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Activists Seek Access To All Debate Footage

Media activists want to loosen the TV industry's hold on presidential debate footage.

An eclectic group has sent letters to the heads of the Republican and Democratic National Committees asking for assurances that video from the presidential debates they are sponsoring can be shared on social networking sites like YouTube, blogged about and re-used "without fear of legal repercussion."

The signatories to the letters--which include MoveOn, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, the heads of the National Organization for Women, and dozens of bloggers, journalists and academics-- argue that rather than allowing TV stations or networks to retain the rights to footage of debates they broadcast, the footage should be made part of the public domain or shared under a "creative commons" license , which allows content generators to modify their rights.

Pointing to C-SPAN's decision earlier this year to allow greater distribution of its content over the Internet, the letter-writers argue that "in the age of online video sharing, corporations retaining exclusive rights to debate footage is an obvious barrier to democratic participation. No concerned voter should ever be labeled a lawbreaker for wanting to share video of a presidential debate with others."

They have asked both committees to specify in their debate contracts with stations and networks that the footage be available online.