On October 5, WorldNetDaily's Aaron Klein claimed that Obama campaign technology adviser Lawrence Lessig and the group he founded, Creative Commons, "distributed" and "mass marketed" videos by Al Jazeera of "Israel's December 2008 war in Gaza targeting Hamas." But Lessig says that characterization is inaccurate.
Lessig told Media Matters that Klein mischaracterized what Creative Commons does. It is a nonprofit licensing organization that establishes rights and offers legal tools to help protect creative work on the Internet under a form of copyright protection. A typical Creative Commons license allows others to legally share, use, repurpose, and remix the work of others as long as credit is given to the original creator.
"We have nothing to do with hosting or the selection of the content," Lessig said.
Klein claimed that Creative Commons "launched a massive repository of broadcast-quality video footage, working with Al Jazeera to make the Arab network's video footage available for free downloading." That's not true, Lessig said; Creative Commons does not host video by Al Jazeera or anyone else. Al Jazeera video available under the Creative Commons license resides on the Al Jazeera website.
Lessig said there were no special dealings with Al Jazeera for it to obtain a Creative Commons license. He had spoken at a Internet conference in Qatar, he said, and that's where Al Jazeera became aware of Creative Commons licenses.
"There's no negotiation," Lessig said. "You just come to our website and take the license."
Klein claimed that "During the time it worked with Lessig's group, Al Jazeera said its online broadcasts increased by over 500 percent, while views of videos on its YouTube channel increased by more than 150 percent." But the January 2009 New York Times article from which Klein took the claim did not attribute the increase directly to working with Creative Commons, instead stating that they came in the wake of the 2008 Gaza conflict. The Times had separately noted that "Al Jazeera planned to announce this week that all its video material of the war in Gaza would become available under a lenient Creative Commons license, which effectively means it can be used by anyone -- rival broadcaster, documentary maker, individual blogger -- as long as Al Jazeera is credited."
Klein also highlighted a claim that Lessig "drew some controversy during the 2008 campaign after he circulated a video depicting Jesus lip-syncing to Gloria Gaynor's late 1970s disco hit 'I Will Survive.' In the video, a mock Jesus is seen stripping down to just a diaper while he effeminately struts along a city street and finally gets run over by a speeding bus." That's a distortion too, Lessig said.
Lessig said he had given an hour-long lecture in which he had used the video, among several others, to illustrate the intellectual property issues he was discussing.
"Somebody took this one-hour talk and cut it down to me introducing this video, which created the impression that all I was doing in life was going around showing this video," he said.
That edited video was later circulated by conservatives in an attempt to get Lessig dropped from testifying at a Senate hearing about net neutrality. Lessig called it an attempt to "disqualify me as somebody Republicans are allowed to listen to."
Lessig testified as scheduled, but "every Republican senator left the room," he said.