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California wants to own copyrights on everything

California routinely sets the standard for progressive legislation, adopting law after law that the rest of the country isn’t even considering. For example, California lawmakers adopted mandatory promotions of homosexuality in schools years before President Obama thought of it.

Now the state is at it again, proposing a bill that would let the state government and its branches copyright “all government works.”

As in everything.

Even video images of public meetings.

The warning is coming from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

EFF legislative counsel Ernesto Falcon explained that the California Assembly Committee on Judiciary has approved AB 2880 “to grant local and state governments’ copyright authority along with other intellectual property rights.”

The state’s current model is similar to the federal government’s: With a few exceptions the audio, visual and written work of government employees is available to the public to use.

“The Death of Free Speech: How Our Broken National Dialogue Has Killed the Truth and Divided America” examines how the news media has created arbitrary, biased and illogical rules for determining what can and cannot be said in the public arena.

Ernesto said that at its core, the bill “grants state and local government the authority to create, hold, and exert copyrights, including materials created by the government.”

The organization said it strongly opposes the plan.

“Such a broad grant of copyright authority to state and local governments will chill speech, stifle open government, and harm the public domain,” he said.

EFF said the bill would “clarify” that works created by public entities are eligible for intellectual property restrictions.

“This includes trademarks, patents, trade secrets, and copyrights. As things stand today, works created by California state and local governments (like reports, video, maps, and so on) aren’t subject to copyright except in a few special cases. That ensures that Californians who funded the creation of those works through their tax dollars can use those works freely.”

But EFF said the bill “would change California from having one of the best policies on copyright of any U.S. state to among the worst.”

“It authorizes public entities to register copyrights in their work. That means that state and local governments will have the power to seek statutory damages that can reach as high as $30,000 per infringement and potentially as life altering as $150,000 for willful conduct against people who use state-created materials,” Ernesto said.

“Therefore, if a citizen infringed on a state owned copyright by making a copy of a government publication, or reading that publication out loud in a public setting, or uploading it to the Internet, they could be liable for statutory damages. The harms felt by this bill’s approach are wide ranging because it would take very little to claim that a work is protected by copyright law.

“Imagine local officials having the power to issue a … takedown notice of YouTube videos of city council meetings simply because they did not like them.”

The problem is that in California copyright claims have been used to “censor speech,” EFF said.

“California local and state governments are not exempt from the temptation of suppressing disfavored speech under a copyright claim as evidenced by the Teixeira case. In 2015, the city council of Inglewood had filed a lawsuit against a citizen (Teixeira) for uploading video clips of city council meetings to YouTube with his criticisms of the mayor. The lawsuit was dismissed by the court outright because California cities don’t have the power to claim copyright. The court went even further to explain how Mr. Teixeira’s use of the videos to criticize the mayor was a fair use. So while the litigation ended on the correct note (though it cost Inglewood taxpayers $110,000 in legal fees), it demonstrated how copyright law can be abused in the hands of government,” EFF said.

“The Death of Free Speech: How Our Broken National Dialogue Has Killed the Truth and Divided America” examines how the news media has created arbitrary, biased and illogical rules for determining what can and cannot be said in the public arena.