The Defense Department spent $70,500 to produce a Humphrey Bogart-themed video called “The People’s Right to Know” to teach employees to respond to citizen requests for information. But when it came to showing the tape to the public, the Pentagon censored some of the footage.
Officials said they blacked out parts of the training video with the message, “copyrighted material removed for public viewing,” because they were worried the government didn’t have legal rights to some historical footage that was included.
Citing the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, The Associated Press asked the Pentagon for a copy of the video nearly 18 months ago. The Defense Department released an edited version of the tape and acknowledged the irony of censoring a video promoting government openness.
[...] The video also includes historic clips from the 1996 Olympics, the exploration of Titanic wreckage in 1986 and Hank Aaron hitting his record-breaking 714th home run in 1974. Those clips and others were copyrighted by organizations that would not give permission to release them, said C.Y. Talbot, chief of the Defense Department’s Office of Freedom of Information and Security Review.
[...] Legal experts challenged the Pentagon’s refusal to release the entire video, arguing it was improper under the Freedom of Information Act — the subject of the videotape itself — for the government to withhold records because they include copyrighted material.
The video lists reasons for withholding government documents under U.S. law but does not mention copyright. It cites seven categories of information that can be withheld, including classified documents and “trade secrets and commercial and financial information given by companies in their bids for contracts.”
[...] “Nobody wants to get sued,” said Jay Flemma, a New York copyright lawyer. “Corporations would be served best by not including such material, but you certainly can make a strong argument this was fair use.”
See also IPNewsBlog’s FOIA’d by the copyright law?