City Council Claims Copyright Infringement Over One Councillor Posting YouTube Clips Of Council Meetings

from the copyright-as-censorship dept

We’ve pointed out how copyright is a tool for censorship before, and we’re seeing more and more clearcut examples of that every day. The latest, via Boing Boing, involves a town Councillor in Brighton, England named Jason Kitcat, who had the rather useful idea of filming town meetings and posting the clips to YouTube. Democracy and transparency in action, and all that. Not so much according to the rest of the Council. They’re claiming copyright infringement, and using it as an attempt to get him kicked off the council.

The reasoning is so ridiculous that I had to read it a few times to understand. It’s not just a straight charge of copyright infringement. They’re claiming that the Council meetings are the intellectual property of the Council… and thus “belong” to the Council as a “resource.” They then highlight a point in the Council’s code of conduct that “prohibits the use of resources (such as IT equipment) improperly for political purposes.” The clear purpose behind that clause in the code of conduct is to prevent Councillors from using Council phones and computers for campaigning. But that’s entirely different than posting video clips on a website for accountability and transparency purposes.

But, of course, this is the kind of end result that happens when you confuse copyright with property. And, the end result, either way, certainly appears to be pretty blatant censorship.

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Comments on “City Council Claims Copyright Infringement Over One Councillor Posting YouTube Clips Of Council Meetings”

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15 Comments
ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Huh?

Did he or did he not film these town council meetings himself? Granted I am in the US not the UK but does that not give HIM the copyright to the video?

They are likely trying to spin this the same way the Major League Baseball (MLB) in the US wants to claim copyright on every baseball game. Sure, they can legally copyright their original broadcast, but if I happen to sneak a camera into the game and record it myself and put it online for others to view or send out a summary of the game in my own words, there isn’t anything MLB can legally do to me (except maybe tell me never to come back to the baseball field, and in doing so I’d be trespassing.)

It is misleading and wrong, but copyright maximalists, greedy bastards, and censors still use it despite the fact that it is wrong as it is an exaggeration of claim. And those who don’t have the money or the knowledge of the law to fight it usually back down. I wonder if there has been a study yet on the raw numbers of takedown notices sent to youtube for videos which could have been counter-claimed because of fair-use grounds or because they are original content, and yet not counter-claimed. It would be interesting to see how many of those were not fought because the person who received them was not aware they had good reasons to counter-claim or weren’t interested in fighting it because they didn’t want to spend money on a lawyer if the claimant ended up suing them.

Pete Austin says:

Point of order

I’ve read through the case and
(a) This councillor did not film the meeting.
(b) Brighton council filmed the meeting and made it available as a free Webcast.
(c) The councillor copied short extracts of the Webcast and made them available on YouTube.
(d) Brighton Council sells DVDs of the meetings for £35.

There are two issues:
(1) whether posting a short extract from copyright video data is “fair use” under UK law (which doesn’t have a codified form of this doctrine), not whether council meetings are copyright.
(2) the value of the copyright material must be less than a penny, so the councillors making the complaint are making themselves look foolish and wasting taxpayers money

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