So, you missed the first Democratic presidential debate on Thursday night. Maybe you had better things to watch, or maybe you don't have cable so you couldn't get MSNBC. You probably figured you could catch it later online or on C-Span or something. You want to be a good voter, but it's hard for Joe Biden to compete with Dr. McDreamy on Grey's Anatomy.
Bad news. Although the debate was carried on MSNBC, it's not available from their website, it's not being rerun on C-Span, and nothing but small snippets of the highlights are available on YouTube. The video of the debate is the copyrighted property of the Democratic National Committee and they seem not to be in any great hurry to make them easily available to the general public. What's more, the same will probably be true of future debates from either party.
Professor Lawrence Lessig — the champion of Creative Commons licensing — thinks that the presidential debates ought to be available as a free download from YouTube. It seems like a good idea to me too. The DNC and RNC don't seem to share that belief. They apparently seem to find an informed electorate somewhat threatening. Or perhaps, based on the performance of their candidates on Thursday, maybe they don't want us to see too much of them. They're kind of creepy.
Lessig has authored a letter to the leadership of both the RNC and DNC urging them to make this and future debates available for download online, either through YouTube or another free service. Many internet luminaries have signed on to support the idea that these videos should essentially be released without copyright because they belong to the public or the nation, rather than the parties or the media industry. Among those supporting this idea are Craig Newmark (Craigslist), Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia), Kim Gandy (NOW), Karen Ackerman (AFL-CIO Director), Fred von Lohmann (EFF), Michelle Malkin, Glen Reynolds (Instapundit), Mike Krempasky (RedState). In other words, just about everyone involved with disseminating news and information through the web, regardless of political affiliation.
You may have missed the puncturing of the pomposity of Sen. Joe Biden, the heated exchange between Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and the insane rantings of former Senator Mike Gravel (did you even know he was running?), but you can at least find clips of them on YouTube through the links provided here. That leaves about 45 minutes of debate you'll never see unless Professor Lessig and other concerned internet users can get their message through to the leaders of our political parties.
You can help by letting the parties know you use the internet and vote and would like to be able to view the debates online. Ask them why they're so afraid of an informed electorate.
To contact the RNC use the links on their website or try making a fuss on their blog. The DNC offers a convenient contact page, but their blog doesn't permit you to comment on any of the topics, so it's not much use.