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Can you use CSPAN house and senate clips in your videos, podcasts and blogs?

Posted by Steve Vondran | Jan 17, 2020 | 0 Comments

Attorney Steve® - Copyright Essentials - [Public Domain]

Fair Use Public domain political videos


Many people believe that CSPAN is a governmental entity and that all of its videos and still photos can be freely used without permission.  NPR radio is also not well understood.  While these political videos and clips may really enhance your YouTube videos, twitter or facebook posts, or blogs, ceratin copyright restrictions may apply and the prudent artist, entertainer and creator would be wise to thoroughly investigate the licensing rights BEFORE using clips and monetizing them in one form or another (deemed "commercial" use).

According to Wikipedia:

"CSPAN is a non-profit organization that has been granted an exclusive government granted monopoly on footage of the United States Congress in order to further US public awareness of the United States Government. Despite its confusing name, "Copyright" is not recognized as a "natural right" within the United States. (Copyright is a privilege not a natural law). Historic stills from CSPAN footage are thus uniquely suited to the Fair Use clause (17 U.S.C. § 107), and such stills may be used within the English Wikipedia to document historic testimony before the United States Government."

This blog contains some important information if you want to use CSPAN video clips or still photos in your blogs, videos, and podcasts.

CSPAN copyright policy

Here is a link to the C-SPAN copyright policies.  As noted a few important points:

1.  All uses of the video of the House and Senate floor proceedings are permitted because it is in the public domain.

No permission is required.

2.  Individuals are permitted to use C-SPAN video coverage of federal government events on a non-commercial public Internet site so long as C-SPAN is attributed as the source of the video.

No permission is required.  Federal government events include:

  • Congressional committee hearings
  • Executive agency hearings
  • Events at the White House
  • Congressional and Presidential Commissions

Wikipedia lays out a fair use argument

This is not to say that this is a guaranteed winner, but the Wikipedia link above discusses a potential fair use argument (weighing the four "fair use factors:"

  1. Purpose and character: CSPAN is a non-profit entity, not a commercial entity. Its purpose is to freely share footage of the US Government.
  2. Nature of the copied work: CSPAN footage is of a democratic body engaged in official proceedings. The application of copyright to public records is heavily contested.
  3. Amount and substantiality: CSPAN stills contain only a fraction of information provided by unabridged CSPAN footage and is thus no threat to the original.
  4. Effect upon work's value: CSPAN footage is distributed free of charge under an exclusive agreement with the US government. A still from footage cannot reasonably impact the commercial value of a non-profit organization that distributes its footage free of charge. 

How can you use/license C-SPAN videos for commercial use?

Here are a few ideas from their website:

California copyright lawyer LA SF


More about NPR (National Public Radio)

According to Wikipedia:

"National Public Radio (NPR, stylized as npr) is an American privately and publicly funded non-profit membership media organization based in Washington, D.C.

NPR differs from other non-profit membership media organizations, such as AP, in that it was established by an act of Congress and most of its member stations are owned by government entities (often public universities).

It serves as a national syndicator to a network of over 1,000 public radio stations in the United States. NPR produces and distributes news and cultural programming. Individual public radio stations are not required to broadcast all NPR programs; most broadcast a mix of NPR programs, content from American Public Media, Public Radio International, Public Radio Exchange, WNYC Studios, and locally produced programs.

The organization's flagship shows are two drive-time news broadcasts, Morning Edition and the afternoon All Things Considered; both are carried by most NPR member stations, and are among the most popular radio programs in the country

Here is a look at their copyright policies:

The contents of the NPR Services are protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. The contents of the NPR Services are owned by or licensed to NPR or NPR's member stations and other producers or providers of programs or content to NPR ("Content Providers"). In the case of User Materials (as defined in the "User Materials" section below), the contents are licensed to NPR by the user. You may not reproduce, distribute, republish, upload, transmit, display, prepare derivative works of, publicly perform, sell, transfer, assign, license or use for commercial purposes any copyrighted material on the NPR Services without the prior written consent of NPR, except as provided below. All rights not expressly granted in these Terms of Use are reserved to NPR.

You may copy, download one copy on a single computer, and print a limited amount of content, for your personal, non-commercial use only, provided that (a) you include without modification all copyright and other proprietary notices contained in the content, (b) you do not modify the content, (c) you do not use the content in a manner that suggests NPR promotes or endorses your, or any third party's, causes, ideas, web sites, products or services, and (d) you do not use the content in any way that is unlawful or harmful to any other person or entity. In addition, you may use widgets and tools on the NPR Services that allow selected User Materials to appear on your personal, noncommercial web site, weblog or other application, subject to the conditions in the preceding sentence.

No quotes from any material on the NPR Services may be used in any media without attribution to NPR.

You may use the Content Feeds, API Content, Podcasts, NPR Media Player, and other features of the NPR Services only as expressly permitted in the relevant paragraphs below in these Terms of Use. Any other use of NPR content requires prior written permission from NPR. For permission requests, visit our permissions page.

This page states in part:

NPR licenses online reports, transcripts, photos, audio, and video to the following:

  • Reprints, Magazines, Newsletters, Newspapers & E-mail: Rates vary according to circulation size.
  • Audio used in Classroom Teaching at a College or University: Permission is limited to classroom-use during one academic year.
  • Audio used in a Documentary or Presentation: You may request permission for an entire story, an excerpt or a quote. Permission is limited to the one project or presentation specified by the requestor. Rates vary according to the duration of required audio.
  • Trade Books & Textbooks: Rates vary according to print run and whether you use the entire story or a portion of it.


1.  C-SPAN "Clipping Guide"

2.  CSPAN content licensing request form

3.  Great websites that might offer public domain video

4.  AP Images Licensing Terms

5.  NPR Copyright Policies

6.  United States Senate Floor videos

Contact a California Copyright, Entertainment & Fair Use Law Firm

If you need help with a copyright clearance or fair use opinion, contact us to discuss your case at (877) 276-5084.  Or, you can fill in our contact form to have us contact you.  We are an experienced intellectual property and copyright law firm with offices in San Francisco, Santa Monica (Los Angeles area), Newport Beach (Orange County), San Diego, and Phoenix, Arizona.

About the Author

Steve Vondran

Thank you for viewing our blogs, videos and podcasts. As noted, all information on this website is Attorney Advertising. Decisions to hire an attorney should never be based on advertising alone. Any past results discussed herein do not guarantee or predict any future results. All blogs are written by Steve Vondran, Esq. unless otherwise indicated. Our firm handles a wide variety of intellectual property and entertainment law cases from music and video law, Youtube disputes, DMCA litigation, copyright infringement cases involving software licensing disputes (ex. BSA, SIIA, Siemens, Autodesk, Vero, CNC, VB Conversion and others), torrent internet file-sharing (Strike 3 and Malibu Media), California right of publicity, TV Signal Piracy, and many other types of IP, piracy, technology, and social media disputes. Call us at (877) 276-5084. AZ Bar Lic. #025911 CA. Bar Lic. #232337


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