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Judge Rules That Inglewood, California Cannot Copyright Public Videos 67

UnknowingFool writes: Recently a judge ruled in California that the city of Inglewood cannot hold copyrights of videos of public city council meetings which they published on their YouTube account and thus cannot sue individuals for copyright infringement for using them. In several YouTube videos, Joseph Teixeira, a resident of Inglewood, California, criticized the mayor, James Butts. Under the account name Dehol Truth, Teixeira took city council meetings posted on their YouTube account and edited them to make pointed criticisms about the mayor.

The city responded by registering the videos with copyrights and then suing Teixeira for copyright infringement. Many would say it was a thinly veiled attempt to silence a critic. Teixeira filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that (1) the city cannot claim copyright over public records (videos of public city council meetings) and (2) even if they could, his videos fell under Fair Use.

Unsurprisingly, a judge dismissed the city's case, citing California law which bars the city from holding copyrights on most public records. (This case may not be over as Teixeira's pro bono lawyer has not filed for attorney's fees. The ruling can be found here.) What is notable is that the judge dismissed the case with prejudice, so the city cannot refile. Normally judges do not do this unless they feel that the plaintiff's case was so weak that he feels no judge should hear the case ever again. Since the judge agreed with the defendant on the first point, he would not normally need to address Teixeira's Fair Use defense, but he did anyway. Anticipating that the city may appeal his decision, judge ruled that Teixeira's videos substantially met all four factors for Fair Use:
  1. There is no evidence Teixeira used the videos for commercial gain and was transformative
  2. His work was creative by adding music and commentary to the normally boring council videos
  3. Despite the city's claim he used their "entire work", it clear that he only used portions of meetings that lasted as long as four hours editing them down to a max of 15 minutes.
  4. Teixeira did not harm the city's market for the videos because the city is barred by state law from recouping more than direct costs of duplication. Even if the city could sell the videos (which they published themselves for free on YouTube), his short videos are not a substitute.
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Judge Rules That Inglewood, California Cannot Copyright Public Videos

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  • Woah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Monday August 24, 2015 @11:19AM (#50380261) Journal

    A dose of common sense. I nearly fainted.

    • What happened to #suddenoutbreakofcommonsense?

    • And the Judge's name is Michael W. Fitzgerald.
  • The mayor's name is James Butts.

    • by Nutria ( 679911 )

      A Democrat, and in 2005, Inglewood was ranked as the 7th most liberal city in the nation.

  • It sounds like James Butts is one fucking asshole.
  • by itsownreward ( 688406 ) on Monday August 24, 2015 @11:48AM (#50380499)
    Inglewood's always up to no good.
  • What is with the epidemic of half-assed, unqualified, reaching-beyond-their-capabilities public servants we have lately?

    Whether corrupt police, incompetent city government, school principals, etc, when did these kinds of people start getting elected to important public service roles?

    Or is it just that now we have more access to tools to expose their idiocy and it seems there are more of them?
    • Because thoughtful, considerate, respectful candidates are butchered by politicians and cronies and called all sorts of evil names simply because they have a different take on things. This is how it has always been. Which is why political power should be limited.

    • It's a self-selecting sample... what kind of douchebag would run for petty public offices in the first place? Either they have a massive chip on their shoulder and the need to push other people around, or they are too incompetent to work in private industry where they would actually be judged by the results they produce. The standard answer to "Why do the people running City Hall suck do badly?" is "Have you filed for your candidacy to replace them yet?"
      • by Anonymous Coward

        "in private industry where they would actually be judged by the results they produce". Where the fuck does this BS fantasy come from?

        Current events give a classic example of how this claim is complete bollocks: Donald Trump.

        See also the private banking industry.

    • Or is it just that now we have more access to tools to expose their idiocy and it seems there are more of them?

      With social media and sites like Slashdot we hear about every stupid move any public official makes. In times past such information would only be available to people in the local area. It is the same with stranger abductions []. The rate of stranger abductions has gone down but the perception is that it has gone up due to the number of reports on the news.

      The worst thing that is happening is the "the" meme. Too often I see "the government", "the police", "the school system", etc. All of these are made up by th

  • yes yes... the judge shut it down... but lets be real, the judges are generally pretty good about that. The nonsense in teh north east about "its illegal to film police officers" got shut down by the courts as well... repeatedly. That didn't stop the police and the mayors from trying to enforce it anyway.

    And the simple fact that they'd try to do such a thing is despicable. The inglewood government is clearly corrupt.

    I think something needs to be done to increase public participation in local government. Mak

  • If the city is not required to video their meetings and they have the authority to prohibit video cameras in council chambers, don't be surprised if future meetings are not recorded.

    • Actually, I don't know if they have the authority to prohibit cameras in public meetings. This has been something of a hot topic - there are activists who go to public meetings for the sole purpose of auditing their freedom to record the proceedings. Kind of a weird hobby, but someone needs to act as the 4th estate.

    • I don't know if the city can forbid recording of a public event like a city council meeting. In this case, they may stop recording; however, they are probably required to have at least the meeting notes available to the public.
  • SLAPP countersuit, anyone? This looks exactly like a blatant attempt to silence criticism, and it looks like the judge agrees. Hit 'em where it hurts, and sue them back. Incidentally, I suspect the "Streisand Effect" also applies -- nobody would have known about these videos if you hadn't been arseholes about them.
  • How the hell did this idiotic city council think that the ruling was going to go their way?
  • Is a dismissal a ruling?

    • I think that a dismissal with prejudice is a ruling, because a plain dismissal can be brought to trial again at a later date; when it's with prejudice the judge is basically saying (ruling): You're not only wrong; you're so wrong I'm taking away your option of a re-trial.
  • Without copyright, there's no reason for them to keep having city council meetings. I hope you pirates are happy with the literal anarchy you've caused!

The biggest difference between time and space is that you can't reuse time. -- Merrick Furst