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YouTube rejects McCain request for DMCA takedown fix

Google-owned video site is unwilling to give presidential campaigns special treatment, saying they should rely on their rights under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Declan McCullagh Former Senior Writer
Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET. You can e-mail him or follow him on Twitter as declanm. Declan previously was a reporter for Time and the Washington bureau chief for Wired and wrote the Taking Liberties section and Other People's Money column for CBS News' Web site.
Declan McCullagh
2 min read

YouTube has rejected a request from John McCain's presidential campaign for a legal review of political videos that are the subject of deletion requests.

The Google-owned company said Tuesday evening in a response to McCain's organization (PDF) that it could not give campaigns special treatment and that it was "not in a position to verify" whether infringement complaints made under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act were legitimate or not.

The McCain camp is upset that some of its political ads and videos, which used brief snippets of news broadcasts and other copyrighted material, have been the subject of DMCA takedown requests after they appear on YouTube. Often, the McCain-Palin campaign's general counsel said, those videos are "immediately" removed for 10 days, which is a long stretch of time during a presidential campaign.

The campaign sent a letter to YouTube on Monday asking for a "full legal review" of DMCA takedown notices sent to "political candidates and campaigns." Here is an excerpt from the response from YouTube Chief Counsel Zahavah Levine sent a day later rebuffing the request:

While we agree with you that the U.S. presidential election-related content is invaluable and worthy of the highest level of protection, there is a lot of other content on our global site that our users around the world find to be equally important, including, by way of example only, political campaigns from around the globe at all levels of government, human rights movements, and other important voices. We try to be careful not to favor one category of content on our site over others, and to treat all of our users fairly, regardless of whether they are an individual, a large corporation or a candidate for public office.

The real problem here is individuals and entities that abuse the DMCA takedown process. You and our other content uploaders can play a critical role in helping us to address this difficult problem...You can file counter-notifications. You can seek retractions of abusive takedown notices. You can hold abusive claimants publicly accountable for their actions by publicizing their actions...

We look forward to working with Senator (or President) McCain on ways to combat abuse of the DMCA takedown process on YouTube, including by way of example, strengthening the fair use doctrine...

One example of what upset the McCain campaign would likely be CBS News' successful DMCA takedown request to YouTube over the McCain campaign's lipstick-on-a-pig ad. It used a brief video clip featuring CBS News anchor Katie Couric to make a point about sexism. (Disclaimer: CNET News is published by CBS Interactive, a unit of CBS.)