The Clicker turns one: We might just agree on "Fair Use" (unless you're a Steelers Fan)

Ryan Block
R. Block|02.09.06

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Ryan Block
February 9th, 2006
In this article: features
Every Thursday Stephen Speicher contributes The Clicker, a weekly opinion column on entertainment and technology. Today, however, The Clicker turns one (remember this?), and we'd like to wish Stephen congratulations on a year of columns well done, and happy birthday to The Clicker!

It's official; ‘The Clicker' is celebrating its first birthday today and boy what a ride it's been. Over the past year, many of you have taken the time to write in and express your feelings on the column topics.

Some of you have written to tell me that I encourage stealing. Others have voiced their opinions (rather vehemently) in labeling me a pawn to "the man." I've been called a Sony fanboy (fanboi?). I've been called a Microsoft fanboy. We've been /.'ed. We've been dugg. Overall, we had some good fun.

It's in that spirit of great debate that it's time to once again polarize the nation.

WARNING: Pittsburgh Steelers fans should stop reading right now. The remainder of this column is sure to upset you, and, most likely, you'll be unable to see the point through the venom you'll be spitting.

Whenever we venture into the realm of "Fair Use" I often find myself at odds with you, the reader. That's ok -- I accept the fact that others have different views on the history of the doctrine and what it means today. However, on those occasions where we're likely to be in agreement, I feel compelled to point it out.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, the topic of conversation has overwhelmingly been dominated by the poor officiating in the Superbowl. It's nearly impossible to make it through the day without wandering into the following phrases "ticky-tack call," "phantom hold call," "blocking call on the tackle?" etc. The overall feeling is that the Seahawks were robbed by the refs. While it's fair to say that neither team played well and the Seahawks certainly had the "opportunities to overcome the hole they were put in," it's still hard to accept.

Adding insult to injury, the NFL took a stand on the calls, saying that the game was "properly officiated." Properly officiated? Really?

At this point you might be wondering why we're talking about the Superbowl. After all, this is an entertainment technology opinion column. Surely this isn't just a gripe session? No, and here's where technology comes into the story.

Looking for concrete proof as to the bad calls and having made the mistake of not TiVoing the game, it dawned on me that this was the perfect opportunity to check out Comcast's Video On Demand (VOD) service. My thoughts were rewarded when there (among the piles of useless shows) was a replay of the game.

I pressed play and was a little surprised to see that the replay was actually a condensed version of the game. "No worries," I thought, "I don't need the whole game; the highlights will do just fine." However, it quickly became apparent that the game wasn't just condensed -- it was edited.
Gone was the Daryl Jackson play where one foot landed in bounds and the other hit the pylon. Touchdown? Gone was the phantom hold call. Gone was any discussion over whether Big Ben actually made it into the end zone. Gone was the flag being thrown on the Hasselbeck's tackle. Cynics might argue that the game was edited to support the NFL's conclusion of "proper officiating."

To make matters worse, it was edited and put together by the content owner, the NFL.

This is where "Fair Use" is so important. While time-shifting television shows receives the bulk of attention in the "Fair Use" conversation, TV shows (in their entirety) can, by and large, be considered a perk. Examples such as above are the real meat. Sure, it might seem trivial. It's a sporting event. Who cares? However, consider the greater ramifications. What if it weren't a football game? What if, instead, it was CSPAN and the "contest" was a debate? To safeguard consumers' rights viewers must always retain the ability to view, snip, edit, transcode, etc. content as they deem necessary. Consumers need the ability to send video clips to their friends, post them on their websites, etc.. At the trivial end the subject line might read: "You're seriously calling *THAT* a block?!" However, unless we protect that subject with vigor we might just never see the subject line: "You won't believe what he said in the debate."

If you have comments or suggestions for future columns, drop me a line at

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