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Bush campaign pulls video amid NBC complaint

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    News Media Update         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Copyrights & Trademarks    

Bush campaign pulls video amid NBC complaint

  • The Bush reelection campaign removed a promotional video from its Web site that included digitally enhanced footage from the president’s appearance on the NBC program “Meet the Press” Sunday.

Feb. 12, 2004 — NBC News on Tuesday demanded that President Bush’s reelection campaign stop using a political advertisement that included manipulated versions of answers Bush gave during an interview on “Meet the Press” last Sunday.

The video, which championed Bush’s foreign policy agenda, was posted on the campaign Web site for about five hours before being pulled Tuesday. The campaign had sent the Web address via e-mail to approximately six million supporters.

NBC’s Feb. 10 complaint spurred the removal, charging that the campaign had unfairly used the copyrighted interview to support the president’s reelection. The advertisement — accompanied by inspirational music — featured lengthy quotes from Sunday’s interview, including Bush’s line, “I’ve got a foreign policy that is one that believes America has a responsibility in this world to lead.”

The video ended with a girl running through a grassy meadow, followed by another answer Bush gave during the interview, according to The New York Times on Feb. 11. “To me, that is history’s call to America,” he said. “I accept the call and will continue to lead in that direction.”

The video is no longer publicly available.

Executives from NBC News expressed alarm that their copyrighted product was so manipulated.

“This promotional video is set to music, edited for impact and mixed with other images, graphics and footage unrelated to the interview,” the network said in a statement.

“NBC News did not, and does not, authorize this misuse of our copyrighted material,” the network added. “As a news interview program, ‘Meet the Press’ takes very seriously the unauthorized use of its content for partisan political purposes.”

Network executives further pointed out that Bush’s words in the video were digitally enhanced, to get rid of some stammering and stuttering. Such editing is a common practice among most print journalists.

Jessica Litman, a law professor at Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich., and an expert in media copyright law, said she has not seen the video, but believes the Bush campaign has a compelling “fair use” claim. That said, she added that NBC had just cause to be upset.

“It distorted their work,” Litman said. “NBC could be construed as supporting the Bush campaign. The excerpt of the interview was edited to make it look something like a campaign commercial.”

“Fair use,” a doctrine of U.S. copyright law, allows for the limited reproduction of material for comment, criticism, news reporting, teaching, academic scholarship and research.

The Bush-Cheney campaign contended legal entitlement to use interview samples, as the footage was a small portion and used noncommercially. However, Nicolle Devenish, campaign communications director, told The Washington Post that the video was pulled because “it’s important to have good relationships with the people who are going to cover us this year.”

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