Federal Court Rules That City of Inglewood Cannot Copyright City Council Meetings

297px-Seal_of_Inglewood,_California.svgWe 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.

22 thoughts on “Federal Court Rules That City of Inglewood Cannot Copyright City Council Meetings”

  1. ww.techdirt.com/articles/20150607/22080131269/city-inglewood-allotted-50000-to-hire-lawyer-flagrantly-abuse-copyright-law-to-try-to-silence-citizen.shtml

  2. The different details between jurisdictions is interesting. California generally protects a public entity’s ability to plan litigation, and make litigation related decisions confidentially on the grounds that they don’t want to put them at a disadvantage in litigation. The disclosure requirements are greater after the nature of the decision becomes public (such as filing a complaint) or the litigation is terminated,

    1. Richard – the same rules apply to our HOA (Open Meeting Laws). There are only certain things that can be discussed in a closed session but all actions must be public. The public has a right to comment.

  3. This is similar to the Massachusetts SWAT teams claiming they had privately incorporated and thus exempt from public records requests

  4. That depends on the matter and location. For example, in my state a city council can obtain legal advice concerning the contemplated instigation of legal proceedings, discuss the matter entirely in closed session and vote in closed session. The record of the vote must be available to the public once litigation is instigated. Any member asking a council member if they were following the advice of counsel would get the response I mentioned above–they don’t discuss attorney/client privileged communications. Individual members of the council have no legal authority to waive that privilege, as it is held by the city and can only be waived by an act of the city council.

    1. Richard – the discussion is in closed session but in my state the vote has to be in public, although they usually run the closed session after the regular session so everyone has left.

  5. Such requests in public are generally concerning minor matters or where everyone knows what the attorney will say in advance. Advice given in connection with matters such as this is often initially given during a conversation with the Mayor, city manager or the council member leading the charge and often consists of “if you do that, the city will get sued–here’s why.” There is no publicly available record of those conversations as they are privileged. Often, the only record is the CYA note in the attorney’s file or a memo provided to members of the council in closed session–which is not available to the public.

    1. Richard – the vote cannot be in closed session, only discussion. The vote and even more discussion must be public. And there is nothing that prevents an audience member from asking if the council is following the advice of counsel.

  6. You could ask them, but would probably get a response that discussions with counsel are privileged. The exception is if the city alleges it acted on the advice of counsel as a defense. I have not seen such a claim in this case.

    1. Richard – I understand that acting on the advice of counsel is not a defense in a civil action. However, whether they acted on the advice of counsel should be a matter of record. If you have been to counsel meetings the city attorney often is asked for their advice.

  7. Paul S., unless you are a member of the city council or relatively high ranking employee/officer in the relevant department, you generally would not have access to the privileged communications between the council and its attorney. The City Attorney certainly would not be able to disclose that the council acted against his advice.

    1. Richard – as a member of the public you have the right to ask if they operated with the advice of counsel. You can get it on the record. If nothing else, you can screw with them. 😉

  8. Paul S., You are assuming they took the advice of the City Attorney. Frequently elected officials who end up in these types of lawsuits do so precisely because they failed to heed the advice of their attorney.

    1. Richard – rarely have I seen a city council go against the advice of the city attorney.

  9. Aside from a possible lawsuit against the city, maybe Mr.Teixeira should start a recall campaign against those idiots. Hopefully, Obummer won’t step in and create an Executive Order banning lawsuits that may hold public officials accountable.

  10. Whichever attorney on the city’s staff that gave them this advice, needs to be looking for a new job. However, I am going to guess the City Council is majority liberal/progressive, as is the city attorney. For some reason liberals/progressives have a problem with the 1st and 2nd Amendments.

  11. Actors, acting under color of state or federal law to deprive citizens of their civil rights. Went in dumb, come out dumb too. This sounds like something which would have happened in Florida. But California?

  12. Clearly a malicious prosecution. This is exactly why anti-SLAPP laws were created. Now Mr.Teixeira will have the key to the city’s coffers. And rightly so.

  13. Copy writing council meetings? Seriously?!?! Get a life! Council meetings belong to The People, not those elected.

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