This report documents the extent to which overly aggressive copyright claims under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act have inappropriately stifled political speech on the Internet during recent campaign cycles. Broadcasters, concerned about the reuse of their news and public affairs footage in political advocacy, sometimes turn to the mechanisms created by the DMCA to force the removal of online political ads that contain such footage. Yet the incorporation of brief clips of news footage into campaign ads is highly likely to be fair use and thus non-infringing under copyright law.
The report draws on publicly reported incidents and private interviews with campaign professionals, examines the problem of broadcasters and other news organizations abusing copyright enforcement tools in ways that impair lawful online speech by political candidates. It is CDT’s hope that greater public exposure of and attention to this problem will discourage such abuse in the future.