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Cordray campaign says it’s OK using footage from state government channel in TV ad, despite policy

August 7, 2018

Cordray campaign says it’s OK using footage from state government channel in TV ad, despite policy

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Richard Cordray’s campaign for Ohio governor says it will continue to use footage shot by the state government’s TV channel in a campaign ad, despite the service’s policy barring its footage from being used for political purposes.

The Cordray’s campaign said its use of a 2010 news conference Cordray gave as state attorney general is fair use, a legal concept that allows copyrighted material to be used without permission under certain conditions, such as commentary or news reporting. But an official with the Ohio Channel, which recorded the news conference, said that’s against the quasi-governmental agency’s internal policy. The official, Executive Director Dan Shellenbarger, also cited a state law that forbids its services from being used for political purposes.

“Usually, they have the idea, and it’s a mistaken idea, that it’s public and that it’s fair use, so it requires a little bit of education ... on what is appropriate use and what is inappropriate,” Shellenbarger told cleveland.com. 

The three-second clip, depicting Cordray announcing a multi-million-dollar drug bust, appeared in a Cordray campaign ad that launched Saturday as part of a six-figure ad campaign airing on TV stations across Ohio. Cordray is a Democrat running against current state Attorney General Mike DeWine, a Republican. 

Shellenbarger said Monday that it’s common for political campaigns to attempt to use the channel’s archival footage, which includes untold hours of video of legislative sessions, press conferences and other events. But, he said they usually pull the ad once they’re told they don’t have permission to use it.

“We’ve had a very good record of having them comply. Usually, it’s just a misunderstanding,” he said.

Shellenbarger, speaking generally about his station’s policies, pointed to a 2001 state law that created the Ohio Channel, which says “Services provided by the Ohio government telecommunications service shall not be used for political purposes included in campaign materials, or otherwise used to influence an election, legislation, issue, judicial decision, or other policy of state government.”

But the Cordray campaign argues the law as written does not seem to explicitly apply to reusing archival footage that’s available on the Internet. It also pointed out that although the law says that the Ohio Channel footage can’t be used to influence a judicial decision, DeWine’s office has cited it in legal filings while defending contested state laws. The campaign has no plans to pull the ad, officials said.

“Republicans don’t have any solutions for Ohioans facing increasing health insurance costs, prescription drug costs and stagnant wages -- so they’ve resorted to complaining about footage in TV ads,” campaign spokeswoman Christina Freundlich said.

Niraj Antani, a Republican state representative from the Dayton area who supports DeWine, said in an interview that he’s wanted to use Ohio Channel footage of his speeches from the state legislative floor in his past campaigns, but has been denied permission. Antani recognized the footage as from the Ohio Channel when he watched the ad online on Friday. He has shared his concerns with the Ohio Channel, he said.

“I’d like to use it for my campaign material, but as a lawmaker, you have to respect the law, and I respect their right to copyright,” Antani said.

Shellenbarger said Monday that he had reached out to the Cordray’s campaign, and expected to have a conversation with them about the footage. He did not respond to a follow-up message on Tuesday.

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