February 26, 2007  ·  Lessig

You may have been reading about the recent spat involving C-Span and Speaker Pelosi over copyright and the Congressional Record. Well, longtime champion of many things great — Carl Malamud — has been building a bit of a hack to deal with at least part of the problem.

As he explains, video of Congress engaged in its official business comes in three flavors:

“1. the floor proceedings, which uses government cameras and
everybody (including c-span) pretty much allows folks to grab.

2. hearings that c-span does, which they tightly defend copyright on.

3. the stuff the committees puts directly on the web.”

Many of us believe that if C-Span wants to exercise control over the stuff it films — as it has in many documentaries I have helped with — then it’s time we find someone else to build a Congressional Record that “the people” can use.

Carl has been building a hack to do just that. As (1) has pretty much taken care of itself, and (2) requires Congress giving access to hearings to entities that won’t leverage that access into control (not likely anytime soon), he’s focused on (3). The current problem with (3) is that the content (filmed using government cameras, just as with (1)) is offered sometimes “live only,” and otherwise in a streaming format only. Carl has built some tools for “ripping all congressional streams starting with the house and posting them in a nonproprietary format for download, tagging, review, and annotation at Google Video and another copy at the Internet Archive.”

Read more at Boing Boing.

But all this raises a much more fundamental question.

As more and more “notice and take-downs” get directed at people doing political remixes of candidates and their speeches, it’s time for a candidate to take the lead to assure that the web can be used for politics (without the mess of copyright). What about a pledge not to appear on a program that won’t promise not to prosecute people who do remixes (as opposed to simply distributing the whole show)? (That’s three negatives in one sentence — go slowly.)

Let’s see who is really for (and who has the courage to support) freeing political speech.

  • http://www.xanga.com/neovita Thomas

    Dude I love your presentation style. Do you have any talks/resources on how to put together power point presentations the way you do?

  • tomsong

    I was engaged in capturing the relevant hearings on copyright, Hatch Induce and internet issues over the years. And I did post them on GoogleVideo. It is obvious to me that the RIAA and MPAA write their own legislation and hand them over to Congressional staff for rubberstamping.

    And in a relentless manner these amendments are attached to unrelated bills, such as terrorism, child protection, satellite bills and the Patriot Act. They are never even proof-read, it seems.

    I suspect that a video archive of FCC Hearings would help transparency in government as well. So I hack. I consider my actions to be bringing sunshine and bleach into backroom deals.

    The high-up mucky-mucks at the last two meetings at the PTO, regarding public comments on the wbecasting treaty, would not let us make audio recordings. The bureaucratic response is that “people should feel free to express candor.” I consider this illegal. As far as I am concerned, the testimony that Neil Turkewitz of the RIAA gave at this last PTO meeting was perjury. So I don’t see how an official fact-finding event before a Regulatory Commissioner helps the process if people lie.

    I went to a specific meeting with my own Congressional Representative, Rick Boucher, and I requested help with contacting the House production crew to gain access to broadcast tapes. But he could not tell me how it works. This type of situation is a simple procedure in California Congress to buy tapes.

    The relevant issue here, vis a vis “webcast treaty” that Fox and Yahoo! are pursuing at WIPO, is that capturing or hacking an internet video would (typically) be a violation of Real Player’s codec. Does anyone think in this day and age that multiple solutions do not exist to capture audio and/or video input from a computer?

    Real would claim their proprietary stream-rights would trump the government funding of the C-SPAN camera crew and the participants, in a follow-on of public domain speech of government employees.

    As we know, even the head decider, Scalia, in a perfect world would refrain from accepting speaking fees, and does not believe that people should record his words. He has troopers to back up his beliefs.

    Thanks for bringing this up, Professor. It is high time that clarity is brought to the situation, and the issue is indeed bi-partisan. If someone makes a gaffe, they should answer for it, or make a public correction.

    I have heard some real howlers from Congressional Representatives. If we didn’t have proof in instant playback, we wouldn’t know of Sen. Stevens’ statements about the tubes and the internets. Or hear Ashcroft’s so-called songwriting talents.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003414591789 Torreto

      The disintegration of the ANCYes, Nelson Mandela will be spinittg blood by now because S.Africa has now become the colonialists paradise. Now anyone with any money (local populations obviously aside) ie White man can go and have a piece (the world cup, FIFA’s piece) The evolution of Apartheid into Radical Post Neo Conservative Capitalism just look at Sarkozy and the radical post neo conservative persecution of Romanian Europeans ala WW11

  • Dan Krimm

    WRT: “it�s time for a candidate to take the lead to assure that the web can be used for politics (without the mess of copyright). What about a pledge not to appear on a program that won�t promise not to prosecute people who do remixes (as opposed to simply distributing the whole show)?”

    This seems like a hard sell to any candidate looking for as much free publicity as possible in an ever-increasingly expensive campaign world. Would such a pledge be able to make up for the loss of that additional exposure (such as it is)? Something would have to replace it with at least some equivalent (hard to quantify, perhaps). This seems like quite a challenge, yet not necessarily impossible in principle. But, it would take a careful pitch to fly.

    So, how do we balance that equation? What do we offer as a net benefit to the candidate? Seems that some tie-in with an organized constituency might be valuable (cf. MoveOn.org, FreePress.org, etc.) as counterweight to the lost PR (especially if some alternative content can be used to represent the appearance that was lost — perhaps something as simple as some text supplied by the candidate directly).

    I’m not an expert in campaigning, but it may be time to bring in the experts to brainstorm such a strategy. Not only would candidates need to be identified who would be most amenable to trying out this tactic, but appropriate constituency mobilizing groups would need to be attracted, too, and the candidates and mobilizers would need to have a compelling match between themselves.

    Sounds like an inside-beltway strategist will need to help think this through, to give it the greatest potential for devising a plausible plan.

  • http://www.fuzrocks.com Matthew Lerner

    How about rephrasing that as a pledge to only appear on shows which promise to allow people to remix their show.

    As you correctly noticed, negatives are harder to parse than positives. Let’s make it easy, shall we?

  • colin

    another exciting project in this space is metavid – at http://metavid.ucsc.edu/

    from the site:
    Metavid is a project which seeks to capture, stream, archive and facilitate real-time collective [re]mediation of legislative proceedings. Metavid makes use of entirely free and open source software and video codecs to make both the footage and the architecture of the site available, accessible and recontextualizable.

    Metavid starts by capturing audio, video, close caption and ocr on-screen text from the cable broadcasts of the house and senate. It then compresses the video with the open source video codec theora. Metavid then inserts these video files along with the close caption text into the metavid database. Participants then build overlays to interact with the dataset in meaningful ways given their perspective be it art, research, or political commentary. We are currently in the “building infrastructure” for participation stage. The archive is web accessible and the interface for participation is under heavy development.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003413682325 Berenice

    It would be so refreshing to see smonoee make real money from his/her own real effort put into providing a real product or service. In fact, take out the money part or at least the fiat currency part. Let the producer achieve goals by realizing gains in real assets or services as much as possible. Monetization of almost all aspects of life and business is a leash that binds us. Formal currencies cause price distortions and misallocation of effort. With our current technologies, we should be able to provide for the needs of society without both adults in a two-parent household having to work 40 hours a week for 40 years. So much is lost because of time and energy squandered because of intermediation through the monetary and financial system. Western society is overdue for some serious rethinking.We hear about groups of people who live on $2/day . Hey, they are able to live on $2/day. Don’t try that in the US or in Europe. You won’t live. We should try to find out exactly how the people in those societies are able to conduct their affairs and feed themselves without having to feed the monetary/financial system. There may be efficiencies that could be adapted to our societies. In the Mexican uses and customs style of village government, a citizen earns his right to vote by providing his/her effort in a form of courvee labor. Citizens who participate in a productive manner are the ones who have a vote in local decision making. That is not a poll tax as much as hands-on personal involvement. Just some thoughts that won’t leave me alone.

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