The Youtube Takedown of John McCain

John McCain sent a letter to Youtube asking for special treatment after they took down some of his campaign videos. The videos contained news footage, so Youtube removed them at the request of the copyright holders.

McCain claims the clips qualify as fair use, and they might. The problem is that Youtube’s policy is to remove questionable videos without review, if requested to do so by the copyright holder. Then the Uploader must battle Youtube to prove fair use, which is a difficult process that doesn’t always favor free speech.

However, Youtube behaves this way to comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that McCain not only voted for, but went on record to support. Now he thinks the law shouldn’t apply to him. In plain English, he’s actually suggesting that Youtube bend the rules for Politicians.

If you’ve ever worked in the media, or for that matter had your videos stripped from Youtube, then you know copyright issues are bothersome and complicated. More often than not material is left out to avoid tedious clearance processes or worse, lawsuit. These decisions are almost always based on a cost benefit analysis of what the material is worth in potential legal fees, rather than its value to the public discourse.

Of course it would be ridiculous to say all copyright issues come down to that, but I think the paragraph above is close to McCain’s position. The way that I read his letter it sounds like he’s arguing that he needs to show the news footage to comment on it, and thus convey his message. I understand where he’s coming from, and would actually tend to agree with him on that point. Our copyright laws are in desperate need of overhaul. If Mr. McCain wanted to support that overhaul, I’d have a lot more sympathy for his plight.

Instead, it’s clear that he sees no problem deleting Joe the Uploader’s videos to comply with draconian copyright laws. He simply wants to make sure that the elite aren’t subjected to the same ridiculous rules as the rest of us.

Youtube rejected his request.

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