PI Original Josh Kalven Monday January 5th, 2009, 11:07am

FOX Chicago Shuts Down Our YouTube Channel

As some of you might have noticed, the Progress Illinois YouTube channel has been disabled for the past three weeks, along with the corresponding "video wall" that is normally a fixture on our homepage. Here's an explanation of what happened and what we're doing to ...

As some of you might have noticed, the Progress Illinois YouTube channel has been disabled for the past three weeks, along with the corresponding "video wall" that is normally a fixture on our homepage.  Here's an explanation of what happened and what we're doing to hopefully remedy the situation. 

On December 10, our YouTube account was suspended after three copyright infringement complaints from FOX Television Stations for our use of news footage from WFLD, the FOX affiliate in Chicago.  It's unfortunate that rather than contact us directly about our use of their content, FOX took action that ultimately resulted in us -- and our readers -- losing access to the over 100 clips compiled on our channel over the past nine months, including over 25 original videos. Even more discouraging are the circumstances surrounding the videos in question.

Prior to the December 10 suspension, we had received only one infringement complaint from FOX.  This came on November 18, in response to a YouTube video that contained a 26-second clip from a FOX Chicago newscast that had aired a week earlier.  At the time, we were bewildered by FOX's action for several reasons.  First, the length of the video surely fell within Fair Use guidelines.  Second, we clearly credited WFLD as the source of the clip in a title frame preceding the footage.  Third, the clip was used in the context of a blog post that commended FOX's reporting and sought to follow-up on their investigation.  Fourth, the post included a prominent link to the full video and accompanying article on the FOX Chicago website.

At the time, we considered the complaint a fluke and took no action to restore the video.  In the ensuing weeks, we uploaded additional brief clips from various WFLD broadcasts without incident, including an excerpt from David Axelrod's November 23 appearance on Fox Chicago Sunday.  Then, on December 9, ABC News' Jake Tapper embedded that video on his blog, pointing out that one of Axelrod's comments appeared to contradict a subsequent assertion from the Obama camp.

Apparently hoping to capture some of the traffic attracted by our Axelrod clip, FOX filed another infringment complaint.  Our video was subsequently taken down on December 10 and, later that day, our channel was suspended due to repeat copyright offenses.  At the same time, WFLD uploaded their own excerpt of the relevant portion of the interview to their website.

The underlying assumption behind FOX Chicago's actions is that, by posting brief clips from their reports, Progress Illinois was depriving the station's website of traffic.  In fact, I would argue that we were doing the opposite: highlighting WFLD's often-valuable political coverage and raising the station's profile in the progressive community (where the FOX brand carries a certain stigma).  

This whole sequence of events perfectly illustrates the short-sighted response from some mainstream media outlets to the use of their content in the blogosphere.  Rather then trying to turn the clock back to 1995, WFLD should get its web presence in order.  Rather than trying to impede the use of their content, the station should embrace bloggers' interest in their coverage and figure out a way to share video in a usable, functional, and timely manner.  Indeed, if we had been able to find embeddable versions of the videos in question, we would have surely used those (as we do with MSNBC content), rather then upload our own.  

We believe that our use of WFLD's content falls under Fair Use and have filed a counter-notification with YouTube asserting that position.  Our hope is to come to an agreement with WFLD regarding our future use of their footage.  If they want us to refrain from ever clipping their coverage, so be it.  My hope, however, is that they will hear our side of the argument and we can ultimately find some middle ground.

We'll keep you updated on any further developments.

Below is our counter-notification (click button in the top right corner to expand):

CORRECTION: This post originally asserted that the full video of the November 23 Axelrod video was not available on Fox Chicago's website.  In fact, they did upload the full interview on the same day it aired.  However, it was nowhere to be found on Fox Chicago Sunday's website at the time. 

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