Not all campaign controversies fill the national stage. But this one should get national attention for being so abusive.
Mark Blanchfield is challenging George Amedore for his New York state assembly seat. Last week, Blanchfield released political ads that include excerpts of an interview Amedore apparently gave to the Albany Business Review in connection with an award he received from the Business Review last May. In that interview, Amedore says he doesn't "look at [his] Assembly position as [his] job."
Blanchfield's radio and TV ad lambast Amedore for this comment. In response, the Business Review turned its lawyers loose on Blanchfield, who received a letter accusing him of copyright infringement and threatening legal action if he does not pull his ads off the air.
This is an abuse of copyright law that should trouble everyone, and cannot be allowed to persist or spread. Copyright is not a tool to censor criticism, and cannot be allowed to become a device to suppress statements that public officials wish they had not made.
What Blanchfield did here is a textbook example of fair use -- and an important one at that. Blanchfield is using a small portion of the video to criticize the views expressed in it by Amedore and to expose to the voters Amedore's attitude about the job he's been elected to do; moreover, Blanchfiled's use of this material will have no conceivable impact on whatever market there might be for the video the Business Review made (assuming there is a market for it in the first place).
The law protects what Blanchfield did here, and it should. The Business Review's suggestion of infringement is silly and dangerous. At the very least, Amedore should stand up for Blanchfield and the right to free and open debate. But above all else, no media outlet should cave to the Business Review's tactics and pull this ad.
Our political system cannot function without free and open debate. Copyright law cannot be allowed to become an excuse to suppress that debate.