Unfortunately, however, the uncertainty about the scope of copyright regulation is increasingly one such burden on Internet political speech. This next political cycle will see an explosion of citizen generated political content. Some of that speech will be crafted from clips taken from the Presidential debates. Some of that will be fantastically valuable and important. Yet as the law is right now, it is extremely difficult for an ordinary citizen to understand the boundaries of “fair use,” or the limits to copyright law. It is likewise difficult for companies such as YouTube, or Blip.tv. Indeed, it is even difficult for a skilled practitioner. That uncertainty, if not checked, could produce a cloud over much of this political speech, as sites and universities don’t know how much is too much. It will certainly create a temptation by some politicians to invoke copyright law to block particularly effective speech critical of them.
NOTE: Commentary was sparked by the announcement that Yahoo, Slate and the Hffington Post would be sponsoring the first ever “online-only” debates between the 2008 Democratic candidates for President.
Update: Unnecessary regulation of political speech (II) from Lawrence Lessig’s blog