Last week, an alliance of right-wing bloggers joined the progressive public policy organization MoveOn in opposing the Fox News Channel for sending cease and desist letters to Republican presidential candidates that used Fox News clips in their TV ads. The barrage of cease and desist letters came after Fox individually targeted the campaign of presidential candidate John McCain for running an ad with a Fox News clip of a recent Republican debate.
According to the New York Times, "lawyers for Mr. McCain say they are within their 'fair use' rights to use the clip of their candidate talking for 19 seconds of a 90-minute debate." An attorney for Mitt Romney's campaign, which also used debate footage in political ads, responded similarly, defending the use of debate footage as protected political speech. We're glad to see candidates resisting media efforts to control their free speech rights, as the reuse of short video clips from a previously televised debate strikes us as plainly protected by fair use. (One key factor used in judging the fair use of a work is the amount used in proportion to the whole.)
Earlier this year, a group including many of the same political bloggers and organizations succeeded in an effort to liberate presidential debate footage for sharing, blogging, and reposting to sites like YouTube -- eventually, CNN, ABC and NBC responded to the call. Fox is notably absent from that list, and with this latest round of cease and desist letters, has firmly planted itself in opposition to politically active communities seeking the freedom to share candidates' messages.