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Why Did a TV Group Have a MI Educator's Controversial Testimony Removed From the Internet?


"We got an email from somebody complaining..."

Debbie Squires,

  • A Michigan education official testified that educators, not parents, know what's best for children's education.
  • A pro-charter school organization posted video of those remarks.
  • Michigan's public affairs channel objected to its footage for "political purposes" and had the charter school organization take it down.

This week The Blaze featured a story out of Michigan regarding an education official's controversial comment that educators -- not parents -- know how best to serve children.

The remark was made earlier this month during a meeting of the Michigan House Education Committee: Debbie Squires, associate director of the Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association, said parents have an opportunity to weigh in on how their children's schools are run when they elect school board officials.

(Related: Get the background story on the clip by reading our initial article)

"Educators go through education for a reason, they are the people who know best about how to serve children, that’s not necessarily true of an individual resident," Squires said. "I'm not saying they don’t want the best for their children, but they may not know what actually is best from an education standpoint."

Here is how she presented those comments:

Squires' remarks caught fire and were featured on several national news sites, including The Blaze, in part because they were captured on video. But on Tuesday, the same day we posted our own story, the YouTube video of the meeting clip was removed by the user, the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, a pro-charter school organization.

The Blaze reached out to MAPSA to inquire about why they removed the video. Buddy Moorehouse, the organization's director of communications, said it was over a copyright issue: Michigan Government Television, the nonprofit public affairs cable channel that filmed the committee hearing, claimed MAPSA was violating its licensing policy by only featuring a brief clip of it in their video.

"They contacted us and said their policy states you need to use the entire gavel-to-gavel coverage" when featuring their footage online, Moorehouse said. He added they opted to comply in the interest of maintaining a future working relationship with MGTV.

MGTV, which began in the mid-1990s as a government initiative, is now funded entirely by cable subscriber fees. Michelle Webb, MGTV's acting executive director, confirmed that her organization requested MAPSA remove its video in what she said was "the format that they did it in."

"They took just one segment out of it and they edited it, added graphics and so forth," Webb said. She said MGTV permits its content to be used in full -- "they could have put the entire committee [hearing] on there with no problem at all" -- but said MAPSA's use violated their copyright policy.

MAPSA posted two versions of the segment online: one that added graphics mocking Squires' words, but another one that was simply a straight video, clipped from MGTV's original broadcast. Webb said the only version she was aware of was the one that included MAPSA's graphics, but took issue with any version that did not feature full gavel-to-gavel coverage.

Webb said her organization reached out to MAPSA after receiving an emailed complaint after Squires' remarks began to make news.

"We got an email from somebody complaining, [saying] do you allow your programming to be used this way and why didn't they put the entire thing up," Webb said.

Webb said that as far as she knows, the complaint was not made from someone affiliated with Squires.

According to its website, MGTV content is copyrighted and "any form of public performance, other use, or the unauthorized reproduction, distribution or exhibition of this copyrighted material, in any medium or form, is strictly prohibited." They do give news organizations access to their footage to be used in news reporting.

Webb said she gave MAPSA written permission to use their footage of the entire committee hearing, but "we do have a problem with someone taking our programming with our logo on it and using it for political purposes." She defined "political" as not using the entire hearing and instead seizing on one particular comment to build a message. MAPSA's website states outright that one of its goals is to "introduce and support bills, amendments and policies that advance support for quality charter schools."

She said there's no inherent contradiction in MGTV, an organization dedicated to transparency, limiting analysis from MAPSA because airing only one clip is not, at its core, transparent.

"We gladly would have them post that entire committee on there which would make it more transparent," Webb said.

But even though MGTV succeeded in getting MAPSA to remove its video, there's another factor at play here: what's known as the "fair use" doctrine. Under fair use, a copyrighted work may be reproduced without its author's permission under certain circumstances. There's no perfect formula that guarantees something is fair use, but there are four factors under U.S. law to be used in making such a determination: the purpose of the use, including whether its for a commercial nature or for a nonprofit education purpose; the nature of the copyrighted work being used; the amount and substantiality of what's being used in relation to the entire work; and the effect the use has on the potential value of the copyright work.

In general, news reporting, criticism and comment tend to be held up as fair use.

With that in mind, The Blaze decided to include the raw clip of Squires' comments that made news, without the additional graphics that prompted MGTV's complaint. The full hearing is not expected to be available online before Friday morning, but The Blaze will link to it when it is.

Update: You can watch the full committee hearing here.

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