A call to put presidential debates on YouTube

Eleven years ago, presidential candidates began relaying campaign messages on the Web. Four years later, in 2000, they started accepting campaign contributions online. And now, thanks to a recent bipartisan alliance, video footage of campaign speeches could become widely available on the Internet.

Large numbers of organizations and grassroots activists released letters this week to the Republican and Democratic National Committees, asking them to urge debate sponsors to make all debate video footage available for any member of the public to access, share, reuse and blog about freely.

C-SPAN has already announced that it will allow expanded use of its video, and now progressives and conservatives alike are hoping others will follow their lead.

"This is about the Internet empowering the little guy in our democracy," Adam Green, of MoveOn.org Civic Action, said in a statement. "The big TV networks should not be the only ones determining which sound bites are newsworthy after a debate -- everyday people should be able to put candidates positions on YouTube and share them with others without fear of breaking the law."

Right now, television networks retain exclusive rights to debate footage. In years past, this didn't matter because, even if people wanted to share video content, they did not have a forum to do so. But now, with highly trafficked Internet sites like YouTube, it simply doesn't make sense to keep that footage out of the public domain.

For anyone who wants to see the Web become more democratic, you can show your support for the proposal by calling the DNC (202-863-8000) or the RNC (202-863-8500).

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