McCain Campaign Sends Letter To YouTube Defending Fair Use
from the what-the...? dept
This is impressive, and somewhat unexpected. It’s rather rare to see politicians (other than maginal ones, at least) showing any sort of recognition of fair use. It’s certainly not an issue you’d expect to see raised by a presidential candidate (of either party). However, John McCain’s campaign has sent a letter to YouTube complaining about the site’s unwillingness to consider fair use in videos before taking them down. You can read the whole letter at that link or below (if you’re not reading via a feed):
The letter basically notes that YouTube seems a bit too fast on the trigger in pulling down content based on DMCA takedown notices, in part parroting the some of the recent ruling where a judge said that those sending DMCA notices need to at least take fair use into consideration. Of course, that was directed at the sender of the DMCA takedown notice, not the recipient, as in this case. I’m sure the McCain campaign recognizes that YouTube is completely within its legal rights to automatically pull down the content, but in sending this letter the campaign is suggesting that, specific to videos put up by either political campaign (the letter cc’s the Obama campaign), that YouTube take into account fair use.
The letter is addressed to YouTube’s founder, Chad Hurley, as well as Google’s Senior Copyright Counsel, William Patry (who we’ve talked about and quoted here many times) and Zahavah Levine, who is General Counsel for YouTube, who I’ve met and spoken with in the past. Both Patry and Levine are well aware of the legal issues here (probably better than just about anyone else), so it will be quite interesting to see how they respond. The real issue here has almost nothing to do with Google/YouTube — but with the way the DMCA itself is structured. Since it provides clear safe harbor for a recipient of a takedown notice if they take down the content, it’s a reasonable business decision to simply take down the content and then follow the proper procedures for letting the uploader file a response notice.
While it certainly would be nice for YouTube to take into account fair use before deciding whether or not to pull down the content, the real problem is with the law itself, and the incentives it puts in place for any recipient of such a letter. If the McCain (or Obama) campaign were really concerned with that, they should not just ask for this special exception to YouTube’s official policies, but should promise to push for a change to the DMCA that makes an explicit point that recipients of such takedown notices shall retain their safe harbor protections even if they refuse to take down content, if they have a reasonable belief that the content in question is being used in accordance with fair use rules.