January 17, 2016

Press Ignores Sanders Campaign’s Embarrassing Attack on Wikipedia

The press’s determination to protect liberal politicians against their own mistakes by minimizing their significance or failing to report them at all extends far to the left — as far left as Vermont Senator, self-described socialist and Democratic Party presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

Excerpts from Ars Technica’s report on Team Sanders’ attempt to prevent Wikipedia from using the campaign’s logo with a copyright takedown notice follow the jump. As of early Sunday morning, that entry is one of only three listings found in a Google News search on “Sanders Wikipedia logo” (not in quotes) citing the Sanders-Wikipedia fiasco (a listing from the New York Times has no content relating to the controversy). Imagine the field day the press would be having if the campaign of a Republican or conservative presidential candidate did something similar (links are in original; bolds are mine throughout this post):

Bernie Sanders lawyers to Wikipedia: Take down our logo, you’re violating DMCA

A lawyer representing Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has demanded that several of the campaign’s logos be removed from Wikipedia, saying that reproducing the logos violate copyright law. The Wikimedia Foundation has complied with the DMCA takedown notice and removed the notices.

It’s fairly surprising that the campaign would seek to ban wide distribution of its logos, which are clearly positive advertising for the campaign. It’s even more surprising that after getting a call from the Wikimedia Foundation, the Sanders campaign didn’t back down or blame an overzealous volunteer attorney—the campaign confirmed it wants Wikipedia to comply with the notice and not publish its logos.

“We also contacted the attorneys representing the Bernie Sanders campaign to discuss the issue, and they asked that WMF carry out a takedown in compliance with the DMCA rather than work with the community to update the licensing information or allow the images,” wrote Wikimedia community manager James Alexander on a discussion page about the Sanders DMCA notices.

Update 5:45pm: Alexander now says on the Wikimedia discussion page that the campaign has withdrawn the DMCA notice, but there’s still no official word on the matter from either the campaign or the Wikimedia Foundation.

Observers have noted that it’s debatable whether logos qualify for copyright protection at all. Even if they do, Wikipedia commentary about a political campaign seems like a crystal-clear example of fair use. Most of all, it’s unclear why Sanders’ lawyers think that removing their logos from a nonprofit site like Wikipedia would help the campaign.

Several logos were removed, including the “Feel The Bern” car magnet pictured above, which is sold for $10 at the berniesanders.com store. The takedown was publicized yesterday on Twitter by the Lumen Database (formerly Chilling Effects) and first noticed by Techdirt.

… It isn’t exactly clear how the Sanders campaign made the decision to get its materials off Wikipedia, but the decision clearly wasn’t made by some overzealous, little-known volunteer.

So the Sanders campaign can’t deny that it really wanted the takedown. At RedState, Moe Lane noted how the campaign’s attempt takes the irony meter into the red zone:

since when do … “Democratic socialists” … care about copyright, anyway?  It all belongs to the People, right?  Bernie Sanders supports public financing of elections, yes? So why does he suddenly think that he has the right to dictate what other people do with that logo? Ownership is theft, man. Bernie Sanders shouldn’t act so blatantly privileged, you know what I mean?

it’s nice that Bernie Sanders apparently managed to pull that takedown notice in a fashion that managed to avoid any indication that the campaign was sorry that the whole thing happened, and that the campaign happened to be rude to a bunch of tech-minded people for no particular reason.  No, really, it is nice.  I’m a partisan Republican hack, remember? I love it when my political opponents take the time to act like jerks to groups that might be inclined to support them.

PS: Hey, you know how the Left likes the idea of more government?  Well, you know what the DMCA is?  That’s right: more government.

Relevant searches at the Associated Press and the New York Times main web site returned no related story and absolutely nothing, respectively.

The establishment press would be all over the tech and legal ignorance of a Republican or conservative presidential campaign if it did something similar — even if it was the result of a low-level staffer’s ignorance, which it clearly wasn’t in Sanders’ case.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.


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