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Culture

Online publishers run with 'BarneyCam' video

WashingtonPost.com and other Web sites disregard White House's previously stated claims to exclusivity.

Online publishers including The Washington Post have apparently come out on top in a battle with the White House over Webcasting rights to popular holiday videos of Barney, the presidential pooch.

In previous seasons, the White House had claimed exclusive online rights to the popular video. But when the latest installment was released on the White House Web site this week, the Post didn't wait for permission before hosting the clip on its own site. MSNBC.com also ran with the video.

"Last year there was an embargo on the AP-provided video," Doug Feaver, executive editor at WashingtonPost.com, wrote in e-mail Friday morning. "This year there was not. We posted it on the home page. We had no prior conversations with the White House, and we have had none since."

The White House did not return calls seeking comment.

At stake are lucrative video advertising revenues. This was the third episode of the popular "BarneyCam" flicks, which tend to attract tens of millions of page views each year. The Post's version of the video that was viewed by CNET News.com began with an ad from Intel pushing its Centrino chip.

The issue came to a head last year, when TV stations were given copies of the video to broadcast but Web sites were told they would not get the same treatment. That piqued Feaver, who fired off a letter objecting to the apparent double standard and seeking equal access to the video. In a previous interview, he told CNET News.com that the paper never received a reply.

The well-made and amusing video features Barney cavorting with President Bush, First Lady Laura Bush and top presidential aides.

Barney is at first miffed to be passed over for a cabinet post. But when Bush asks him instead to look after Miss Beazley, a new puppy due to take up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., he executes his task with--what else?--dogged determination.

Along the way, Barney encounters political luminaries like Chief of Staff Andrew Card, political adviser Karl Rove, and Alberto Gonzales -- Bush's nominee for attorney general--who ham it up for the camera.

White House spokesman Jimmy Orr said last month that online distribution would be "addressed" before the release of the video, but he did not respond to repeated requests for comment this week.

What remains unclear is whether the Bush administration's lawyers can do anything to stop news sites that host the video without permission. Federal copyright law does not include videos or any other material created by a government employee "of the United States government as part of that person's official duties."

CNET News.com's Evan Hansen contributed to this report.