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Obama Asks Dean to Drop Restrictions on Debates

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is joining with top bloggers and technology leaders in asking the Democratic National Committee to make all video of Democratic presidential debates available for free after they air.

In a letter sent to DNC chairman Howard Dean earlier today, Obama suggests debate video should be placed in the public domain, or licensed under a Creative Commons (Attribution) license. Such licenses allow authors, musicians, producers, scientists, etc. to pick and choose the copyright freedoms to apply to their work.

"As you know, the Internet has enabled an extraordinary range of citizens to participate in the political dialogue around this election. Much of that participation will take the form of citizen generated content," Obama's letter states. "We, as a Party, should do everything that we can to encourage this participation."

The senator references a letter sent to Dean and the DNC by "a bipartisan coalition of academics, bloggers and Internet activists." That letter was signed by, among others, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington, Markos Moulitsas, founder of liberal blog Daily Kos; Lowell Feld, who ran online campaign activities for Sen. Jim Webb's successful 2006 Senate campaign; and John Amato, the founder of Web site Crooks and Liars. It calls for "the DNC to ensure that all video footage from Democratic debates is able to be shared, re-used, and freely blogged about without the uploader of the video being deemed a lawbreaker."

A similar letter sent to the Republican National Committee was also signed by Newmark, Wales, Huffington, among others. (Read the letters to the RNC and DNC here.)

"Barack Obama is a strong believer in using technology to make the political process, and the important debates on issues as open and accessible to the American public as possible," Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. "In the spirit of openness, Obama wanted to make sure the debates are accessible to everybody."

Psaki wouldn't say if Obama would skip future DNC debates if his video distribution idea is not adopted. He's scheduled to attend a debate hosted by PBS host Tavis Smiley in late June at Howard University, an early June debate in New Hampshire co-sponsored by CNN and WMUR-TV, and six DNC sanctioned debates set to begin in July.

-- Ed O'Keefe

Here's the full text of Obama's letter to Dean:

Chairman Howard Dean
Democratic National Committee
430 S. Capitol St. SE
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 863-8000

Dear Chairman Dean:

I am writing in strong support of a letter from a bipartisan coalition of academics, bloggers and Internet activists recently addressed to you and the Democratic National Committee. The letter asks that the video from any Democratic Presidential debate be available freely after the debate, by either placing the video in the public domain, or licensing it under a Creative Commons (Attribution) license.

As you know, the Internet has enabled an extraordinary range of citizens to participate in the political dialogue around this election. Much of that participation will take the form of citizen generated content. We, as a Party, should do everything that we can to encourage this participation. Not only will it keep us focused on the issues that matter most to America, it will also encourage participation by a wide range of our youth who have traditionally simply tuned out from politics.

The letter does not propose some radical change in copyright law, or an unjustified expansion in "fair use." Instead, it simply asks that any purported copyright owner of video from the debates waive that copyright.

I am a strong believer in the importance of copyright, especially in a digital age. But there is no reason that this particular class of content needs the protection. We have incentive enough to debate. The networks have incentive enough to broadcast those debates. Rather than restricting the product of those debates, we should instead make sure that our democracy and citizens have the chance to benefit from them in all the ways that technology makes possible.

Your presidential campaign used the Internet to break new ground in citizen political participation. I would urge you to take the lead again by continuing to support this important medium of political speech. And I offer whatever help I can to secure the support of others as well.


Sincerely,
Barack Obama

By Ed O'Keefe |  May 3, 2007; 1:02 PM ET Barack Obama
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Comments

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I had a very early post on this. I just happened to be on the Obama website at the time to see it.

http://hammer2006.blogspot.com/2007/05/obamas-letter-to-howard-dean-obama-08.html

Glad Jeff working with you now.

Alex Hammer
Politics 2.0

Posted by: Politics 2.0 | May 4, 2007 2:38 PM

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