By now, there's a decent chance you've heard the story of Jason McElwain, an autistic high school student from Rochester, N.Y. McElwain, who managed his school's basketball team, saw some action in the team's last game of the year – and scored 20 points in four minutes as his team and the fans went crazy.
McElwain's inspiring story first aired on CBS on last Thursday's "Evening News." Then, citing the "incredible response," the network decided to air it again the next day, which meant bumping the you-choose-the-story segment "Assignment America" to the following week. It was an uncharacteristic move, one that prompted TV Newser to ask: "When was the last time an evening news program aired the same piece two nights in a row?"
The "Evening News" wasn't the only place the story got heavy play. It exploded on the Web, with CBSNews.com featuring McElwain on the homepage even through today and the blogs buzzing about the "incredibly powerful" story. Many of the blogs weren't linking to Steve Hartman's story on CBSNews.com, however, which featured the full video of his story. Instead, they were linking to YouTube, which bills itself as "a consumer media company for people to watch and share original videos worldwide." Someone had uploaded the "Evening News" story to Youtube, complete with Bob Schieffer's introduction, and it became the most viewed video of the week. At last check, more than 1 million people had watched the "Evening News" piece there.
One might argue this is a good thing for CBS News, since it gets the "Evening News" in front of a million people, many of whom don't watch the program. But it also raises copyright questions that have not gone unnoticed. CBS News, after all, would love to see that million people head to its own site, not least because increased traffic means increased advertising revenue. NBC recently saw a similar phenomenon with its "Lazy Sunday" clip from Saturday Night Live, which became a viral hit on the Web. NBC's lawyers eventually forced YouTube to take the "Lazy Sunday" video down. YouTube wrote the following on its blog: "We know how popular that video is but YouTube respects the rights of copyright holders. You can still watch SNL's Lazy Sunday video for free on NBC's website."
According to Betsy Morgan, Senior Vice President and General Manager of CBSNews.com, CBS News is now reaching out to YouTube to have the Jason McElwain video removed from the site. She says CBS News requires that anyone who wants to use its video in a way that could violate fair use law ask the company for permission. It considers the requests on a case by case basis. No one at YouTube asked CBS News for permission, Morgan says, though it should be noted that YouTube users, not the company, are the ones doing the uploading. "It's uncool for people to take our video without permission," says Morgan. "It's interesting and encouraging that there's that much of an audience for our content. But this stuff should come back to the core site – otherwise it's theft."
She added in an instant message: "We're not anti-YouTube. We are anti-taking video w/out our permission."