Thursday, May 03, 2007

Obama Takes Control of MySpace Page...

For the past two years, a guy named Joe Anthony created and has since maintained a MySpace page in support of presidential candidate Barack Obama. This week, however, as the Associated Press has reported, the Obama campaign team decided they didn't want an outsider to have control over the content of the web page, and thus told Anthony they wanted him to turn the site over to them.

What happens when someone creates a fan website, builds a base of grassroot support, maintains the site daily for years, only to have it stripped away overnight? Some things to consider: 1) Joe Anthony was an Obama supporter and thus the web page was completely supportive of the presidential candidate, 2) Anthony spent the past two years drawing in nearly 160,000 MySpace "friends" to the site, and 3) nobody is claiming whatsoever that Anthony did anything wrong.

Ultimately, MySpace reluctantly stepped in to settle the dispute and decided that Obama should have the rights to control, while Anthony had the right to take the contact information for all the friends who signed up while he was in control. That includes the right to tell them exactly how he feels about the Obama campaign. He has come out to say that he is "heartbroken that the Obama campaign was "bullying" him out of the page he built. He said the candidate has lost his vote."

This is certainly not the first time that someone has claimed that a domain name which they did not previously claim the rights to was their intellectual property and protected by copyright. Remember Suri Cruise? But this case revolves around a fan site with honest intentions. There is a serious danger when anyone can claim a website centered about them ought to legally be theirs. If Obama can claim the rights to a website about him, created and maintained by someone else, then what's to stop the next politician from doing the same but towards a website that might be more critical.

It's not too difficult to see the danger here in chilling free speech and expression. But again, perhaps the most shocking aspect in this case is how, in attempting to better control their official message, the Obama camp might have actually helped chill future SUPPORT for the candidate!

What genius is running that campaign anyway?


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