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Copyright copycats: RTM candidates' video caught in 'web' of troubles

Updated 5:41 pm, Friday, October 11, 2013
  • Republican Representative Town Meeting candidates from District 1 posted a YouTube video using images from the Angry Birds Star Wars computer game. Photo: Contributed Photo / Fairfield Citizen
    Republican Representative Town Meeting candidates from District 1 posted a YouTube video using images from the Angry Birds Star Wars computer game. Photo: Contributed Photo

 

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GOP CANDIDATES APOLOGIZE
Go here -- http://bit.ly/184NAeX -- for the text of a letter sent to the Fairfield Citizen in which the District 1 Republican candidates for the Representative Town Meeting apologize for improperly using copyrighted Citizen photographs -- without permission -- in a campaign video that was posted on YouTube.
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It's a lesson often learned the hard way: You can never, ever, really delete anything once it's posted on the Internet.

Republicans running for the District 1 seats on the Representative Town Meeting this fall thought they'd make what they termed a "fun" video, highlighting their five candidates using the images and music from the popular -- and trademarked -- Angry Birds Star Wars game. A different way to spread their campaign message.

The six-plus-minute video photoshopped pictures of the candidates onto different Angry Birds characters, referred to the five RTM candidates as "Jedi," all while the "Star Wars" theme music played in the background.

It also included several copyrighted photographs taken from the Fairfield Citizen, for which they did not ask -- or receive -- permission to use. At the end of the video, the credits indicate the video itself was copyrighted.

The candidates in the video are John Donovan and incumbents Michael Herley, Jay Lipp, Eric Sundman and Gaylord Meyers. In a conference call with Herley, Sundman and Republican Town Committee Chairman James Millington, they said that the "Star Wars" music is available on YouTube as royalty-free music and their video was simply intended as a parody, and therefore does not violate copyright laws.

They admitted, however, that they did not have permission to use the Fairfield Citizen photos. After the editor of the Citizen demanded that the photos be removed and complained their use implied the newspaper contributed them, they issued a formal apology and took the video down from YouTube -- or so they thought.

Before the video was removed, however, someone using the sign-on name on YouTube of Ted Rastler, apparently downloaded the video to a computer and reposted it to YouTube on Tuesday. As of mid-day Thursday, it had 54 views and two online comments.

Charlie Basker commented: "This is actually pretty upsetting. When a group of people who want to be part of government either don't know or don't care about basic intellectual property laws, we are in trouble. I doubt they are on the side of the people. They look like they are on the side of themselves. I am going to contact Disney (who bought Lucas films) and John Williams (who wrote the music). I am also going to contact Rovio Entertainment (who developed Angry Birds). We need legislators who have a brain."

Another commenter, identified as Chase Pupnick wrote, "Words fail me. These people are running for office and they don't even know they've violated about 10 basic copyright laws."

In a statement released by the District 1 GOP candidates, they argued the video is political speech "which is afforded the highest protections under the First Amendment" and there are clear exceptions to copyright law allowing "fair use" of content that meet certain criteria. Criteria include whether its for a profit or non-profit purpose; the nature of the copyrighted material; the amount of the segment used in relation to the original copyrighted work; and the impact of the use on the market for the original work.

They said the music and video were used for a non-profit and is a parody "which is afforded further protection under the law," and the "material at issue was available for free on the internet and there is no significant market value to the material."

A search of the YouTube audio library, which contains the royalty-free music that can be used in videos, did not turn up the Star Wars music theme. Lucasfilm is now owned by Disney, which is not known for allowing free use of its properties.

According to Sundman, however, once a video is posted, there are more musical titles to choose from, including the "Star Wars" theme.

Millington, Herley and Meyer went to the Fairfield police Wednesday in order to have a record that the version of their video now online is unauthorized.

"We are not asking the police to use any of their resources to investigate this," Millington said. "We want it put on the record we no longer have control of it. The reposting is not approved by the RTC or the candidates."

Sundman said he and his running mates are "doing everything we can to find out who this person is" and have filed complaints with YouTube over the pirating of their video.

GOP CANDIDATES APOLOGIZE

Here is the text of a letter sent to the Fairfield Citizen in which the District 1 Republican candidates for the Representative Town Meeting apologize for improperly using copyrighted Citizen photographs -- without permission -- in a campaign video that was posted on YouTube: http://bit.ly/184NAeX