A recent exchange of letters between the McCain campaign and YouTube offers a clear illustration of the importance of fair use in protecting free expression -- but also of the risk that the practical utility of fair use can be subverted by other copyright policies.
When CDT and others say that copyright policy raises free expression issues and requires a careful balance, this situation between the McCain camp and YouTube is the kind of thing we have in mind.
Apparently the McCain campaign has posted videos to YouTube that use short clips -- some shorter than 10 seconds -- of news broadcast footage as a basis for commentary and advocacy. That sure sounds like a classic example of fair use, meaning it should be permitted under copyright law. But the media companies that own the broadcast footage have gone ahead and sent takedown notices alleging copyright infringement, resulting in YouTube blocking access to the videos. The McCain campaign has written to YouTube asking it to review takedown notices aimed at videos posted by political campaigns and candidates and to reject notices that ignore obvious cases of fair use.
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