C-SPAN Flap With Pelosi Leads To Better Access For Public

March 9th, 2007 8:09 AM

Bloggers, vloggers and Youtubers everywhere can rejoice! Thanks to some wrangling between a Republican group, C-SPAN and Nancy Pelosi along with lots of questions by bloggers from all political spectrums, people now have free access to much of C-SPAN’s content. This means that your favorite blog—or you—can post embarrassing shots of a Senator sleeping during a Congressional hearing or a Congressman wailing about the plight of polar bears. The stalwart presenter of Congressional reporting and longwinded rants announced, “C-SPAN takes the lead” in relaxing the reins on their product; they are allowing non-commercial use of some of their programming and video as long as there is proper attribution, effective immediately:

Advancing its longstanding mission of bringing government closer to the people, C-SPAN announced today two major initiatives designed to greatly expand citizen access to its online video of federal government activities, such as congressional hearings, agency briefings, and White House events. These actions are intended to meet the growing demand for video about the federal government and Congress, in an age of explosive growth of video file sharers, bloggers, and online 'citizen journalists.' The policy change is effective immediately.

C-SPAN is introducing a liberalized copyright policy for current, future, and past coverage of any official events sponsored by Congress and any federal agency-- about half of all programming offered on the C-SPAN television networks--which will allow non-commercial copying, sharing, and posting of C-SPAN video on the Internet, with attribution.

This press release from C-Span.org explains the new policy does not include everything they broadcast. Their “new expanded policy” includes mostly federal events from Congress to the White House, however, the current copyright policy will not change for certain C-SPAN productions like that are not “public domain” or  such as those produced by the studios, like all non-federal events and shows like Book TV:

Examples of events included under C-SPAN's new expanded policy include all congressional hearings and press briefings, federal agency hearings, and presidential events at the White House. C-SPAN's copyright policy will not change for the network's studio productions, all non-federal events, campaign and political event coverage, and the network's feature programming, such as Book TV and original history series.

C-SPAN obviously wants to spin this in their direction and the press release explains the network’s directors “enthusiastically endorsed the copyright policy liberalization” and provides comments from two of their officials. Executive Committee Chairman William J. Bresnan, believes this expansion helps the network “carry out C-SPAN’s public service mission.” Rob Kennedy, C-SPAN president, says that C-SPAN has been “giving voice to the average citizen” since the network was founded in 1979 and that the network wants to continue to forge a path in “providing citizens with the tools to be active participants in the democratic process.”

This announcement, from C-SPAN.org, occurs about a month after questions were raised by the Republican Study Group concerning Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s use of a few C-SPAN videos on her web site. C-SPAN objected to Pelosi recording some Congressional hearings and posting them. Bloggers and watchdog groups began nosing around and kept the topic alive. Those exchanges about who owns what parts of C-SPAN broadcasts seem to have resulted in this new policy