May not be pretty, but President Bush dances as a part of raising awareness for fighting malaria.
News: In letters to the Chairs of the RNC and DNC reproduced on his blog, Lawrence Lessig, the founder of Creative Commons and Stanford Law professor (with other supporters) is asking the two parties to secure agreements from the networks who televise the presidential elections to allow people to make (re)uses of the copyrighted broadcasts provided attribution is given to the copyright holder.
Although the deal would not be limited to YouTube, YouTube is the site that the press (see here) has rightfully focused on, given its influence already on the last midterm election.
Analysis: This is a worthy proposal, but as even Lessig admits “I won’t like much of what this freedom will engender. But if that were a legitimate reason to regulate political speech, this would be a very different world.”
The pluses are potentially engaging voters in the debates in ways unimagined before. Just think voters could create their own “highlight” reel of the presidential debates, focusing on those segments that mattered to them most. Also, voters could create their own video commercials for their favorite candidate, using footage from the debates. Also, the availability of “time shifted” clips on YouTube would allow people who missed the broadcast to have access to the debates (or parts of them). Having more access to what the presidential candidates said during the debates is undoubtedly a good thing.
Of course, with the good, we may also get the bad. Bad, as in more negative ads, for starters. Everyone with a computer could spin out a “swift boat” attack on a candidate, using footage from the debates. Also, putting video clips on YouTube definitely feeds into the “sound bite” mentality of the media — which probably is not great for selecting a president. Moreover, video clips probably would accentuate any gaffe or verbal mistatement (cf. “macaca”) made by a candidate — the prospect of which could, in turn, cause the candidates to be even more pre-packaged during the debates. Some would argue, however, that finding those “gotcha” moments is not necessarily a bad thing.
My guess is that we’ll probably see the “negatives” occur, even if the networks and parties don’t agree to Lessig’s proposal. We might also see some of the “positives” without it, too. But a formal agreement that is announced to the public would serve as an open invitation to voters to engage in the positive activities. And that would be a good thing.
News: Add Sony to the list of major media corporations that plan on launching video sharing sites to compete with YouTube. Sony’s will be called “eyeVio” and will be launched on Friday in Japan, according to Reuters. Last month, News Corp. (owned by Rupert Murdoch) and NBC Universal announced plans to launch their own site as well.
Sony says it will closely monitor content on its eyeVio site — which some say will be in marked contrast to YouTube’s automated system. “We believe there’s a need for a clean and safe place where companies can place their advertisements,” Sony spokesperson Takeshi Honma said.
Analysis: “Clean” place? Hmm. I wonder if that’s from a translation. Still a thinly veiled slight at YouTube and its copyright controversies. This is all part of the ongoing debate between (i) automated networks on the Internet and (ii) the desire among some copyright holders for human review of each file uploaded before it becomes available.
Of course, we might envision some middle ground between the two poles, an automated network with some random human prescreening of a portion of uploaded files. Unfortunately, under the DMCA safe harbor, the Internet service provider would be jeopardizing its claim to the safe harbor, the more it starts actively prescreening content and becoming aware of possible circumstances indicating infringement.
It’s not clear whether Sony will be prescreening 100% of the files uploaded, or doing some smaller percentage. Part of the problem, of course, is how many humans do you have to hire to screen 65,000 files a day, the amount YouTube typically gets? And, once you hire all those people, having all those people determine what may be copyright infringement will inevitably be based on guesswork. A litigation-averse company will likely be overinclusive and deny a third party’s posting of content if there’s any doubt.
Filtering technology may one day provide some greater relief. But that’s probably long on the horizon, and it’s probably unlikely to be the silver bullet to screen out all or even most unauthorized uses of copyrighted videos. I could be wrong about the filtering, but one thing to remember: unauthorized uses of copyrighed works have always been a part of our copyright system. We just haven’t been able to see them as easily as we do now on the Internet.
Just another sign of the influence YouTube has had on politics. UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Labour Party have set up their own channel on YouTube. I think they need to buy a better video camera, though, because the first video from Blair is a little grainy.
What next? George W. Bush on YouTube.
News: NBC, owned by Universal, will be testing out YouTube’s deployment of content-identication software (reportedly from Audible Magic out of Los Gatos, CA). According to WSJ:
“Fingerprinting technology, by analyzing the audio or video tracks of a clip, could alert YouTube to the presence of material that a media company has registered as its own — regardless of who uploads it or what they title the clip. General Electric Co.’s NBC-Universal says it plans to participate in a test of fingerprinting on YouTube that it expects to start shortly. Technical staffs from the two companies are working together and they hope to have results by this summer, according to NBC.”
Analysis: Glad to see the two sides working together to deal with copyright infringement. According to WSJ, the process will work something like this: “Google is expected to use fingerprinting to flag pirated clips to the content owners, which then have to request they be removed.” Of course, fingerprinting is a little bit short of automated filtering. WSJ: ‘It sounds like some kind of crazy lost and found,’ a senior executive at one of the big media companies says. ‘It’s not going to be enough,’ says another.” I guess I think everyone needs to be patient and give this technology a chance to develop.
Here’s how Audible Magic describes its own system: “Patented CopySense identification techniques recognize media content based on digital “fingerprints” derived from perceptual characteristics of the content itself. The approach is highly accurate and requires no dependence on metadata, watermarks or file hashes. Best of all the technology is highly immune to compression or distortion, and it is indifferent to file or streaming format. It’s the best approach for recognizing content “in the wild.” Integration of CopySense technology is made simple with an efficient and compact API library.”
“Hello, YouTube,” is a common greeting many people say on their videos. I’m struck by it because it’s almost as if YouTube has become a real person in these videos, the collective audience on YouTube. Now, John Edwards is saying it. Obviously, his speech writer is in tune with the YouTube lingo. Hello, YouTube.
Nice to see talent, discovered.
News: A few weeks ago, Moveon.org sued Viacom for an allegedly false misrepresentation on a DMCA sent by Viacom to YouTube to take down a parody of Stephen Colbert’s truthiness. The parody was called “falsiness.” Under the DMCA, section 512(f), a copyright holder that makes a misreprentation on a DMCA notice can be held civilly liable “for any damages, including costs and attorneys’ fees, incurred by the alleged infringer, by any copyright owner or copyright owner’s authorized licensee, or by a service provider, who is injured by such misrepresentation, as the result of the service provider relying upon such misrepresentation in removing or disabling access to the material or activity claimed to be infringing, or in replacing the removed material or ceasing to disable access to it.”
Initially, Viacom’s lawyer sent a letter to EFF denying completely that it had sent the DMCA notice. (I found the letter a little smug in calling out “Fred” and “Larry” by name, referring to Moveon.org’s lawyers, Fred von Lohmann and Lawrence Lessig, but that letter is nowhere to be seen on EFF’s site.) Now, Viacom has ‘fessed up to sending the DMCA notice and admits that it shouldn’t have because the parody is a fair use and (not copyright infringement) (See the Viacom letter).
As a part of the settlement, “Viacom has agreed to set up a website and email ‘hotline,’ promising a review of any complaint within one business day and a reinstatement if the takedown request was in error.” Viacom’s website will have language informing users of rights, as outlined in this Viacom letter. According to another letter, Viacom’s website also will state: “Regardless of the law of fair use, we have not generally challenged users of Viacom copyrighted materials where the use or copy is occasional and is a creative, newsworthy or transformative use of a limited excerpt for non commercial purposes.” (More here and on EFF’s website)
Analysis: This is a victory for fair use, and EFF (particularly, Fred von Lohmann) deserves credit for securing this settlement. I’m glad Viacom owned up to its error and even more glad that it says it will implement on fair use policy on its website.
To me, the biggest part of the settlement is Viacom’s general acceptance of users’ transformative, noncommercial uses of its copyrighted works. This is consistent with what Don Verrilli, Viacom’s lawyer in the suit at YouTube, said at the Fordham conference about “transformative uses being OK.” I’ll be saying a lot more about this kind of sentiment in an article, but suffice it for now to say that I believe this sentiment is a very important development for copyright law.
A tribute to the victims of the VTech shootings. 1st Video by Emmaline1138.
Ross Abdallah Alameddine
Christopher James Bishop
Daniel Perez Cueva
Matthew G. Gwaltney
Emily Jane Hilscher
Jarrett L. Lane
Matthew J. La Porte
Henry J. Lee
Juan Ramon Ortiz
Mary Karen Read
Reema J. Samaha
Waleed Mohammed Shaalan
[My personal note: I had planned on canceling my “Video of the week” feature entirely this week, to participate in today’s moment of silence in Virginia for those innocent students and professors who were killed this week at Virginia Tech. But I later found this video on YouTube that I think is a better way for me to honor the 32 individuals who lost their lives too soon. CNN also provides biographies for each of the victims.]
After outlining a debate between Viacom’s and Google’s lawyers last week, I promised to say more about the main issues in the Viacom lawsuit against YouTube. I will develop these issues more later, but here’s a rough sketch:
A. The Business issue: Basically, it’s about money–how and how much Viacom is to be paid by YouTube for clips of Viacom’s copyrighted shows (e.g., Colbert, Daily Show, South Park) on YouTube. The two sides had been trying to negotiate a deal, but talks have been unsuccessful. As I reported before, Viacom had earlier seemed willing to allow some of its clips on YouTube, even some posted there by YouTube users without a license — a sentiment that had been expressed in public statements made by producers of the Daily Show. Even this week, Google CEO Eric Schmidt keeps calling the lawsuit a “negotiating tactic” and indicating that the two sides will come back to the bargaining table. Of course, if they strike a deal, the lawsuit will evaporate.
B. Legal issues: As noted below, I think Issues 1-3 are where the real fight will be. At least from what I’ve read so far in Viacom’s complaint, Issue 4 and especially Issue 5 strike me as pretty flimsy.
1. Any duty to police under DMCA beyond notice and takedown: Beyond maintaining a process of taking down allegedly infringing works upon receipt of notice from the copyright holder as set forth in the DMCA safe harbor, how much other affirmative policing of its site, if any, must an Internet site like YouTube maintain? Under the default approach under the DMCA, it’s pretty clear that an Internet service provider has no affirmative duty to police the site beyond the notice-and-takedown procedure. The default approach does not apply to YouTube, Viacom argues, because YouTube is aware of “red flags” on its site that give it actual or constructive knowledge of the presence of infringing works, even apart from notice-and-takedown. YouTube disputes that it has such knowledge. Under the DMCA, the standard for constructive knowledge is that the ISP is “aware of facts or circumstances from which infringing activity is apparent.” We need to know more facts about YouTube’s actual practices, but this is where one of the fights will be.
2. Netcom defense for automated networks: This issue is related to (1), but the Netcom defense is based on case law and is available in addition to the DMCA safe harbor.
3. Financial benefit issue/DMCA: Does YouTube “receive a financial benefit directly attributable to the infringing activity, in a case in which the service provider has the right and ability to control such activity”? [More to follow]
4. Business model issue: Is YouTube’s business model predicated on encouraging copyright infringement? This question relates to (3) and (5). Based on the allegations in the Complaint, I think this sounds like a big stretch.
5. Inducement claim/Grokster: Is YouTube actively inducing infringement by taking affirmative steps to encourage others to commit copyright infringement? Based on the allegations in the Complaint, I don’t see this claim going anywhere.
News: YouTube’s Julie Supan today described the forthcoming filtering technology from YouTube, known as “Claim Your Content.” According to one account:
“The technology does not identify copyright material,” Supan said, “because we can not distinguish between copyrighted material on YouTube that the owner wants on the site from material that is put up without the owners’ permission.””What we are testing,” Supan went on to say, “is identification technology that will help content owners identify and locate their content on YouTube. This will facilitate their ability to ‘claim their content’ and leave it up for promotional purposes or, if they wish, seek to remove it from the site.”
Analysis: Hmmm. More should be said about this filtering. Given the anticipation for its deployment, I’m starting to fear it may not meet the growing expectations.
YouTVPC.com, peekvid.com, Alluc.com, southparkzone.com — Video sites that really flout copyright law?April 17, 2007
News: The WSJ has a terrific article today discussing the problem of “Guerilla Web Sites” that offer full length streamed copies of TV shows and movies — all reportedly without permission of the copyright holders.
The guerilla sites include: YouTVPC.com, peekvid.com, Alluc.com, and southparkzone.com. According to the article (which is online only by subscription), some of the sites claim not to be breaking copyright law because they don’t store the copies of the shows on their servers (at least not in the U.S.), they only provide links to videos stored in foreign countries.
Analysis: I haven’t studied these sites, so I will just take it on faith they are as bad as described in the WSJ article. The argument that these sites are not infringing copyrights is pretty frivolous. Even one of the founders of YouTVPC.com, Sam Martinez, admits that “in any court of law I’m sure we’d be found guilty.” At least he’s right on one point.
I’m struck by how egregious these sites are. As far as I can tell from the article, though, they have not been sued. Instead, Viacom sues YouTube, which looks like a patron saint for copyrights after reading the WSJ article. Viacom’s allegation that YouTube’s business model is built on copyright infringement rings even more hollow after the WSJ article.
News: Spanish TV channels Telecinco and Cuatro are reportedly negotiating licensing deals with Google to allow some of their popular videos on YouTube. Apparently, they’ve asked YouTube already to remove some unauthorized clips of their shows. (More here)
News: At the National Association of Broadcasters, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said that YouTube will soon launch a filtering system called “Claim Your Content,” which reportedly “will automatically identify copyright material so that it can be removed.” (More here)
Analysis: Not yet clear whether this is the Audible Magic filtering technology for audio that had been announced back in February, or something more.
Last week, I was at the annual Fordham International Intellectual Property Law & Policy conference. One of the highlights was seeing lawyers from Viacom and Google debate the lawsuit brought by Viacom against both YouTube and Google. The debate was very engaging, and, quite frankly, I was surprised how willing to comment on the pending lawsuit the two lawyers were.
Donald Verrilli, from DC’s Jenner & Block, represents Viacom. He’s the lawyer who succesfully represented the movie studios against Grokster before the Supreme Court.
Alex Macgillivray, Google’s Senior Product and IP Counsel, spoke on behalf of Google and YouTube. Alex has also been affiliated with Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. The two lawyers were speaking on a panel with several other lawyers, but I will only discuss the Viacom-Google exchange, summarizing the main arguments in the general order in which they were presented.
Verrilli’s main points (for Viacom): (1) Verrilli agreed that there’s a lot of unauthorized use of copyrighted works on the Web–the topic of the panel. (2) As a practical matter, he said, the transformative type of unauthorized uses were not problematic (referring to mashups). (3) Instead, what is problematic is the wholesale acquisition and unauthorized use of copyrighted works through businesses like YouTube. It’s problematic b/c the business models of such companies generate very significant profits from unauthorized use.
(4) Given time constraints, Verrilli focused his discussion on the DMCA safe harbor — while shelving discussion of two other topics (i) academic arguments suggesting this kind of activity is beyond copyright and (ii) liability based on business models (under Grokster). (5) Verrilli took issue with Larry Lessig’s NYT op-ed in which Lessig characterized the DMCA as a “bargain” — copyright holders got an anti-circumvention protection law and ISPs, in return, got a safe harbor. If this bargain were truly the case, then a company like YouTube could just put a banner on the top of its home page stating: “We’re endeavoring to have all episodes of the O.C. on our site, so please upload them here.” Verrilli concluded that it doesn’t seem possible that Congress enacted the DMCA safe harbor to allow that.
(6) Verrilli stated that the DMCA safe harbor doesn’t just recognize “notice” on the part of the ISP based on a takedown notice, but instead the ISP can get knowledge elsewhere (from “red flags”)–which Verrilli suggested or stated was happening with the unauthorized clips on YouTube. (7) Also, the DMCA safe harbor doesn’t apply if the ISP receives a “direct financial benefit” from infringing activity where the ISP has a right and ability to control it. Here, there’s a benefit b/c the infringing content generates popularity, more viewers, which increases the potential ad revenue YouTube can command. (8) The DMCA protects only 4 certain functions (transitory transmission, caching, passive storage, and locator tools); it’s not a shield for infringing activity. (9) According to Verrilli, the ISPs have certain responsibilities under the DMCA, one of which is that it’s the ISPs “cost of business to stop infringement.” (10) Verrilli also charged that YouTube was only willing to offer filtering to companies that agreed to be partners of YouTube in licensing deals.
Macgillivray’s main points (for YouTube/Google): (1) YouTube empowers authors by allowing them to get their videos seen by lots of people. There’s also some content voluntarily provided by media companies on YouTube. But the whole reason YouTube started was to solve the problem of sharing video among friends (since you can’t do so by email, given the size of the files). Steve Chen’s first YouTube video was just a video of his cat.
(2) Macgillivray does a presentation of 3 videos posted on YouTube and asks the audience to vote whether they think the videos were posted on YouTube without authorization. (i) Video 1 is a video of Brookers; (ii) Video 2 is a video of Stephen Colbert, playing off his “truthiness” concept, and (iii) Video 3 is the Fox News Chris Wallace interview of Pres. Clinton. One audience member objects and says the choices to the question should include: “We can’t tell whether it’s authorized or not from the video.” Macgillivray likes the amendment, and a number of the people seem to agree on this point. Macgillivray later reveals that, although you may think that Video 3 was not authorized by Fox, in fact it was (after Fox itself reconsidered and put the video up on YouTube itself, although I’m not sure if I’ve linked to that particular version).
(3) Macgillivray then states that if YouTube were trying to make a business off of copyright infringement, it wouldn’t be doing all that’s doing now to curb infringement. First, he claims that they have the best DMCA notice/takedown procedure online — the turnaround is quick and automated. Second, YouTube has implemented a “hashing technology” that attempts to screen out any video whose content had previously been removed after a notice-and-takedown. Third, they’re searching for better ways to enable copyright holders to serach for unauthorized uses of their works on YouTube. Also, Macgillivray disagrees that the DMCA safe harbor recognizes liability based on a business model inquiry, but, in any event, the DMCA safe harbor case law in ebay, Amazon, Google, and ccBill cases are on its side.
(4) Macgillivray stated that the legislative history makes clear that the standard of “financial benefit directly attributable to the infringing activity” is a high standard, potentially higher than vicarious liability case law. Any financial benefit has to be “directly attributable” to the infringing activity. In the case of unauthorized clips on YouTube, YouTube gets no such financial benefit. He points to an example in the legislative history to the safe harbor that indicates that even charging money for hosting services generally would not amount to receiving a financial benefit “directly attributable” to infringing activity.
(5) Macgillivray attempts to refute an allegation in Viacom’s complaint, which apparently suggested that an ISP could be liable if users used its service to make unauthorized videos available in private. That would make email providers liable.
(6) Macgillivray said it’s just not true that YouTube is restricting its filtering to partners who strike a deal with YouTube. When pressed in Q&A, he explained that some experimental testing of filtering has been made only with YouTube partners, but that’s only to test out the technology being developed.
(7) In Q&A, Macgillivray revealed that YouTube handles the takedown of pornographic clips on YouTube in the same way: it waits for notice, complaints by users. It’s easier to tell pornographic clips are pornographic than it is to tell whether a clip is unauthorized or not.
Analysis: I know there’s a lot of legalese in this post that nonlawyers may not follow, but I wanted to put down the main arguments as they were presented at this law conference. In a later post, I hope to add my own thoughts about this exchange and make the arguments a little bit more accessible to the layperson. Stay tuned.
I never knew this was possible on the “Paint” program on my computer. This video is a little long (4 plus minutes), but it’s well worth sitting through to see the artwork at the end. Amazing.
News: Wired has an interview with Google CEO Eric Schmidt in which he discusses YouTube and the Viacom copyright lawsuit. Here’s the relevant part:
Wired: In March, media giant Viacom sued Google, claiming that YouTube is stealing its video content. What made Viacom decide to go to court?
Schmidt: It’s a business negotiation. We’ve been negotiating with them, and I’m sure at some point we’ll negotiate with them some more.
Wired: Viacom’s argument is that you’re not working hard enough to keep infringing clips off of YouTube.
Schmidt: Well, if they would look at the law, they’d understand that under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, there’s a shared responsibility. The law says that the copyright owner monitors — and then we expeditiously remove — offending clips. We’ve done that. In fact, YouTube’s traffic has grown since we did. So Viacom’s argument that YouTube is somehow built on stolen content is clearly false.
Wired: How could copyright law in the digital age be clearer?
Schmidt: The balance that was struck in the DMCA has worked pretty well, and I think it may be better for all of us to work within that framework for a while as we develop these new businesses. It’s the unintended consequences of new laws that always get you.
Analysis: Eric Schmidt’s comments are well taken. First, he’s exactly right about the DMCA safe harbor provision — service providers like YouTube do not have to affirmatively patrol their site for copyright infringement. The legislative history and case law on the DMCA are pretty clear about that. In a networked environment, it would be virtually impossible for Internet service providers to have to patrol their sites for copyright infringement. Viacom doesn’t like patrolling YouTube for copyright infringement but that burden is relatively small when compared to the burden YouTube would face in having to patrol its site for all copyright infringement. Viacom is only one copyright holder and only has to look for its own shows on YouTube. But the reverse rule sought by Viacom would mean that YouTube would have to look for copyrighted works of not just Viacom, but hundreds, if not thousands, of copyright holders. Schmidt’s right that, under the DMCA, there is a “shared responsibility” among Internet service providers and copyright holders.
Second, Schmidt refutes Viacom’s assertion in its complaint that YouTube’s business model is built on “stolen content.” Referring to a recent study that indicated YouTube’s traffic increased after Viacom’s shows were removed from YouTube, Schmidt says that Viacom’s assertion is “cleary false.” I’ve already blogged about this aspect of Viacom’s complaint before — it seems overblown to me and vulnerable to summary judgment.
Third, the most revealing aspect of Schmidt’s comments, though, are not legal. Schmidt says that the lawsuit is a part of the “business negotiations” with Viacom. You don’t even have to read in between the lines to conclude that a settlement of the case is very likely. One of the things that I’ve learned since I started following YouTube is the important role business and consumer dealings play in or in addition to copyright law. It would be a mistake to think of the dispute between YouTube and Viacom only in terms of copyright law. Even the DMCA safe harbor provision is premised on a certain practical arrangement that accepts the existence of some “network” type infringement on the Internet.
That said, Viacom could always elect to forego settling the case and pursue it the very end. But could Viacom afford the risk of losing the case and giving Google even more bargaining power?
News: Shortly after Viacom sued YouTube, I questioned in this post whether Viacom’s factual allegations in its complaint were way overblown, specifically those contending that YouTube’s business model is built on a “massive” amount of infringing files. Based on my own daily review of YouTube videos, that seemed untrue. Most of the files on YouTube appear to me to be user-created content or home videos. Viacom complained about 130,000 files — that number would comprise less than an even a small fraction of one percent of the several billion files on YouTube. And most of the most popular videos on YouTube are user-generated content.
This week, Vidmeter.com, an online site that tracks video sharing online, has issued a report substantiating some of my points and the relatively modest role that infringing files play on YouTube. From a 3-month study of the most-watched videos on YouTube (6,725 videos that were collectively viewed over 1 billion times), Vidmeter concludes: “In summary, we found that of the 6,725 most popular videos on YouTube, only 621 had been removed due to copyright requests. Views to the removed videos made up less than 6% of all recorded YouTube views.”
Specifically, Viacom’s removed files constituted only 2.37% of all views on YouTube during that time period.
Analysis: YouTube’s position seems inconsistent with its removal of a video disparaging the founder of Turkey (story here). I wonder why the Turkish government gets its request honored by YouTube, but not the Thai government?
UPDATE: The offending video was taken down, apparently, by the person who posted it. The Thai government, however, is still banning YouTube because there’s a still photo apparently mocking the King that’s still up on YouTube. More here.
News: USA Today has an excellent article today discussing the increased use of technology, including videos on YouTube, by the presidential candidates.
Excerpt about the controversial “Hilary 1984 negative ad”: Such “voter-generated content” will be the wild card in coming elections, says Andrew Rasiej of TechPresident, a blog launched in February to track the role of the Web in the 2008 race. “Hillary 1984 shows traditional political campaigns will lose complete control of the political process,” he says.
Excerpt about YouTube campaign videos: Wider adoption of high-speed Internet access and the 2005 launch of video-sharing site YouTube make online video a crucial tool. Nearly 50% of U.S. homes now have broadband access, about double the rate in 2004, says the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
Romney, founder of venture-capital firm Bain Capital, broadcasts video across eight “channels” on his site’s Mitt TV. Clinton lays out positions on health care, national defense and energy in her “Hillcasts.”
Like TV ads, online videos give politicians a chance to talk face-to-face to voters, unfiltered by mainstream journalists, says Jon Krosnick, a political science professor at Stanford University in Silicon Valley.
Yet, video is a double-edged sword. Virginia Republican George Allen lost his Senate re-election bid last fall after an amateur video spread across the Internet showing him at a campaign stop using the term “macaca,” perceived as an ethnic slur. Allen denied that was his intent. But the video’s repeated viewings on YouTube helped spur his defeat by newcomer Jim Webb.
Candidates are responding to attack videos with their own videos, much as they countered attack e-mail when it emerged in the 2000 elections. Romney was accused in YouTube videos of “flip-flopping” on social issues, adopting more conservative stances on gay marriage and abortion. He responded with 66 videos on his own YouTube page outlining his views. “I was wrong on some issues back then,” he says in one video. “I think most of us learn with experience.”
Analysis: It’s too early to tell whether YouTube will greatly affect the presidential election in 2008. Given the candidates’ own extensive use of YouTube already, it probably will have at least some effect. The “Hillary Clinton 1984” ad may just be an opening salvo. I’m still not sure whether that’s a good or bad thing.