We have been discussing the ever-expanding copyright and trademarks claims on what seems every object and observation in modern life, including such things as pictures taken of public scenes in London, in Paris, and in New York. Now the Inglewood City Council has attempted to use copyright law to silence critics and control public information by invoking protection over Inglewood city council meeting footage used on YouTube videos. Fortunately, Joseph Teixeira prevailed in City of Inglewood v. Teixeira after a federal court ruled that it could not use copyright to silence him or others.
Teixeira has been a regular critic of the mayor and officials in the City of Inglewood and has posted excerpts from city council video recordings. In an outrageous act, the city responded to the criticism by accusing him of infringing copyright laws in posting public meetings. The court held that California cities cannot claim copyright in public records. Moreover, under federal law, council meeting videos is fair use.
Under California public records law, the city must make public records “available to any person upon payment of fees covering direct costs of duplication.”
There is no question that the decision is correct on the law. The only question is why the citizens of Inglewood have not fired or thrown from office everyone involved in this abusive use of the laws to silence critics.
Hopefully, Teixeira will be able to collect attorney fees and any other costs from the city for this meritless lawsuit.
Here is the opinion: Inglewood Opinion
Gene Volokh has a good article on this case.