Cleveland Plain Dealer Owner Demands Takedown Of Unflattering Video Featuring Candidate It Endorsed In Governor's Race

from the your-intentions-are-bad-and-you-should-feel-bad dept

Via Jim Romenesko, here’s a rather ugly story about stifling speech. Unfortunately, the entity doing the stifling is also one of the greatest beneficiaries of free speech protections.

The Northeast Ohio Media Group last week posted a video of Ohio Gov. John Kasich and challenger Ed FitzGerald meeting with the editorial board, then took it down without explanation and replaced it with an audio recording.

This media group (NOMG) owns the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which recently hosted a pre-endorsement Q&A with the three candidates for governor. It wasn’t a debate. FitzGerald apparently tried to turn it into one, but incumbent John Kasich wasn’t interested. In fact, Kasich has refused to participate in any form of debate during this election run.

Henry Gomez of the Cleveland Plain Dealer covered the non-debate, which was also videotaped. He offered his take on the candidates during the course of the interview.

The governor and FitzGerald shook hands before and after the interview, but that was the extent of their interaction. FitzGerald, dressed in a suit and tie, seemed to be on the edge of his seat the entire time, eager to land a punch whenever possible. Kasich, open collar, sans tie, often slouched while using a second chair’s armrest for extra comfort…

FitzGerald tried repeatedly to draw Kasich into a one-on-one debate. Each time, Kasich refused to take the bait. When FitzGerald turned to his left to try and catch Kasich’s eye, the governor stared straight ahead or off to his other side…

Kasich declined to answer any question that FitzGerald posed directly. He only would answer when an editor or reporter in the room repeated FitzGerald’s question.

Website PlunderBund was slightly less charitable in its take on Kasich’s behavior during the “debate.”

The closest thing Ohioans got to a televised debate in this year’s race for Ohio governor was a video posted by the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The PD recorded their joint editorial board interview with John Kasich, Ed FitzGerald and Green Party Candidate Anita Rios and posted it online.

In the video, we got to see FitzGerald fired-up and on message while Kasich slumped in his chair, refused to acknowledge the other candidates and ignored repeated attempts by PD staff to answer even basic questions about his policies and programs.

PlunderBund posted a clip of the Q&A on the site, taken from the video posted by the Cleveland Plain Dealer itself. Shortly thereafter, a letter demanding the removal of the video arrived from Chris Quinn, NOMG’s VP of Content.

You have posted on your web site our copyrighted video of an endorsement interview in the Ohio governor’s race. You have not asked for, and we have not granted, the rights to use our property, which was illegally copied from our website.

We insist you delete the material immediately. We have registered the copyright, which means your illegal use of it entitles us to statutory damages, which can be quite steep, and recovery of all fees we pay our attorneys as we compel you to adhere to the copyright law.

We protect our copyrighted material with great vigor. You have posted it illegally. We expect immediate action in removing the video from your site.

PlunderBund clearly has a solid fair use defense, but it really doesn’t matter at the moment. The site has taken down the video. If that were the end of the story, it would still be highly questionable and a seriously misguided attempt at “protecting” the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s intellectual property.

But that’s not the end of it. The Cleveland Plain Dealer has taken down the video it created and replaced it with an audio recording. [Here’s an capture that contains the now-removed references to the CPD’s video recordings.] Why would it remove its own video? If PlunderBund’s account of the video’s content is accurate, John Kasich’s behavior during this session bordered on the insolently childish. Watching a politicial candidate exude boredom and disdain is hundreds of times more effective (and potentially damaging) than hearing it. An audio version of this “interview” is a defanged version.

But that’s probably the way the CPD and its parent media group want it. After all, the Plain Dealer endorsed Kasich in 2010 and again shortly after Kasich’s petulant, barely-there appearance at the NOMG-hosted endorsement interview. If you’re looking for a reason why the video is gone and only the audio remains, that seems like a good place to begin. It also seems likely that’s why the “VP of Content” is cleansing the web with mostly baseless legal threats.

There’s nothing more hypocritical than a media group that thrives on First Amendment protections acting like a censorious thug in order to protect its own access and interests. The editorial board endorsed a candidate who spent most of his allotted time acting like a sullen teenager enduring a family vacation and now it doesn’t want anyone to see its anointed pick in all his disinterested “glory.” That’s pathetic.

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Comments on “Cleveland Plain Dealer Owner Demands Takedown Of Unflattering Video Featuring Candidate It Endorsed In Governor's Race”

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wallow-T says:

On PlunderBund taking down the video: This is one problem with the idea that blogs will replace the newspaper institutions of the past.

Even if Jo Average Blogger is up to the fight, they lack the financial resources for a full tilt legal battle to defend important principles. The Washington Post & New York Times (Pentagon Papers), Fox News (James Rosen), could pay the legal bills for a fight with the government.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

But would they? Sure they could pay the costs involved in taking it to court, but do you really think they would bother for ‘just’ a single video covering a state governor race?

Going to court over something as huge as the Pentagon Papers is understandable, that’s the sort of thing lifelong reputations are built on, so they had plenty of reason to fight for that. But a single video, covering a single candidate for state governor? Unless someone high up lives in that state, odds are they simply wouldn’t care enough to pay for the fight.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re:

@ wallow-t-

EXCELLENT point, thank you for making it; there are probably other issues along these lines that i had not considered in our (not-so) brave new world of bloggers…

but that is a big deal… i wonder if an association of political/news bloggers could form a union of sorts, such that as an aggregate they could retain high-power lawyers for members of the association to draw upon when threatened like this…

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Political Debates, hah!

From my observation of political debates, especially national televised ones:

Someone asks question A of candidate 1:

Candidate 1 responds to something on the order of question Z or whatever political point is on their mind at the moment.

Someone asks question B of candidate 2:

Candidate 2 responds with wishing to respond to Candidate 1’s non answer to question A and goes into a diatribe about whatever political point they wish to raise.

In other words, not a debate and non responsive to questions asked. A waste of time and money.

If there was an actual debate with some actual debating rules that are actually followed by the participants, it might draw my interest. As it is now, the ability to declare a winner or loser is possible only if one toes a political line and adamantly declares their toady to have won…because.

That One Guy (profile) says:

In fact, Kasich has refused to participate in any form of debate during this election run.

One of the surest signs that someone knows that their position is indefensible, is a steadfast refusal to discuss or debate it.

As such, if he’s that opposed to any form of debate, it’s probably because he knows he would come out the clear loser in any such confrontation, and is therefor doing everything he can to avoid it.

Koby says:


I’m not saying that I agree with the Plain Dealer’s demand to remove the video, but there is a reason for the takedown.

Both major political parties are extremely calculating. In this case, Kasich calculated not to enter into any debates (and both parties do this when they’re very far ahead in the polls). This undoubtedly means he had an agreement with the Plain Dealer to appear at the event, as they do with practically any event. And that agreement was “Kasich will not be seen debating with the other two candidates”. The Plain Dealer is now in a tough spot: either take the video down, or violate the agreement and risk its future involvement with political candidates.

Of course, the Plain Dealer wants to be able to attract political candidates’ attention so that it has access to stories and interviews and debates and media events. That’s how the Plain Dealer makes money, either by selling newspapers, or webpages, or whatever. Naturally, it sides with the one that seems to ensure its future existence and revenue stream. So it’s not a matter of free speech, instead it’s about ensuring that they don’t have a no-show event in 2 years.

Anonymous Coward says:

Would we not be better off if politics were a DMCA-free zone?

This seems to be a common tactic going back years. I remember during the 2008 US presidential campaign that media clips of interviews and debates were frequently posted on YouTube by Ron Paul supporters — and nearly as frequently DMCAd off YouTube. (I think Fox News was the usual culprit)

There really needs to be a law that exempts copyright claims from anything that serves the public interest, such as speeches, debates, and interviews of candidates during elections. So then when a TV network like FOX hosts a presidential debate, it can’t cherrypick the video clips to put on its website, while sending out takedowns for all the viewer-recorded segments that activists feel are intentionally being flushed down the memory hole.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Would we not be better off if politics were a DMCA-free zone?

There really needs to be a law that exempts copyright claims from anything that serves the public interest, such as speeches, debates, and interviews of candidates during elections.

There already are (theoretical) exceptions for those sort of things, as they are covered under Fair Use. The problem is that defending the fair use status of something takes a lot of time and money, even if you’re ultimately ruled to be in the right, so for a lot of cases it’s seen as easier just to fold when someone demands that something be taken down, or, more often, the accused simply doesn’t have the funds to fight back, and so has to fold.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Would we not be better off if politics were a DMCA-free zone?

But in reality, there is no such thing as fair use because under the DMCA, the cost of being wrong is so draconian that few companies would dare risk a $150,000 “statutory damage” fine over an issue of pure principle.

Often times the only way to make a short video clip stick as “fair use” is to find and post a TV news segment that includes (as fair use) that particular video clip. Notable was the one-minute long (of a live two-hour broadcast) “Imma let you finish.”

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Would we not be better off if politics were a DMCA-free zone?

Indeed, it’s the difference between ‘On paper’, and ‘In practice’. On paper, such use is protected, as it would fall under Fair Use. In practice, it’s too expensive to risk, so most people don’t, because they can’t afford to fight back, even if they’re right.

However, this is more a problem with the legal system as a whole, than it is with Fair Use. Going to court at all is prohibitively expensive, for all but the wealthy few, so most people are forced, innocent or not, to accept various ‘offers’ in exchange for pleading guilty, or doing the equivalent.

‘You’re being accused of copyright infringement. Now you can either pay us a couple of thousand, and we’ll drop the accusation, or you can fight it, in which case you’ll be spending far, far more than that, and you’ll get nothing other than validation of your innocence if you win. Your choice.’

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Would we not be better off if politics were a DMCA-free zone?

good insight, a non cow, and relates directly to wallow-t’s excellent point above: individuals -as ‘formal’ news bloggers, or simply as informed and active citizens- can NOT ‘afford’ (on many levels) to defend their rights, EVEN IF 100% in the right…
as you mention, i bet 90%+ of people who get notices or have stuff taken down ‘wrongly’, simply can not devote the time, money, etc to fight even those takedowns which are 100% violations, so they simply take the only route left: take it down themselves…

hmmm, this is a real conflict between ALL of our rights, and the rights of an EXTREMELY small minority of copyright abusers… (that’s right, the HOLDERS of the copyright are using it to abuse, NOT those who use the copyrighted material…)

Jill Miller Zimon (user link) says:

Why we care & why it matters

I’ve been blogging politics in NE Ohio for almost 10 years, I’ve run for and won elected office in a small city, and I ran for the Ohio statehouse and went through the NEOMG endorsement interview process. I WISH they’d posted the video of them with me and my opponent. In the meantime, here’s my post on why this matters, a lot, and how their failure to explain what they’ve done further erodes whatever trust the public might have in their actions.

Commenter234 says:

Re: Re:

Nick, thanks for finding that.

This attempted censorship of political debates needs to be circumvented if democracy is to work. Bankrolling a court challenge is usually too much to be practical.

Does such public debate need to be put up as torrents to protect from censorship of the public’s voting information input?

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