DMCA and incentive alignment

| Comments (3) | Misc Networking
John McCain has been having some trouble with people sending DMCA takedowns to YouTube for his videos. His campaign wrote to YouTube but they were uh, unsympathetic:
On a final note, we hope that as a content uploader you have gained a sense of some of the challenged we face everyday in operating YouTube. 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, so that intermediaries like us can rely on this important doctrine with a measure of business certainty.

Lessig argues that political ads should be privileged:

Chris Soghoian of Berkman has a nice post about McCain/Palin's call on YouTube to review takedowns from campaigns before taking them down. He criticizes it as "special rules."

True enough, it is a special rule. But isn't it appropriate? For here's the new game for politics in the YouTube age: complain enough to get an account shut down (according to YouTube testimony, 3 complaints gets an account shut down (pg 17 near the bottom), and ideally, do it at the critical time just before an election.

Of course, no one should be subject to this arbitrary game. But especially a campaign. Let's start here and begin to build out from a clear example of bad incentives.

This strikes me as exactly backwards: unlike you and I, McCain is actually in a position to do something about DMCA abuse: he can introduce legislation to amend the DMCA to make takedowns a lot harder to send. Why should he be allowed to avoid the consequences of laws like this, as opposed to having his incentives aligned with mine?

Incidentally, I don't really understand why presidential candidates need YouTube. YouTube is providing three services here: (1) conversion to FLV (2) advertising and (3) bandwidth. You can get your own FLV converters and it's not like the McCain campaign really needs YouTube's mechanisms to help people find their videos, so this leaves bandwidth. Obviously, it's cheaper to have someone else host your data, but with FLV chewing up about .5 Meg/minute and bandwidth running at << $.10/GB (my not especially cheap hosting service provider will sell you a flat rate 100 Mbps port for $6500/month), it's not out of the question to just host it yourself either. This has obvious advantages including not having to deal with YouTube legal.


(4) shelter from the politically-motivated
miscreants who would try to disrupt servers
if they were dedicated only to streaming his
campaign videos,

(5) perfunctory Internet-ethos cred with
voters who might care about that sort of
thing and still not be locks for Obama,
``especially in closely contested swing
states'' (TM)

(6) Get eyeballs. When people search your content shows up.

You forgot two HUGE things youtube also brings:

(4) Google searches (regular search, not video search) for video clips return youtube clips, not "hosted as" clips.

(5) is the #2 search engine now. People go to and search for content there. videos will not show up in those results.

So fundamentally, both of the above translate into more eyeballs. This is probably way way bigger for a politician than the free bandwidth, especially since if they're not getting *your* video in the #1 slot on the search results, they're getting someone else's potentially negative video instead.

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