I say we need to create a million C-SPANs made by us, the citizens, using video to open up government to inspection by all.
C-SPAN itself is, oddly, one of the most jealous protectors of copyright anywhere. That’s why they demanded that Stephen Colbert’s speech before the press corps of Washington be pulled down from online. That is why The Times writes today about confusion in Congress about what representatives can and cannot put on their blogs. The short answer is: government feeds belong to us all, C-SPAN feeds belong to them. So Nancy Pelosi was in her rights to put up speeches from the floor on her blog; that came from the taxpayers’ cameras. Yet as The Times points out:
But last week, as it happens, C-Span did contact the speaker’s office to have it take down a different clip from her blog — one shot by C-Span’s cameras at a House Science and Technology Committee hearing on global warming where Ms. Pelosi testified, Mr. Daly said. . . .
“We are structurally burdened, in terms of people’s perception, because we are the only network that has such a big chunk of public domain material,” said Bruce Collins, the corporate vice president and general counsel of C-Span. He estimated that 5 to 15 percent of C-Span’s programming is from the House and Senate floor, and thus publicly available.
“It is perfectly understandable to me that people would be confused,” he said. “They say, ‘When a congressman says something on the floor it is public domain, but he walks down the street to a committee hearing or give a speech and it is not public domain?’ “
Thus the work of our government is being trapped by C-SPAN’s cameras and business models. That may be their right but it doesn’t serve our rights. So we need to blow this up.
If Firedoglake could go and liveblog the hell out of the Libby trial, so can more of us go and tape meetings of our government and distribute that online, around C-SPAN.
We can do this not just at a national but also at a state and local level. I suggested that this is a role for local public radio (here and here) and also for local newspapers: Unleash an army of us with audio and video recorders to capture public meetings and then host what we come up with and give us the tools to edit these recordings down to their essence.
The next time you go to your school board meeting, take along a video camera and put it up on YouTube. And watch how your elected representatives behave then.