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Monday, November 2, 2015

City Council Cannot Prevent Posting of Council Meetings Online

Our friends at the Education Law Insights blog recently posted about a California case involving a citizen's right to post online video footage of city council meetings. 

In this case, a longtime critic of the mayor and other city officials took video footage of city council meetings and posted them online along with criticisms. A federal court found that the citizen could take and post the videos without violating copyright law.  Specifically, the court found that even if the videos were copyrightable, [the citizen]’s use of the council meeting videos was “fair use.” The videos were “transformative” works used for the purpose of criticism and commentary on matters of public concern. Additionally, the videos were fundamentally factual and incorporated only small segments of the city council meetings. Most important, [the citizen’s] videos did not compete with the City’s own distribution of the videos because under [California’s public records law], the videos must be made available to any person upon payment of the direct costs of duplication. Thus, the City had no way to profit from distributing the videos or to recoup the costs of creating the recordings.

Although this case comes out of California, so it's not binding on Illinois public bodies, it does provide some guidance on the issue of recording meetings.  In Illinois, the Open Meetings Act already allows anyone to record any open meeting subject to the OMA - so, that would apply to any open meeting of a city council, village board, or other public body.  If this case is any indication, not only could a citizen record a meeting, but could also post that recording online (YouTube, a blog, or other social media site) without violating any copyright interest of the government body.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf


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