The Hazards of Online Video Play

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Conservative blogs have been in a tizzy today about the circumstantial case made by The Jawa Report that a YouTube video attacking Sarah Palin as a secessionist could possibly be tied to the Obama campaign. Ethan Winner, a Los Angeles public relations specialist, who posted the video under the nome de plume “eswinner” has released a statement saying that the Obama campaign had nothing to do with the video. (The video was based, in part, on an erroneous report in the New York Times that Palin had been a member of the Alaskan Independence Party. She was not, though her husband, Todd, did join, and she spoke at the party’s convention.)

The Winner statement is posted after the jump. The moral, as you read his explanation, may be a repeat of the “Vote Different” scandal: Anonymity is a tough thing to maintain online. One other note: Even if the Obama campaign or the McCain campaign produced the ad, there is no requirement under federal election law that they disclose authorship, as long as the ad is distributed free online, not as a paid advertisement. The Internet is, as designed, something of a regulatory blackhole. In the words of the FEC: “Posting a video on a Web site does not result in a ‘public communication’ unless it is placed on another person’s website for a fee.”

Statement of Ethan Winner

The following is in response to questions I have received regarding the post on the Jawa Report website.

I produced and posted on the Internet the video entitled “Sarah Palin: A Heartbeat Away.”

The idea for the video was mine. No one paid me to produce it. The only out-of-pocket cost will be the fee for the voice-over narrator, which I will pay personally when I receive an invoice. Contrary to the allegation in the Jawa Report, the voice-over artist has never done any work for the Obama campaign. I retained her through a talent agency based solely on the quality of her voice.

Neither the Obama campaign nor any independent political action committee has had a connection with the making and/or posting of this video. Just like the thousands of Americans who have posted videos on the Internet regarding the current Presidential campaign, I produced this video as an expression of my right to free speech, which is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

I believe the American people have a right and a need to know information about candidates for political office and their views. I made this video because I think it is important for the public to be aware of the association between Sarah and Todd Palin and the Alaskan Independence Party. The New York Times has reported that the Alaskan Independence Party website describes the party as seeking, in the words of the party, “a range of solutions to the conflicts between federal and local authority,” including “advocacy for state’s rights, through a return to territorial status, all the way to complete independence and nationhood status for Alaska.”

While a number of media outlets have said that reports that Sarah Palin was a member of the Alaskan Independence Party may have been erroneous, her attendance at the party’s 1994 convention, her video speech to the 2008 convention and her husband’s membership in the Alaskan Independence Party have not been called into question.

Some people have asked why I have pulled the video from the Internet. The reason is simple. Following the posting of personal information about me by the Jawa Report, my family began to receive threatening and abusive phone calls and emails.