• Taxpayer-funded video now owned by local politician

    By: Jodie Fleischer


    ATLANTA, Ga. - Critics are questioning a local politician who now says he owns the copyright to a video that was produced with $10,000 of taxpayer money.

    The video, called "It's My Constitution," features former state senator and current congressional candidate Barry Loudermilk and his three children talking about the importance of the U.S. Constitution. It also features an introduction from State Education Superintendent John Barge, and was sent to Georgia classrooms for use in studying Constitution Day.

    "It's paid for with taxpayer dollars; arguably the public owns that," said Georgia Department of Education spokesman Matt Cardoza.

    Channel 2 Action News investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer obtained a copy of an invoice showing Georgia's Department of Education paid $10,000 to Georgia Public Broadcasting for the video's production.

    During the credits of the 15-minute video, a copyright in the name of "Firm Reliance" appears on the screen. Firm Reliance is a non-profit organization registered to Loudermilk. The video is prominently featured on the non-profit's website.

    "If it's in the public domain and the public paid for it and it's for the public, why have any copyright on it?" Fleischer asked Cardoza.
    He replied, "Right. I can't answer that question. I really don't know why it says it's copyrighted there."

    "That's just not right," said William Perry of the watchdog group Common Cause Georgia, adding that if the public paid for the video, the copyright should belong to the public as well.

    "I think as soon as somebody goes on and views it and sees a copyright, they're not going to feel like they can use it," Perry said. "They're going to have to seek permission in order to do that, so it's probably a deterrent."

    There is a link for the video on Georgia Public Broadcasting's education site. But when you click the link, a message says, "You are not authorized to view this page."

    Members of the the public can access the video on YouTube, and with a direct video link on Georgia Public Broadcasting's website, but only if they know to search for it.

    When Fleischer first inquired about the video's ownership with Georgia's Department of Education, the video was missing from its website altogether. It has since been added as a recommended part of the Constitution Day curriculum.

    "We spent money, and he spent time and the development of it," said Cardoza. "There was a mutual greement, I believe, that said we could both use it as long as it was used for the original intent."

    "When they contacted us, I said, yeah, I'd like to do this through our non-profit to take the idea of personal gain out of it," said Loudermilk. "Our nonprofit exists to teach the Constitution and our founding documents."

    Loudermilk said because he and his children were not paid for their time writing and casting the video, they legally hold the copyright, not the Department of Education. He said they are going to use the copyright to protect the video.

    "We didn't want anyone to go in there and try to change what was in it, and also wanted to make sure no one went out and used it for profit," Loudermilk said. "We want this available, we want it out there."

    Loudermilk added that his family and non-profit have never charged anyone to use the video and will continue to allow access to the video for educational purposes.

    "I think it's ridiculous that someone's trying to make a political issue out of something that doesn't exist," he said.

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