Fox's view of copyright law: Unfair and imbalanced

2515669598_49eaa78414_mHow much is too much? That’s the question when it comes to a dispute between Fox Chicago and ProgressIllinois.com, a news site that had its YouTube account suspended after it posted short video clips excerpted from Fox Chicago broadcasts. Fox complained that the clips were posted in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Public Citizen, which is representing ProgressIllinois in the dispute, says the DCMA protects the “fair use” of news excerpts, especially for the use of political commentary. Exactly the way the Fox excerpts were used on ProgressIllinois.com.

In a statement released today, Public Citizen attorney Paul Alan Levy said the dispute is a perfect reminder of the need to amend the DCMA “so that political commentary is not put on hold while the procedure of notices of copyright infringement and arguments of noninfringement plays out.” Levy blogged about the issue back in October after similar phony copyright complaints forced YouTube to remove Obama and McCain campaigns that used excerpts from news shows.

Mashable, the social media news site, took Fox to task for its abuse of the DCMA:

Fox News is simply being ignorant in terms of how to utilize the Web. Having clips re-posted with commentary adds more exposure for their content, at no additional cost, since the videos are hosted on YouTube or other video sharing sites. Further, if Fox News’ issue is that they want to be compensated for the clips, they could do a deal with the video sites to make clips available and include ads. Instead, Fox News has just had the content taken down, which is of no benefit to anyone.

ProgressIllinois’ Josh Kalven expressed a similar sentiment in a Jan. 5 blog post, saying that Fox sees a copyright fight when it should see an opportunity:

This whole sequence of events perfectly illustrates the short-sighted response from some mainstream media outlets to the use of their content in the blogosphere. Rather then trying to turn the clock back to 1995, WFLD should get its web presence in order. Rather than trying to impede the use of their content, the station should embrace bloggers’ interest in their coverage and figure out a way to share video in a usable, functional, and timely manner. Indeed, if we had been able to find embeddable versions of the videos in question, we would have surely used those (as we do with MSNBC content), rather then upload our own.

But regardless of Fox’s lack of social media savvy or backwards Internet strategy, the fact remains that the use of excerpts, whether video clips or text, is protected free speech under the DCMA. Whether a judge gets to weigh in on this dispute, Levy says, will depend on how quickly Fox lifts its objections to ProgressIllinois’ use of its video clips.

Flickr image by Kelly Sims