DES MOINES, Iowa — The University of Iowa is citing a copyright law to block the use of the university’s footage of a 2008 flood for an upcoming documentary.
Doug Krejci, who is trying to gather materials for a documentary about eastern Iowa during the flood, filed a complaint with the Iowa Public Information Board against the university in August, according to the Des Moines Register (http://dmreg.co/2eenXTz ).
The university had told him that federal copyright law protects the creative works of its staff, overriding the state’s public records law that gives the legal right to publish public records. The board hasn’t taken final action on Krejci’s matter.
Critics warn that if the university’s argument is successful, it could become illegal to reproduce any Iowa government record without explicit permission.
“It’s just bizarre,” said Adam Marshall, an attorney for a First Amendment advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. “It can’t be the case that copyright law enables every state entity to withhold every single record they generate. That would totally eviscerate the public records laws.”
Copyright law attorney Tim Zarley said how the material is used could influence whether copyright overrides the public records law.
“You’re talking about public disclosure versus the actual copying of material,” Zarley said.
Krejci said he does not plan to profit from the film project.
“This is a documentary that is not looking to editorialize the flood,” Krejci said. “I’m simply trying to gather material to make a well-rounded comprehensive, but concise, view of June 2008 in eastern Iowa.”
Kathleen Richardson, the dean of Drake University’s journalism program, said the increase in governments claiming copyright protection might be due to new technology that can collect large amounts of data. Krejci mentioned that most of the flood footage is already published online.
The school and the Iowa Board of Regents have declined to comment on the issue.
Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com