A little spat that John McCain is having with YouTube has gotten a bit of press lately. Basically, he's not happy because YouTube has been taking his videos down whenever they get a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notice from a copyright holder. Apparently, this has happened to McCain fairly often, possibly because his campaign has gotten into the habit of using other people's material without their permission.
Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, an internet service provider (like YouTube) is only immune from copyright infringement suits if they promptly take down material upon receipt of a violation notice, and leave that material down for at least ten days following the receipt of a properly notarized counter-claim. McCain doesn't like that, and his people have reacted by proposing that YouTube should recognize how special they are, and give them special treatment.
YouTube replied by politely telling McCain that it's not their fault that the law is crappy. They're right, of course. Laws are not passed by internet service providers; they're passed by the United States Congress, which McCain has been a member of for a long time. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act was passed in 1998, and was passed unanimously by the senate.
That's right. McCain is asking YouTube to exempt him from the provisions of a law that he voted for. But it gets better. He didn't just vote for the DMCA. He actually went on the record in the Senate as supporting the bill:
S. 2037, The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, is aptly named. As digitization of commerce, education, entertainment, and a host of other online applications proceeds, international copyright agreements have to be maintained and updated. In addition, the rights of copyright owners need to be assured as technology progresses. That not only safeguards the copyright holder's rights, but also assures that new
material will be freely produced and made available to all Internet users.
(Source: [Congressional Record: May 12, 1998 (Senate)] [Page S4683-S4709])
The rights of copyright holders need to be safeguarded. They need to be assured as technology progresses. Unless, of course, it interferes with his desire to use their works for his own personal political gain.
My Friends, I give you the Digital Millennium Copyright Act: a law that John McCain was for, before he learned that it applies to him.
As soon as I posted this, I realized that I was really missing the bigger picture here. Yes, there is a certain degree of schadenfreude it watching John McCain having problems as a result of a crappy law that he helped pass. (And DMCA really is a crappy law, and really does make life unnecessarily difficult for people who wind up on the receiving end of takedown notices.) YouTube's response to those points was really quite good.
But there's more to this than just the issue of DMCA. There's a very real issue of character here.
McCain did not respond to the takedown notices by discussing the problems with DMCA, or suggesting that the bad law that he helped pass be modified. John "Maverick" McCain's response to the problem was to suggest that YouTube create an extra-special category for things posted by political campaigns, and give politicians special privileges that are not extended to the rest of us mere mortals.
But he can do that. He's the maverick. Obama's the elitist. And don't forget it.
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Actually McCain is absolutely right in the current mess-morally. Fair use should be applied, and there should be no suggestion otherwise. His campaign by all but the RIAA and MPAA would not be considered infringing on anything. Unfortunately the Congress was bought and paid for by rights-holding groups. The Sonny Bono law, the DMCA and the even worse Pro-IP act that just passed with overwhelming margins have all tilted things way out of whack to try to salvage the outdated and dying business plans of big old distributers.
So McCain is reaping what he sowed certainly. He could of actually made a powerful statement with this and probably got some techies on his side, but the campaigns response shows they don't understand the overall issues.
Sure. As I said in the update, I think DMCA is a crappy law. It's way too broad, and it stacks the deck way too heavily in favor of copyright holders. But McCain's response is still instructive.
When confronted with a bad law a leader responds by identifying the problem and trying to fix it. A politician responds by trying to create a special category that ensures that politicians aren't effected by the problem that they caused in the first place.
Here is how to fix this part of the DMCA:
We've seen with both McCain and Palin that they think the laws should be very strict, and that the laws should apply to everybody except them.