Monday, January 19, 2009

HBO issuing takedowns of inaugural concert footage on YouTube

Talking Points Memo reports:
HBO is going over Youtube with a fine tooth comb and having all clips of the event pulled under copyright claims. Want to see the special moment where an 89 year old Pete Seeger sang This Land Is Your Land on the footsteps of the Lincoln Memorial? Tough luck.

Now, logically, the one follows from the other. They claim a copyright in the video of this event. And so they can prevent anyone from uploading it to Youtube -- though I'd be eager to see someone challenge them legally on it because I'm not sure how strong their claim really is against the use of short clips. But the fact that Americans can't show other Americans brief segments of these events because HBO owns the event in perpetuity just puts in much higher relief how ill-conceived a decision that was.

I can't say I'm surprised that TPM isn't crazy about the idea of copyright owners enforcing their rights on YouTube. As I've pointed out before, TPM is skating on awfully thin ice in its own posting of others' news footage to YouTube:
I think Talking Points Memo is seriously pressing its luck with videos like this (6:04 from MSNBC), this (8:19 from Fox), and this (16:22 (!) from MSNBC). (I'm assuming TPM did not have permission to copy and post these; of course if it did have permission, there's no problem.) One day some media company is not going to fold in the face of a counternotice, and some interesting fair use law will get made.
I emailed TPM Editor Josh Marshall over a week ago asking for comment on its copyright policies, but have yet to hear back. I'll let you know if and when I do.

UPDATE: I just discovered this very interesting Washington Post article, which details the more than $5 million the inaugural committee charged the networks (including HBO) for exclusive licenses to broadcast various events. And just when we thought the Obama transition was going all Creative Commons on us...

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