From congress to you

Because of my historical association with providing an audio recording of the yearly presidential state of the union address to the Internet Archive project I’m interested in avoiding any chance of copyright infringement by getting my audio as far upstream as possible. Last year I wrote to my congressional delegation and asked a fairly simple question about how congressional programming got from the floor to me on C-SPAN (a public-private partnership which does have some copyright issues). I did get a couple of calls asking for clarification on my question. Apparently it’s not one they get asked a lot because they needed to go do some research. Eventually I got answers, but not good ones. I was able to learn about how the house and senate are responsible for creating the video of floor proceedings and even some about the specific departments responsible but nothing about how C-SPAN is able to get a split of that feed or how I might be able to. Anyway, I got busy with other things and haven’t really thought about it until recently when these two things came to my attention.

The first is the METAVID project at the University of California (Santa Cruz) which is capturing, archiving and streaming legislative proceedings. I thought they might have an in to an pre-CSPANified feed of proceedings which is why I looked into it, but it seems they are actually just taking the C-SPAN feed and covering the logo and text which are copyright C-SPAN, not the really copyright unencumbered answer I am looking for.

It also came to my attention that C-SPAN’s president has been out campaigning for “independant camera” access to the house and senate floor. This sounds like a good thing until you look at what it means. It means that instead of the government produced feed of floor proceedings we now get (and which is public domain) what you get on C-SPAN would be under their copyright control allowing for no reuse, etc. As my initial inquiry suggested last year it seems quite difficult to get a non C-SPANified feed now but at least even the C-SPANified version now is at least in murky copyright waters and not clearly owned by C-SPAN. Thankfully the changes proposed by C-SPAN have been rejected by congressional leadership for the time being but it’s critical to remain vigilant. At the very least I would like to think that completely public domain proceedings would be available live on a free-to-air satellite so they could be viewed, archived and distributed by people such as myself without fear of legal attacks.


  1. Yes free-to-air satellite feeds would be ideal~ But you should not fear legal attacks from C-SPAN if your using the public domain content that is rebroadcasted and you remove their trademark. Their claim to copyright is very very thin in the above mentioned case. Check out the details in the thesis paper metavid wiki.