Once Again, Political Speech Is Silenced By Copyright/ContentID

This seems to happen every political season. When he was a Presidential candidate, John McCain got annoyed at YouTube taking down political videos based on copyright claims. During the last Presidential election, a Mitt Romney TV ad featuring President Obama singing an Al Green song was taken down via a copyright claim. And now, 2016 Presidential candidate Rand Paul has discovered that his announcement speech from Tuesday morning has been taken down. This wasn’t a DMCA takedown, but yet another case of YouTube’s over-eager ContentID doing the job: Apparently the announcement kicked off with an anti-Wall Street country song, “Shuttin’ Detroit Down” by John Rich, whose copyright is held by Warner Music Group.

Of course, Rand Paul has been sort of a mixed bag on copyright. He was one of the first Senators to speak out against SOPA/PIPA in 2011. But, not long after that, he and his father Ron put out a weird internet freedom “manifesto” that appeared to argue for much stronger copyright laws, and which argued that the public domain was an evil “collectivist” threat that was against basic property rights.

Of course, it would be nice if this little incident led candidate Rand Paul to support fixes to copyright law and the DMCA, but as some are pointing out, assuming this really was a ContentID takedown, changes to the DMCA wouldn’t much matter — since ContentID is a private solution, outside of copyright law. That said, it was put in place, in part, to help keep YouTube from getting sued over copyright claims, so a fixed DMCA might lead to a better ContentID offering. Unfortunately, despite a history of copyright and ContentID being abused against political candidates, it still hasn’t really resulted in them taking a real platform stand on the problems of copyright law today and how it impacts free expression. It’s unlikely that Rand Paul is going to really take a stand on this, especially given that weird manifesto from a few years ago.

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