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Numerous YouTube, Twitch stars and political commentators including David Pakman, Kyle Kulinski, Destiny, Hasan Piker, and Trihex have had their coverage of the second round of 2020 Democratic presidential debates demonetized or removed as a result of CNN filing copyright claims. Some of these creators were also given strikes or suspensions that temporarily prevented them from live streaming.

David Pakman, who hosts a progressive political talk show on YouTube, received a hard strike on his channel when preparing to stream commentary of the first night of the debate. Pakman says he started the stream 15 minutes before the event and had accumulated 10,000 live viewers and climbing. Then two minutes after the debate started, CNN issued the hard strike and cut off his stream.

Not only was Pakman’s stream shut down but he was also initially banned from live streaming on YouTube for 90 days because CNN issued this hard strike. In his video about the incident, Pakman points out that hard strikes which result in live streaming privileges being revoked are optional and CNN could have chosen to claim the ad revenue on his stream without limiting his ability to live stream in the future.

Pakman was ultimately able to get this hard strike repealed but by filing the strike, Pakman says that CNN placed his YouTube channel in jeopardy and forced him to spend an entire day dealing with the strike.

After Pakman tweeted about his stream being taken down, the Vice President and spokesperson for CNN Worldwide Matt Dornic also accused him of pirating CNN’s content, even though “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research” is considered fair use under copyright law.

Pakman added that another consequence of this hard strike being filed is that his almost 1,000 paid YouTube Members, who support the channel via monthly donations, had disappeared.

Another popular YouTuber who was hit with a CNN copyright claim is Kyle Kulinski. Kulinski hosts a news and politics show and says that CNN has claimed the ad revenue on most of his videos discussing the debates. These videos have generated hundreds of thousands of views which likely equates to hundreds of dollars in ad revenue that has been claimed by CNN.

Kulinski says he used small clips from the debates in his videos and that clips from the debate made up 20% of the videos at most.

The CNN copyright claims on YouTube weren’t just limited to creators with large followings. Smaller political commentary channels such as “Truth, Cigars, and The American Way” were also hit with hard strikes which prevented them from live streaming for 90 days.

Many Twitch streamers who covered the debates were also hit with CNN copyright claims including Destiny, Hasan Piker, and Trihex. The claims resulted in these streamers being suspended from Twitch for 24 hours.

Corporations using copyright claims against independent creators is a long-standing problem. This year we’ve seen many examples of similar behavior including Disney filing copyright claims on YouTube videos that were critical of Captain Marvel YouTube and Sonic the Hedgehog movie trailer reaction videos being targeted with false copyright claims.

However, using this tactic on a debate for public office is being seen as even more egregious by many people who believe that this type of content should be treated like a public service, given its role in the democratic process. Pakman summarized the views of many on this issue by saying:

“The DNC [Democratic National Committee] should be demanding that whichever network gets to brand the debate and produce the debate, they should be forced to allow it for re-purposing as if it were the State of the Union address on CSPAN. I actually disagree with debates for public office even being held by private organizations, but if they are, they must be treated like a public service event. We’re picking the next president or at least the person who will compete to be the next president in the general election. It can’t be a sporting event for profit at the exclusion of everybody else.”

Others are also pointing out that it’s yet another example of legacy media outlets abusing the copyright system because, in terms of metrics, they’re being crushed by independent creators, even when YouTube attempts to force-feed legacy media content to viewers through its “authoritative sources” algorithms.

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