TVW Complains About Constantine's Use of its Footage

By Erica C. Barnett October 30, 2009

Editor's note: This post was originally published at 12:30. It has been updated with statements from TVW president Greg Lane.

Greg Lane, head of the state public-affairs cable station TVW, released a statement today complaining that the Dow Constantine campaign violated the station's copyright policy by using its footage in an anti-Susan Hutchison commercial. The footage showed Hutchison praising the Washington Policy Center, a conservative think tank, at its annual dinner; the commercial has also sparked claims by the WPC (eviscerated pretty thoroughly by The Seattle Times) that the Constantine camp was misrepresenting their positions on climate change, light rail, class sizes, and green jobs.

In the statement, Lane said:
The citizens of Washington trust TVW to provide unedited and unbiased access to public policy events. Editing and using our programming for political ads both violates that public trust and puts at tremendous risk the public’s access to these events.

Yesterday, I spoke directly to representatives of the Constantine campaign, requesting that the offending ad be pulled from the air immediately. This morning, the campaign’s lawyers responded that the Constantine campaign is refusing to abide by our request. We are disappointed with their response, which completely ignores the public interest and the tradition of respect maintained for TVW’s unique role.

TVW's copyright policy prohibits "Re-use of any of TVW's content and graphics online for any commercial or political purpose." The station raised a similar complaint back in 2006, when the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee used TVW footage in an ad opposing Congressman Dave Reichert (R-8).

Lane tells PubliCola that in his experience, local and state political campaigns who have used TVW footage in commercials have agreed to pull the ads upon request without exception—until now. As an example, Lane cites a Republican ad against state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen several years ago.

"This is the first time that a local candidate has decided to go this route," Lane says. "It just puts at risk the access we have to covering this wide variety of events. That is our biggest concern."

The Constantine camp says they have no plans to pull the ad, which has been running since earlier this week, from the air. "We have every legal right to use the footage" under fair use, which allows the use of snippets of copyrighted materials in political ads, Constantine spokesman Sandeep Kaushik says.

Lane counters, "They're hiding behind a fair use legal argument and ignoring the greater public interest. ... It harms the public trust and greatly threatens the access we have" to private events like the WPC dinner, he adds.

Kaushik responds, "We appreciate their concerns, but their policy is supposed to be predicated on doing what's best for the public interest and advancing public dialogue about core issues. The public has an interest in knowing where Susan Hutchison stands on these core issues."

Meanwhile, unless you happen to catch the ad on TV, you aren't likely to come across it for a while: Youtube pulled the ad today "due to a copyright claim by Washington Public Affairs Network."An unedited version of the video is available on TVW's web site. "What we're talking about here is a fundraising dinner for a right-wing organization which then posted the entire video on their web site for years, for promotional purposes, without any complaint from TVW.
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