April 25, 2007 10:04 AM PDT
A call for broad distribution of presidential debate video
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Indeed, the letter to the RNC was accompanied by signatures of prominent conservative pundits and bloggers like Michelle Malkin, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, and Mike Krempasky, co-founder of Redstate.com.
"It's a diverse group of folks," Krempasky said. "I think that if some of these people and I were in Congress, we'd vote opposite 95 percent of the time. But we're not, and that's okay." He believes the national parties ought to jump on board because there really isn't anything that can be done to stop the collective power of online political junkies and hordes of YouTubers.
"Let's be honest. There's not a lot you can do to stop video online. You can respond to it, you can hire lawyers to send take-down notices or any foolish thing you want to do, but you can't stop it," Krempasky said. "We've seen this over and over again."
Both letters were also signed by a number of well-known Internet figures, like Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales; science fiction author and Boing Boing blogger Cory Doctorow; and Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, who said he thinks "the networks will do the patriotic thing and make the video available."
But despite his optimism, Newmark expressed doubts that politicians would immediately sign on to such an idea. "I have great faith in the DNC," he said. "The problem with the RNC is that the Republicans there will want to do this, but there are (members of the party) who may not want their people scrutinized."
And that may indeed be the case: A representative from the RNC stated on Wednesday afternoon that the committee is "not going to get involved in this issue." Lessig confirmed to CNET News.com that he had been in talks with the DNC, but no details on the nature of those talks had been provided. DNC spokeswoman Stacie Paxton later added: "We are already exploring ways to make the DNC-sanctioned debates more accessible and will continue to work on this and other issues in our discussions with the networks."
Like any publicity-friendly political move, the letters were accompanied by a few raised eyebrows. Jim DeLong, a senior fellow at the Progress & Freedom Foundation, was concerned about the potential repercussions of presidential debate videos being "remixed" and edited to a point where the meaning could be completely distorted.
"It's far from clear to me that it's a good idea to put this stuff up on YouTube and have anyone able to modify it however they choose," DeLong explained. "You know what's going to happen on both the left and the right. The stuff will be mangled, and everything will be pulled out of context, and it'll be ricocheted around the world."
In DeLong's opinion, it would be possible to make debate video available online without taking such a radical step toward public domain or Creative Commons licensing status. "You really wouldn't have to have them on broadcast TV at all," he said. "(A network) could put on a presidential debate and have it Webcast, and just put it up there on the Internet, and keep it there if (it) wanted."
But others applauded the letter's purpose and welcomed the possibility of free-for-all debate footage. One of them was blogger Jeff Jarvis, who has been tracking the role of online video in the 2008 presidential campaign through the Web site PrezVid.
"I don't think there should be any limitations on this material. This should be considered the property of the American people," Jarvis said. "It's our government, and I think that there should be a condition that anybody who broadcasts this stuff should make it open. It should be, and you know what, even if it's not, we're going to use it."
Mike Krempasky of RedState argued that if the networks and national parties oppose the free use of debate video content, they'll be fighting a losing battle. "This is the future. There's no changing that," he said. "If you can't stop something, you might as well get in front of it."
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