Elon Musk says he will defy CNN, let creators stream the presidential debate on X


Elon Musk

What’s this? A bipartisan politics-related decision from Elon Musk?!

The owner of X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, has weighed in more and more on politics in recent years, boosting far-right wing online influencers and spreading far right conspiracies. Musk has also altered policies on X in order to be more amenable to those right wing figures. As a result, Musk himself has become a controversial figure in politics, eliciting condemnation from civil rights groups.

However, on Monday night, Musk made a rare popular political decision: X would allow third-party streams of Thursday’s presidential debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. According to Musk, his company would not take down commentary feeds streaming the debate if CNN filed such a request.

“The public has a right to see Presidential debates however they would like,” Musk said in reply to right wing YouTuber Tim Pool. “DMCA does not apply.”

CNN’s presidential debate broadcast rules

This Thursday’s debate, the first of only two scheduled 2024 presidential debates, will be hosted by CNN. As a result, the cable news network has the rights to airing the debate between Biden and Trump.

CNN has granted rights to other networks like ABC News, CBS, Fox News, and PBS to also air the live debate on their respective channels.

There are some rules and requirements that CNN has laid out for those networks, such as CNN’s insignia being visible throughout the entire broadcast, in exchange for being able to air the debate. The most crucial CNN request that would affect livestream debate commentary, though, is the rule that any added commentary be added before or after the debate. The other networks cannot add commentary during the debate or interrupt or replace CNN’s hosts during the broadcast.

However, CNN has also recently made it clear that the offer to broadcast the debate is not open to online streamers. In an email shared by Breaking Points co-host Saagar Enjeti, CNN said that it is “not offering the feed for other YouTube channels.”

But, apparently, CNN might have a problem enforcing its rules over on Elon Musk’s X. Right wing YouTuber Tim Pool asked Musk if “live commentary and fact checking shows for the CNN Debate” would be “taken down if CNN files a DMCA.” And that’s when Musk replied saying the DMCA would not apply.

DMCA refers to the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which covers copyright on the internet. Rights holders typically file DMCA requests with online platforms in order to get copyrighted material removed when a platform’s users publish the copyrighted material.

Politics YouTubers and Twitch streamers are very familiar with battling purported copyright holders over their commentary content. Much of what these creators publish would, the prevailing wisdom goes, fall under fair use, which allows copyrighted material to be used for educational purposes, commentary, criticism, or in transformative use cases. However, major corporations often file copyright claims against fair use material and online platforms abide by them.

Musk’s stance, especially when it comes to an event as important to the voting public as a presidential debate, is a rare type of decision from the X owner lately, assuming he follows through: it’s a decision that doesn’t lean firmly on the right. Streamers of any political background will be able to safely stream commentary during the live presidential debate that may very well be taken down on any other online platform.

It will be interesting to see if CNN escalates matters and sues Musk and company if X does indeed refuse to remove presidential debate streams after takedown requests from the cable news network.

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