Challenging the Mainstream Media

Henrik Ræder Clausen of Europe News, while recently drawing attention to the failures of the MSM, has had some encounters with copyright laws as they apply to YouTube. Below is an account of what happened to him, along with a wealth of useful information for the reader.

Challenging the Mainstream Media
by Henrik Ræder Clausen

Mediawise, we’re living in strange time. Never before have we had this many television channels, Internet pages, telephones or networking technologies. Media is expected to be a critical voice on behalf of the people, bringing out challenging our leaders. This, in turn, should have given us the most vibrant, honest and effective democracy we’ve ever seen.

Something here doesn’t work quite right.

It has been said that the amount of quality in television is constant, but has been spread over a bit too many channels. Might be true, for in Denmark thirty years ago, we’d all be watching the same, state-controlled channel (no, we were not East Block members — but still…), and whatever came out on that channel would be seen by a LOT of people. Today we have a handful of national channels, and if one owns a satellite disk or has cable, the choice is endless. Thus, the profound documentary gets sidelined to a ‘narrow’ channel, with an amazing selection of movies, top sports and entertainment to distract from the documentary. Which then can have quite limited impact despite all the qualities it may have.

A related problem is that of media speed. Television reports travel the earth in less than a second, and no one wishes to be late to the party. Unfortunately this creates a ‘lemming effect’, where badly documented news stories assume a reality on themselves, and then create atrocities based on lies. The Al-Dura incident, which started the Second Intifada, is one such case, where the truth came out only a whopping seven years later.

These are good reasons for intelligent people to just walk away. The structure and variety of the Internet are others, as one can access details and documentation better than has ever been possible. While it may take an elite brain to sort the good from the crap, it doesn’t take an elite rank or position to do so. Anyone with an Internet connection, the ability to read English, and a basic understanding of evaluating sources can now do serious research in their free time, and come up with stuff that challenges the status quo. Here’s one example.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart mocks modern television and superficial politicians. It has captured the attention of millions, who love the carefully-crafted irreverent style, and the way mainstream media (MSM from now on) is being humiliated for their superficial coverage. The Daily Show switches between profound and pointless in a minute, but is very frequently worth watching.

I picked up an episode frequently where Jon Stewart had noticed a report blasting the US government for severe deceit concerning the rationale for the Iraq war. Heavy stuff. The report was quite obviously dynamite, so he set out to investigate what the MSM had made of it. Covering three Internet site and three television channels, he found that only a single of these had even mentioned the report, and even that only in an attempt to discredit it. No one even bothered to quote anything the report contained.

I captured this 4-minute clip from television and posted it to YouTube.

At least the problem has now been documented and can be found by others.. The dishonesty is appalling!

Yet, there might be a pattern to it, one that has little to do with obscure conspiracies or subversive organizations. As Timur Kuran has pointed out in Private Truth, Public Lies, the mechanism of preference falsification, or lying in public about what you believe, is devastating to public discourse. The fear of being stigmatized, being excluded from ‘good company’, of lawsuits or (particular in the case of Islam) of being subject to violence causes people to be evasive, dishonest, deceptive or to downright lie. this is a particularly serious problem when we expect them to have honesty and integrity to be our watchdogs towards politicians, big business, ‘religious’ leaders etc. Watchdogs that make sure that the big ones don’t ‘steal the lunch’ of the citizens in terms of money, power, corruption etc.

Mentioning lawsuits, it’s worth telling that my posting of this clip prompted a reaction. From The Daily Show. They requested that YouTube take it down for copyright infringement under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (pdf) (US copyright law in general).
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The DMCA, as it is commonly called, is a complex beast. It’s supposed to guarantee the rights of publishers in an age where copying and republishing anything is as easy as a few mouse clicks on a computer and an Internet connection. In it’s attempt to preserve those rights, the DMCA is quite draconian, for one has to scare the citizens into obedience in order to make them not do obviously sensible things with the modern technology in their hands.

The DMCA is unfair to the citizen, not only in the actual content of the law, but also in the pure complexity of it. That means that the average citizen, who just posts a bit of material here and there, doesn’t quite know his rights, which under the law are neither obvious nor clearly defined. A clear definition would be perceived as unfair to the publisher or the citizen, and thus an unclear definition becomes the best compromise one can get. A compromise that unfortunately tends to favor those with access to good lawyers.

Copyright used to be a fair system, where the state would grant 14 years of protection against illicit copying, on the condition that the publisher would after that release the work into the public domain, making it free for all to use it. That time has been successively extended and is now a whopping 70 years. Worse, it now counts from the death of the author, not from the creation of the work. That is insane.

Much can be said about copyright, and one of the best proposals I’ve seen is to create a ‘copyright tax’, where the author pays an appropriate sum for copyright protection. If he fails to pay this, the works would pass into the public domain. Doing so would reinstate fairness, for currently copyright is a tool granted free of charge by the state. That leads to abuse.

The system has become like this because citizens don’t lobby effectively for their cause. One of the few organizations that speaks up for citizens, not for big business, is Electronic Freedom Foundation. Please visit them for more information.

An interesting alternative to the usual “All Rights Reserved” is for new media to publish under a free license that reserves only relevant rights, but lets anyone reuse your work in a well-defined manner. More information at Creative Commons. This piece, as well as my other electronically published pieces, is licensed under the Creative Commons Share Alike License, which lets anyone republish and use my work, as long as the original author is duly credited and any derived works are shared under the same license.

The purpose of choosing this license is to encourage more quality work to be available to anyone, thereby setting the superficial pieces that MSM feeds us into perspective, thus challenging the professionals to improve their quality to match.

Back to the YouTube piece. I don’t like being framed as a felon, for I considered my piece a legal republication under the ‘Fair use’ clause. This clause has grown from court practice through quite a few years, and is a bad compromise permitting the law to get away with the draconian stuff, where the law really should be created in a way that protects citizens directly.

But that’s not the main point here, though. The ‘Fair use’ clause is real, and reads:

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or audio recordings or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include —

1.   the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
2.   the nature of the copyrighted work;
3.   the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
4.   the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

Unsurprisingly, I had the lawyer of Jon Stewart on the phone a few days later. He was really not happy with my use of their material, and told me in several ways in lawyer-speak that he didn’t consider my use ‘fair’, and that “he’d like to avoid having to sue me”, as he phrased it. Now, international lawsuits (I’m Danish) are messy and expensive, so I wasn’t quite interesting in creating one of those beasts, either. But I did want to use the piece, for it points out something pertinent. He then told me that I could stream it off their servers. That’s cool, for I don’t care what server I stream it from, as long as I can use it for the point I want to make. Thus, I asked him for details on how to find it, to which he agreed, and we had an friendly resolution of the problem.

Except that my very agreeing to his proposal destroyed his own line of argumentation which left him with a problem:

I demonstrated clearly that I had no interest in any form of ‘ownership’ of the video clip, and that my intent was genuinely educational — and thus would indeed fall under the ‘fair use’ clause he was trying to explain that didn’t apply here.

Today, YouTube informed me that The Daily Show had not filed a lawsuit under the DMCA and my piece was therefore restored.

This demonstrates that YouTube-based Internet journalism is feasible, but taking risks and standing up for your rights is still a necessity. But it’s doable. And since I spent exactly $ 0,00 on this adventure, whereas my counterpart has spent some expensive lawyer-time achieving nothing, the end result, if enough citizens do so, will be that we can repeal the repressive copyright regime and regain our freedom to do sensible things, just because they make sense.

I’ve created a guide showing how to prepare a video for YouTube posting. The guide can be grabbed here (pdf).

A final word of advice: Be fair, and be true to the facts on the ground. While we may hold all kinds of opinions based on experience or hearsay, we can’t get them all across in one article or posting. There’s plenty reason to make only those points that have solid documentation, and then return another day with other interesting points. That makes for a civil debate and eventually much deeper impact of what is posted.

My wish is that we will increase the pressure on mainstream media organizations, to the point where the continuing stream of embarrassments cause them to either reform and improve, or to go the way of dinosaurs. Democracy deserves a living and vibrant press that is critical, yet fair.

License information:

Creative Commons License“Challenging the Mainstream Media” by Henrik Ræder Clausen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

14 thoughts on “Challenging the Mainstream Media

  1. “That time has been successively extended and is now a whopping 70 years.”

    Well, I think that is actually the least amount of time copyright now applies in the US. The [original] holder can keep extending [for his/her/its lifetime] – so Disney, as a favorite target about this, can keep a work the corporation owns in copyright as long as the company exists.

  2. I personally cant stand “the daily show”. John Stewart is just a left wing tool who preaches to his choir all the usual leftist nonsense. I actually consider him to be something of a Charles Johnson when it comes to his rabid fans. The shows biggest demographic is twenty and thirty somethings. I read somewhere that on college campuses (and elsewhere) most people tune in to the show for the days news! Current events from a “comedy show”!? We are truly in the end of days.

  3. The Daily Show, which is basically just rabid-paced rude entertainment, is able to get away with criticism that the traditional channels would never get away with. “Indecision 2008”? A great title for an election campaign that bores my jaw to breaking.

    In a sane world, traditional media would do the serious critical stuff and leave The Daily Show without any serious beef to feed on. Given the state of media today, we need to use whatever we find, and piece back together some idea of what journalistic integrity used to be about.

    It’s weird to find that some of these gems appear in The Daily Show. But as long as they do, I take them. For where else are they to be found?

  4. ummmm, no offense to the author of this post, but I’ve seen the Daily Show while in the States, and it is 95 % Leftie sh+te and Stewart is a typical Leftie clown who almost always ridicules conservatives and goes spooning with his fellow-lefties.

    Again, no offense, but this is one of the oddest and most pointless ‘threads’ I’ve seen on this blog. A few years ago Stewart was CONSTANTLY criticising the Bush admin on Iraq, and that ridiculous liar & husband of Valerie Plame was a guest several times.

    My son likes to watch the first few minutes, and then switch to something else. My advice is to avoid it altogether

  5. I think it would be better if people were paid a one-time bounty on any new idea or material by the government, and then it was immediately released to the public.

    I can’t imagine how much science is sitting under wraps of one greedy company or another, making research and progress impossible because they want to make some money off their research first. If we simply gave them the money upfront, we could get to work on our new data immediately, instead of 200 years later. Information is a public good–due to its free replicability and transportation it is an ideal common good everyone can share, enriching us all at no added cost, it should be open to the public and paid for by the public.

  6. Simon, I’m not intending to make this a case for or against TDS as such, and certainly not a left-right debate (I’ve done those elsewhere).

    My point here is different, it’s about journalism and the state of media in general. TDS happens to be one show to hit that problem square on from time to time. If others did so better, TDS would quickly fade into irrelevance.

    Sure, Stewart has been firing away at the Bush government for years. So what? Probably a bad idea to begin with, for doing so with fickle arguments is a waste of time, and makes it routine to dismiss criticism without checking the merit. That’s decay of good journalism, where it falls into emotionalism. That’s a short-sighted strategy. It might make a quick headline, but that’s traded for lack of long-term impact.

    Now, when finally there’s a real report documenting that the government has deceived us on the Iraq war, the government deserves roasting in the media. Regardless of who’s ‘left’ and who’s ‘right’.

  7. Henrick-

    While I understand your point (regarding the Daily Show) I personally cant agree. Michael Moore sometimes has legitimate points but considering he is the source kind of kills it for me just like John Stewart. It all just comes off as propaganda.

  8. I think it would be better if people were paid a one-time bounty on any new idea or material by the government.

    Heh. I think it would be better that people pay the government, not the other way round.


    Yup, you heard it. Government handouts grow abuse, and in this case one could expect ideas that noone would bother to steal to be registered, just to get the handout. Which in turn would have been lifted from productive people in the first place…

    The other way round, where the inventor or author pays a reasonable sum for registration and intellectual rights protection, makes more sense. That leaves him with opportunity to pursue economical gain in the free market, which is the place to find that.

  9. Usually a show would want you to post it; it’s free publicity. TDS might want you to take it down because if it is viewed by people other than the kids who regularly watch the show, its content might be scrutinized.

  10. Great post. Whether one agrees with the political aspects of TDS is minor.

    I appreciate the links to the legal references and the insights provided for confronting the MSM and other data sources that try to stifle full communications regarding issues. Perhaps this will be useful if the A(rab) P(ropagandist) attempt to suppress reference to their stories.

  11. Jon Stewart is a leftist propagandist, nothing more. His spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down is humor. That the young (and in their own minds clever) use this faux-hip comedian as their prime “news” source is beyond depressing.

    To imagine that there are any lessons to be drawn from his show for the MSM is to imagine that Michael Moore is a documentarian. The MSM is strongly biased to the left. Stewart is exclusively left. He’s not an equal opportunity slagger.

    So Stewart is giving play to a supposedly incendiary report that even the New York Times, the jihadis’ newspaper of record did not give its usual hysterical front page coverage and the lesson in that is what?

    Conservative bloggers highlight news suppressed by the MSM on a daily basis and at the eternal risk of being sued or as in Canada, hauled in front of kangaroo courts known as Human Rights Commissions since the left like all totalitarians are hyper- litigious, even toward a fan like Clausen.

  12. Oh, that horrible Bush Administration, hoodwinking Congressional democrats into authorizing — yes, that’s right, Congress authorized the war, per US Constitution — the overthrow of Saddam Hussein….

    ….which is what the Democrats had wanted to do anyway, and are now only pretending not to have ever wanted now that it’s election season and it must cater to the left once again.


    I find it very unsettling that GoV is taking that spastic gasbag Stewart seriously. He’s in the business of ridicule, not investigative journalism. He has no more interest in the truth than does Reuters, and will quote even the most shit-faced liar in the DNC if it suits his purpose.

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