is full of win.

       

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    •  
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      Mason Wheeler, Sep 18th, 2012 @ 2:34pm

      Re:

      Now, I don't get that. Doesn't the Constitution explicitly prohibit Congress from passing any retroactive (ex post facto) law?

       

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      Jason, Sep 20th, 2012 @ 12:22am

      Re:

      I feel that my appreciation, though fully extant, of the win in this comment is sadly limited. Specifically by this deeply confusing phrase:

      "nothing in this section shall be construed to limit the reproduction by lending of a limited number..."

      Diction.Nary.

       

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  •  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Sep 18th, 2012 @ 2:17pm

    Hot Topics

    Why do news companies even care about copyright? It's not like they're in the business of selling their news on DVDs. They're in it for the advertising dollars. They get that by being up to date with relevant and informative news (or at least shocking and enraging, whatever draws the eyeballs). There's no point protecting old news stories because there's no money for them in it. It's quite literally old news, few care.

     

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      Jay (profile), Sep 18th, 2012 @ 2:36pm

      Re: Hot Topics

      It's not like they're in the business of selling their news on DVDs. They're in it for the advertising dollars. They get that by being up to date with relevant and informative news (or at least shocking and enraging, whatever draws the eyeballs). There's no point protecting old news stories because there's no money for them in it.

      What happens if a news organization gets the story wrong? What about if they want to bury a story?

      These are the problems of trying to hold control on a story. It also ensures that the people that want a different view can't get it

      The only ones that can fight these stories that could possibly be directed are the big ones that are already large enough to absorb these ridiculous stories.

       

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        Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Sep 18th, 2012 @ 3:05pm

        Re: Re: Hot Topics

        That would be a damn good argument for creating an exception in copyright for news. No news can be copyrighted ever. Granted, that would be a bitch and a half to implement. Where is the line between news and opinion? Can it just be implemented for people who want to claim they provide news, or does it have to be more nuanced?

        There may also be something in copyright for that already. There is a fair use claim about commentary. If you're pointing out incorrect or conflicting reports from the same place, it's most definitely commentary.

        Now, since there's no punishment for suing even though there's a fair uses claim, it doesn't matter. A big news company can tie someone up in court until the smaller company runs out of money.

        Yeah, copyright needs rewritten.

         

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          identicon
          gnudist, Sep 19th, 2012 @ 7:05am

          Re: Re: Re: Hot Topics

          Or perhaps only three months copyright on news.


          That way no one could complain that news reports were being copied while it was still relevant

           

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      Rekrul, Sep 18th, 2012 @ 3:42pm

      Re: Hot Topics

      Why do news companies even care about copyright? It's not like they're in the business of selling their news on DVDs.

      It's called the Triple-M principle;

      "MINE! MINE! MINE!"

      Seriously, that's all you need to explain why companies care about copyright on material that isn't profitable for them.

       

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        Ninja (profile), Sep 19th, 2012 @ 3:51am

        Re: Re: Hot Topics

        Omg I just had an insight. What if you limited the duration of copyright not only to the time frame but also to the revenue being made from the work. Holly crap I'll try to explain: if it reaches a determined threshold compared to the peak revenue it would automatically fall into public domain, otherwise it'll only fall back into public domain after the copyright expires.

        Obviously this would need to be polished but it's a win-win strategy because if the copyright owners can maintain a community, a fan base around the work it will take long before they actually can't make any revenue out of it (Star Wars, any1?). And on the other hand the public isn't deprived from niche or old works that are long shelved accumulating dust and decaying in the studios/labels/etc.

        And I'd love to see Hollywood keep their mystic accounting practices where movies barely break even if they actually reach that difficult milestone. I heard the Avengers barely made it!

         

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          jupiterkansas (profile), Sep 19th, 2012 @ 7:45am

          Re: Re: Re: Hot Topics

          One way to do that is to simply have a copyright registration fee, and have it increase with the age of the work. The older the work is, the more it costs to register, so only the most profitable works remain under copyright. Disney could keep their Mickey Mouse, but most stuff would be freed from the corporate vaults along with orphaned works.

           

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            identicon
            Rekrul, Sep 21st, 2012 @ 11:56pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Hot Topics

            I agree. Additionally, the studios should be required by law to turn over copies of anything no longer covered by copyright to an independent third party who would see that it's released to the public. Too many older works are just rotting the studios' vaults and will never see the light of day under they're forced to release them.

             

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    jupiterkansas (profile), Sep 18th, 2012 @ 2:20pm

    I'm sitting here wondering how in the world it could possibly hurt them to have this available online for everyone to access. There is no market for old television news.

     

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      The Standard Responder, Sep 18th, 2012 @ 2:34pm

      ... with the Standard Response

      Because it will limit the news agencies ability so somehow make money with this information in the future when they get around to it. It's THEIR choice when they get around to it and the Internet Archive shouldn't pre-empt their rights. Good bless America. It's the law.

       

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      Not That Timothy, Sep 18th, 2012 @ 3:13pm

      Re:

      And I'm wondering how it could possibly benefit them. That seems to have been left out of the posting.

       

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        Karl (profile), Sep 18th, 2012 @ 6:11pm

        Re: Re:

        And I'm wondering how it could possibly benefit them.

        Why should this matter? Copyright exists to benefit the public, not rights holders.

         

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        jupiterkansas (profile), Sep 19th, 2012 @ 7:49am

        Re: Re:

        If people use old clips to reinforce their points, it would help build a reputation for good news reporting. I think there was a time when news organizations cared about their reputation.

        Of course, most people would use the clips to show how news organizations get it wrong. But that's a benefit to the public.

         

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2012 @ 3:19pm

      Re:

      If the news agencies said something in the past that is considered wrong today, based on new knowledge, the news agencies don't want to face up to their mistakes. It's better to bury the news behind years of copy protection and keep future generations ignorant about past news broadcasts.

       

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        art guerrilla (profile), Sep 19th, 2012 @ 11:36am

        Re: Re:

        um, perhaps you missed a teeny tiny case where faux news essentially enshrined in settled law that they are -as a 'news' organization- NOT required to 'tell the truth' ? ? ?

        allow me to repeat that: 'our' (sic) (in)justice system has ENSHRINED IN CASE LAW that 'news' organizations are under NO, ZERO obligation to report news that is 'truthful'...

        (was a case where reporters were doing a story on BGH in milk, and faux news altered/pulled the coverage, and fired the reporters; they sued, and -as i recall- *technically* they 'won', but they were/are forever smeared by fux news...)

        don't you get it yet ? ? ?
        being held to standards of 'truth', 'laws', and -most particularly- punishment is ONLY for the 99%, the 1% skates...

        art guerrilla
        aka ann archy
        eof

         

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  •  
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    sgt_doom (profile), Sep 18th, 2012 @ 2:27pm

    I'm sitting here wondering why in the world anyone would wish to listen to the various nodes of the American Propaganda Network (FoxFiction, CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC, NPR, PBS, etc.).

    Geez, I mean the only half-way decent (and given her lackadaisical interviewing style, it sadly is only half-way decent) news show is Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman.

    The only truly authentic "liberal" or "progressive" show (truth-containing content) are Bonnie Faulkner's Guns and Butter Show on KPFA out of Berkeley and tucradio.org out of Northern California.

    I'm perplexed anyone would be interested in the mindless, zero-content drivel which they claim to be "news" . . .

     

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      Jay (profile), Sep 18th, 2012 @ 2:56pm

      Re:

      Fox News

      Why Fox and others can lie to you

      Reagan and the Fairness Doctrine destroyed news by combining news with edutainment.

      Further, we have to recognize that his media deregulation policies have screwed us over immensely. The FCC has been handicapped in regulating the internet and Net Neutrality and they don't have the manpower to really fight corporations as AT&T and Verizon are trying to assert "First Amendment" rights on control of networks similar to the robber barons of the 1880s.

      Geez, I mean the only half-way decent (and given her lackadaisical interviewing style, it sadly is only half-way decent) news show is Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman.

      Thom Hartmann and the Big Picture
      The Young Turks
      Mother Jones
      Huffington Post Live

      I believe there are more liberal views online than just Amy Goodman.

       

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      jupiterkansas (profile), Sep 19th, 2012 @ 7:53am

      Re:

      Okay, so there are three shows you might be interested in having an archive of, so you've destroyed your own point.

      How about we archive all of it and let people choose what they want to watch or listen to, if at all? Whether it's propaganda or not is another issue - it's a historical document. Do we make this content available to the world or keep it locked up for a hundred years?

       

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    GMacGuffin (profile), Sep 18th, 2012 @ 2:45pm

    Hedging 101

    Let's see ...

    1) Archive has only the one copy, that it's lending to the limited number of people who go to the site (e.g., monthly uniques / global population [?])
    2) Clips split into 30 sec. segments, for the upcoming Fair Use argument.
    3) There's a lot of goodwill for the Archive folks already, so potential lawsuits may backfire.
    4) Precedent of Congressional Intervention already in place.
    5) Documenting history, and other laudable goals

    Conclusion: Go for it and see what happens.

     

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    BentFranklin (profile), Sep 18th, 2012 @ 3:16pm

    The key to this being useful is the searchable transcripts.

     

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    Rekrul, Sep 18th, 2012 @ 3:45pm

    I absolutely guarantee that they will be sued.

     

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    Bort Sarsgaard, Sep 18th, 2012 @ 4:33pm

    Forever minus Jack Valenti

    If Jack Valenti says "limited time" is "forever minus a day", then how should we parse the term "limited copies"?

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2012 @ 6:30pm

    "lending a limited number of copies"

    I think this is where all electronic libraries and lending sites will fall down - they have no way to assure that the work was "returned". Instead, they are giving away an infinite number of copies, with no way to know if they are being returned or kept.

    Legally, they are pretty much in the hole here.

     

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    slick8086, Sep 18th, 2012 @ 6:36pm

    "lending a limited number of copies."

    This is easy, just say that they are limiting the number of copies to the exact number of requests made for copies. When they try and say that is unlimited, use their own argument put forth in Eldred v. Ashcroft, 537 U.S. 186.

    "does indeed have the latitude to retroactively extend terms, so long as the individual extensions are also for "limited times,"

    Each increase in the number of copies lent is limited to 1 copy!


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eldred_v._Ashcroft

     

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    Khaim (profile), Sep 18th, 2012 @ 8:02pm

    Limited number of copies

    If pressed, they can say that all clips are limited to (2^63-1) copies. That should hold them for a while.

     

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      Ninja (profile), Sep 19th, 2012 @ 4:30am

      Re: Limited number of copies

      I chuckled. But considering the highly subjective and ethereal Hollywood accounting practices I wouldn't be surprised if they overcome this great challenge quite... Ethereally?

       

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    identicon
    Paul Keating, Sep 20th, 2012 @ 11:45am

    Internet does not mean NOT limited

    Internet access does NOT equal copies. Archive.org is making available ONLY those number of copies that have been actually accessed on that particular page.

    "Howard Baker of Tennessee introduced an amendment to the 1976 U.S. Copyright Act to give universities and archives the right to record news broadcasts off-air and to make a limited number of copies for research purposes. Following the enactment of the new law with this provision, CBS and Vanderbilt mutually withdrew from the lawsuit.

    But does that really make the Internet Archive legal? I'm not so sure the TV guys are going to see it that way. "

    Mike, you miss the forest for the trees. Just because the Internet is available to all does not equate to unlimited copies. Anyone in London can walk into any Library in London. There are over 15MILLION people here. Does that mean the libraries are making 15Million copies available? Of course not. Archive.org is making available ONLY those number of copies that have been actually accessed.

    If they are smart they will execute a cut-off after awhile or at least show that they have initiated a limit which has not been reached.

    Paul Keating

     

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