Who owns video feed of Congress- You Do!

29 11 2009

So, I am studying for finals, which means my mind often goes on short stream-of-consciousness vacations and sometimes leads to eureka moments. But usually, it just leads to semi-eureka moments. Like this one.

I have been researching the efforts to restrict coverage of high school sports by the state associations (state actors). If you take their argument to the extreme you would be accepting the notion that a city council could have an “official” photographer or videographer, and restrict other media in the manner and amount that the media broadcasts what it covers. That would be absurd, right?

Which made me think- what about C-SPAN? I have been to Congress, and there are not gaggles of live television crews there. Is the high school sports association just following the C-SPAN model? The short answer is no.

C-SPAN broadcasts the video feed of Congress, but they do not own it or assert any rights over it. The U.S. government produces the feed of Congress (which is somewhat problematic- but a different argument), and since there is no copyright in material produced by the federal government, the video feed is public domain. Neither CNN or anyone else has to pay a licensing fee to Congress, or to C-SPAN to use or broadcast the video.

To read about the video from Congress, C-SPAN and copyright, check this link.




2 responses

30 11 2009
Mark Loundy

There’s a difference between limiting access to a publically produced feed and awarding exclusive rights to a private entity to cover the activities of a state actor.
Since CSPAN does not assert property rights over it’s feeds, the first point is moot. The second raises a valid public policy question.
I think that the question is whether such rights may or should be granted at all. Should the government award exclusive commercial access to public activities? Schools already limit physical access to games by selling tickets. But that revenue does not go to a third party.

1 12 2009
Alicia Wagner Calzada

I agree Mark. I am writing a 60+ page legal paper on the issue. Regarding the school sports, the government can award exclusive commercial access, and I have found a couple of cases to support this. But the issue here is not commercial access, it is First Amendment access.

It really doesn’t relate to C-SPAN at all, as I found out, but I had to investigate to satisfy my curiosity.

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