Cho Seung-Hui’s Video Distribution

Dear Media Reform Colleagues:

Tonight NBC, chosen recipient of Cho Seung-Hui’s over-the-transom mailing, along with a few other news outlets, no doubt, televised excerpts of this mass murderer’s videotaped screed.

Though my first thoughts regarding the decision to televise this were horror in sympathy for the bereaved families and loved ones, I watched, wondering: what should I and other viewers know – and *see* – from this source, and what, as Keith Olbermann put it, is simply voyeuristic?

And I hadn’t even been considering, until it was pointed out by the newscasters and their guests, that the possibility of encouraging copycats is a very real concern.

Among the many stories we will be following in the next few weeks are those which question various aspects of the media’s role in covering these events. I’m making no judgments in this post. Rather, this is a query to you whose work, values, and leadership I have come to know and respect:

In our rapidly changing technological environment, what types of public usage of this footage would you find appropriate, and what types would you dearly wish were actionable – if not directly by law, then by other lawful means?

When these 27 files show up on YouTube — not if , *when* — would you hope NBC would issue a take-down notice? If a public access producer submits a tape containing these clips, access channel managers, would your rules provide all the guidance you would like? And if your channels served Blacksburg and the campus of Virginia Tech – what then?

Oh yes, the lawyers and their enthrall would ask questions about ownership and usage rights, and, of course, such are no small matter.

But when this footage eventually appears in some sort of heartless mash-up, and bounces back and forth between social networks and mainstream media, will any of us feel compelled to forcefully speak out, either individually or collectively?

I know many of us have different institutional missions for which we must we speak, some of which may be less conditional than others. I’m just asking.

Praying for the sunny side,

~Rob McCausland

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