Watchdog group: Lisle school district's 'copyright' on board meetings invalid
The Edgar County Watchdogs recently reported an attempt by Lisle Community Unified School District 202 to copyright videos of its public meetings.
Under 5 ILCS 140/2(c), electronic records and other formats are considered public records.
John Kraft of the watchdog group posted the video of the Oct. 24 Board of Education meeting on his news website Illinois Leaks. Kraft said that while the school board has attempted to place restrictions on the use of the videos, it cannot copyright school board meeting videos.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press website, under Illinois State Law on Electronic Records says, "Electronic records, cards, tapes, recordings, electronic data processing records, recorded information and all other documentary materials, regardless of physical form or characteristic, are included within the definition of public records under 5 ILCS 140/2(c)."
Despite state law, the video contains a copyright notice that said, in part, "(T)he visual and aural images recorded herein are the property of Lisle Community Unit School District 202. No elements of this media may be copied, recorded, posted on social media, broadcast or cablecast in whole or in part without the express written permission of the Board of Education of Lisle Community Unit School District 202."
Kraft posted a copy of his Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) letter requesting a copy of the video on Illinois Leaks. In the letter, he specifically said he planned to post it on social media and on his website, and was not asking for permission to use the video.
In addition to Illinois state law, U.S. District Court Central District of California ruled against the City of Inglewood when it sued Joseph Teixeira, owner of a local watchdog website, for his use of City Council meeting recordings. Teixeira made his own documentary-style videos using excerpts of the council meeting and his own commentary. The court ruled that even if the City Council held the copyright on the videos, Teixeira's video falls under the fair-use doctrine. It also was his right under the First Amendment to comment on local government and matters of public concern.
"He (Teixeira) is engaged in core First Amendment speech commenting on political affairs and matters of public concern," Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald said in his decision. "To do so, he has taken carefully selected and short portions of significantly longer works and embellished them with commentary and political criticism through music, his voice and written subtitles. Even if California law allowed the city to assert a copyright claim, Teixeira’s activities plainly fall within the protections of fair use."
Kraft cited the California case in the Illinois Leaks article and said putting a copyright notice on a public record is an attempt to place restrictions on its use, implying that citizens and reporters cannot publish emails or meeting minutes.
Readers of Illinois Leaks website can expect video shorts in the future with inserted commentary by the Edgar County Watchdogs.
The Open Meetings Act (OMA), 5 ILCS 120/1.02, provides additional information on the use of electronic media. In the case of school boards, the legislative, executive, administrative or advisory bodies of school districts are considered "public bodies" and subject to the OMA.
A school board cannot be closed unless it meets specific conditions, including personnel matters, collective bargaining matters and student disciplinary cases. Illinois law requires verbatim audio or video recordings in addition to the written minutes of the meeting. Semi-annual reviews of closed-meeting minutes are required, and if it is determined that confidentiality is no longer needed, those portions must be made available for public inspection. Verbatim records must be held for at least 18 months before being considered for destruction.
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5211 Center Ave
Lisle, IL - 60532