UPDATE: Oxford Union Respond To Assange

Max Toomey

Oxford Union respond to Assange and boost The Tab’s ego by calling us ‘cute’.

The Oxford Union has released a statement in response to censorship claims regarding Julian Assange’s recent video address to the Union.

WikiLeaks claimed on Twitter that the Union had deliberately blurred the background of the video in fear of copyright infringement on the US government.

Assange addressed the Union via video link, a green screen at his back

Assange addressed the Union via video link

A statement given to The Tab by the Oxford Union stated: “we would encourage people to appreciate the distinction between censorship and respecting copyright.”

The footage, said to have been personally selected by Assange himself, came from a controversial video released by WikiLeaks in 2010. Commonly referred to as ‘Collateral Murder’, it depicts a US Apache helicopter firing on journalists and civilians in Baghdad in 2007.

The original background showed the 'Collateral Murder' video

The original background showed the ‘Collateral Murder’ video

What the 'censored' version put out online looked like

What the ‘censored’ version put out online looked like

The whistleblowing organisation has suggested via Twitter that the Union’s account for editing the footage of Mr. Assange’s talk is “provably [sic] bogus.” When contacted for comment over this statement, the Union told The Tab, “When it comes to copyright law we don’t take risks… We received [legal] advice and we followed that advice.”

However, it appears that the reasons given by the Oxford Union bear little scrutiny. After its release in 2010, the footage received widespread global publicity; both a report on the video and the video itself appeared on the homepage of the Daily Telegraph without the slightest repercussions. Indeed, the paper continues to host the video online.

WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson told The Tab: “It is general knowledge that any material from the US government does not fall under copyright law.

“I’m not sure using copyright issues is an excuse to blur out this important video; I would be very interested to see the legal advice, I’m sure the quality would be very low.”

Kristinn Hrafnsson: sees straight through the excuses?

Even if the US Government could, in theory, claim copyright in the video outside the USA, it has no record of doing so and would be unlikely to risk further embarrassment by doing so.

The Oxford Union were a little less amicable when approached for further comment. A spokesman for the Union told The Tab: “I find it cute that The Tab is so interested in our legal advice.”

Whilst the The Tab is flattered by such high praise, we would point out this: a ‘bastion of free speech’ trying to garner publicity by inviting the loose cannon that is Assange, and then not having the guts to follow through on freedom of expression is a bit weak.

You can’t have it both ways.

droopy_dog_happycopy
  • Here all week

    More beef here than a tescos burger!

    • Horse

      Sadly for me :(

  • haha

    rinsed

  • Wouldn’t

    rather be at Oxford than St John’s based on this

  • nice

    good to see the tab causing a bit of trouble again

  • CaTV

    What about the censorship of Thomas Fingar??? He won the award! Why are they not putting out his speech at all?

  • Voice of Reason

    Come on, this is silly. If anything, the fact that the clip is widely available elsewhere makes it even less relevant that the Oxford Union followed its (admittedly questionable) legal advice and blurred it.

    • deathfromabove

      Or…

      “It was possible to find out who Nikolai Yezhov was from other sources. Jambil Jabayev wrote about him and so did Anna Akhmatova! So it’s silly to call it ‘censorship’ that Stalin had him airbrushed out of all the old photographs, and expunged from the official historical record. People could always find out about him somewhere else! Come on, this is silly!”

      Actually, this is exactly what censorship is.

      The people who attended Assange’s talk saw the Collateral Murder footage in the background. The video was apparently withheld from the rest of us by Oxford Union on the pretext that it might be a copyright violation, but that is not a serious reason.

      When they eventually released the footage, it turned out that the Oxford Union had *actively doctored* the original footage so as to remove the Collateral Murder content. They had taken great pains even to blur (i.e. censor) the footage in the background of the hall shots.

      There still exist people who have not *seen* Collateral Murder. Those people have not yet realized that the US military slaughtered a crowd of civilians with explosive rounds from the safety of an Apache helicopter. It is important that they do know this. One way to get them to know this – to tell them about it – is to show them the film. People who watch the Assange footage online would have seen the film behind him, if it had not been for the fact that Oxford Union *actively and deliberately* removed the footage from the background. As a result of Oxford Union’s actions, that footage can no longer be seen in the background, and its viewers will therefore not see that footage, or be exposed to Collateral Murder.

      That is censorship. It is not diminished by the fact that people, if they already know about the video and want to see it, can find it elsewhere. Censorship does not have to be total or complete in order to still be censorship. The promulgation of knowledge through society has been impeded by the fact that the Oxford Union – which pretends to advocacy of freedom of expression – *censored* one of its videos. It edited out a part of it.

      It is no different to the editing out of a scene in a movie that is carried out by censorship boards, or the removal of lines from books by censors to accord with “decency.” What do you call it when people’s genitals are covered by black bars with the word “censored” written in red across them, but “censorship” ?

      It is censorship. You might think it is trivial, but it’s not, really, because this is an important video. It depicts something important, that people should know about, and it was censored. But even if you do think it is trivial, you should still be able to acknowledge that, trivial or not, it is censorship.

      It is censorship, whatever the excuse the Union uses. If they really did censor it because they were afraid of highly improbable copyright claims, it is copyright censorship. If they censored it for another reason it is still censorship.

      It isn’t somehow less “censorship” because you can still get it somewhere else.

      • Voice of Reason

        Don’t be dim. It’s still censorship, but it’s self-censorship – and so less dangerous than centralised censorship of the type you describe. This material is widely available elsewhere; nobody loses access to this film because of the Union’s decision to blur it (which is not the case in any of the other cases you describe).

      • Come on

        Clearly no-one is going to read all that

  • Vlau
  • Arbed

    “The whistleblowing organisation has suggested via Twitter that the Union’s account for editing the footage of Mr. Assange’s talk is “probably [sic] bogus.”

    Um, that’s not what they said, actually. “Provably bogus” is the quote you’re looking for.

    https://twitter.com/wikileaks/status/298195617388318721

    • Justmytwocents

      “”and the Oxford Union should get better lawyers.”
      I think the only one who should get better lawyers is Assange. He lost every case in the UK and he will, if it ever comes to that, lose the case in front of the ECHR. But what do you expect from someone who points to Wikipedia for information or thought he has enough knowledge of asylum law (probably from Wikipedia as well) that he allegedly did not consult his lawyers before he scurried off to that embassy.
      Even if the Union is wrong, it is completely up to them to decide if they don’t want to get involved in a possible copyright issue. Maybe the US military cant claim copyright, but Assange cant neither.
      The speech is not censored, its a movie in the background. Unless you want to suggest that Assange`s speech was so thin that without the visual background no one gets what he tries to say. But this is not the problem of the Union if a speaker is unable to make sense without propaganda footage as a booster.

      • morality

        maybe he lost those cases because, instead of getting better lawyers, he needs to commit fewer crimes.

      • dontuseexcuses

        collateral damage isn’t propaganda – saying a country has WMD and immenent danger is propaganda. collateral damage is real footage of innocents being murdered don’t excuse it.

  • SomeOne

    The copyright argument is, to put it bluntly, bull. By US law, US Government works are in the public domain – even classified works are free once leaked. Because the video was produced under US law, US law governs its dissemination. Even if it were subject to copyright, US fair use law would permit it to be shown because the video itself is newsworthy. UK fair dealing law, while more restrictive, would probably allow the same. And even if it were copyrighted, the PR of actually bringing infringement proceedings against a non-commercial user of public interest material is so bad that no-one in their right mind would do it. Any copyright claim would be utterly frivolous, and the Oxford Union should get better lawyers.

  • Jamie Scott, Age 7

    At first I didn’t like John Bardsley because he is fat and ugly, but then I did because he made the tab good.

  • Jamie Scott, Age 7

    “In the land of the King’s,
    Where the chapel bells chime,
    The Cold War is thawing;
    And death has his time. “
    Jamie Scott, age 7.

    • justmytwocents

      “Here’s why:
      17 USC § 105 – Subject matter of copyright: United States Government works”

      Pointing to a law and interpretation of it are two different pair of shoes. If the former would be so clear cut there would be no need for lawyers.

      Even Assange knows that and tweeted on the 23.01.2013:
      “How the U.S. could prosecute #WikiLeaks using copyright and intellectual property law | Stanford Journal https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2042692
      https://twitter.com/wikileaks/status/294235667284754432

      So, if Assange knows that the copyright issue is not as clear cut as you just argue, so why is he so outraged that the Oxford Union doesn’t want to get drawn in it.
      Or he is certain that he has nothing to fear, so why hype up his sheeple with hysterical claims.

      Yes, the Oxford Union should not complain that they are mocked. They knew what a snake he is and they thought they could handle this and use it, maybe with a smirk towards Cambridge who had the bad experience earlier and said then: “No thank you, no time for lying men without integrity”. Oxford thought they are better. But if you get cozy with a known viper, don’t complain if you are bitten.Oxford handled that issue badly and without grace.
      The good thing is that we hopefully are now spared from any half decent academic podium giving Assange a platform for his drivel and from his temper tantrums. And the rest, well this year he was honored by Yoko Ono “as an artist who demonstrated independent thought”. Maybe next year he gets the Lady Gaga “little Monster Award”.

  • deathfromabove2007

    It would have been nice if The Tab, Cherwell, or or everyone else had actually bothered to check, instead of behaving as if this there wasn’t an easy-to-find, simple answer to this question.

    Is content produced by the US government subject to copyright?

    No.

    Why?

    Here’s why:

    17 USC § 105 – Subject matter of copyright: United States Government works

    Copyright protection under this title is not available for any work of the United States Government, but the United States Government is not precluded from receiving and holding copyrights transferred to it by assignment, bequest, or otherwise.

    LINK: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/105

    Honestly, anyone following the WikiLeaks story knows that this question was dealt with in 2010. It is implausible that the Oxford Union is afraid of a copyright claim. There exists no legal basis on which such a claim could be brought, and even if there did, the chances one would be brought is so miniscule as to throw this excuse into question.

    It seems to me far more likely that they removed the video because it depicts the actual murder of a number of Iraqi civilians, and that they are just not hardcore enough to stand by making people watch that.

    But can it please be recognized that there is actually an answer to the legal question? The Union is wrong.

  • silly Oxford

    trix are for kids.

  • Max Toomey

    Is all over the Tab this week. Like a rash this week!

  • Actually

    They’ve clearly shown you can have it both ways….come now, don’t be jealous. The only repercussion they’re facing is from Cambridge (yeah big surprise there) and the wilfully-blind-to-acts-of-anyone-he-doesn’t-disagree-with Assange.

    On a side note, re: the massive post: ‘from the safety of an apache helicopter’….um…yeah…most modern warfare is attempted to be waged in such a way as to put the soldiers waging it as less risk….do you suggest that war without collateral damage is possible? or that we should arm soldiers with only pointy sticks?

    • Not so sure.

      It was all over the very popular blog techdirt.

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