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CNN Encourages Other Networks to Follow its Lead

While advocates wait and see if other television networks will lift copyright restrictions on presidential debate video, CNN is allowing unrestricted use of the video of its two upcoming debates.

The network's political director, Sam Feist, says his network didn't need any convincing from outside groups.

"We view presidential debates as really historic national events. These are events that help the voters decide who's going to be the next President of the United States," Feist said.

Feist added that the advent of broadband video and other online video options, "changes the approach the networks should have in usage rights."

He said CNN began discussing debate video use at the beginning of this year. "We'd already decided that we wanted to allow very liberal use of our material. Normally the usage rules are put out right before a debate. But because the debate season has already started, we've already announced our intentions to make the video available without restrictions." Feist says recent efforts to lift copyright restrictions played no role in CNN's final decision.

CNN will host a Democratic on June 3, and a Republican gathering on June 5. In the spirit of traditional New England town hall meetings, the debates will include questions from audience members. The Democratic debate's audience will include registered Democrats and independent voters; the Republican debate will have registered Republicans and independents. Independent voters play a key role in the New Hampshire primaries, since they're allowed to vote in either contest.

As for the other networks, Feist encourages them to lift copyright and fair use restrictions.

"What CNN is doing is striking a contrast with the other networks. And we're hoping that in future debates the other networks follow our lead," he said.

-- Ed O'Keefe

By Ed O'Keefe |  May 24, 2007; 3:55 PM ET Debates
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