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Appeals court lets candidate use uncredited footage in ad

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  1. Content Restrictions

    NMU         EIGHTH CIRCUIT         Copyrights & Trademarks         Nov 3, 2000    

Appeals court lets candidate use uncredited footage in ad

  • A Republican challenger to Richard Gephardt must remove the C-SPAN logo from his campaign ad, but wins the right to continue airing the clip as Election Day draws near.

In a terse two-sentence order, a federal appeals court effectively allowed a Republican candidate for the House of Representatives to continue using footage from C-SPAN in his campaign ads provided the cable network is not identified as the source.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis (8th Cir.) heard an emergency appeal by William Federer on Nov. 2 and decided to stay part of a district court judge’s order. The earlier ruling by Judge Charles Shaw enjoined the candidate from running the television advertisement with eight days left in his campaign.

Federer is challenging Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) in the state’s 3rd District. The advertisement at issue shows Gephardt speaking at a National Gay and Lesbian Task Force dinner. C-SPAN sued Federer for copyright violation and trademark infringement.

The lower court’s bifurcated order prevented, first, the Federer campaign from using any C-SPAN footage, and second, from using any C-SPAN logos or trademarks in advertisements. The appellate court stayed the first part of the order and upheld the second, in effect allowing the campaign to use the footage of the speech so long as there are no marks identifying C-SPAN as the source.

“The way I analogize it, in the lower court C-SPAN hit an inside-the-park home run. The appeals court sent our man back to third base. We’re still in strong scoring position,” said Bruce Collins, general counsel for C-SPAN. “The game is still on and the question is whether the game is going to be called on account of darkness — meaning election day.”

Not surprisingly, both sides claimed victory.

“The trial court judge just issued too broad of an injunction,” said Tom Federer, the candidate’s brother and an attorney of record on the case. “First Amendment rights and political free speech have prevailed. The justice system works. Citizens are allowed to see and hear exactly what their congressman has been up to in Washington, D.C., so that voters can make a more informed choice.”

“We’re very pleased that the Eighth Circuit, a rather respected circuit, supports our view that C-SPAN can’t be dragged into political campaigns,” Collins said. “That’s our goal in this whole thing.”

Tom Federer said that the ads have already begun running again locally, this time without C-SPAN’s signature shot of the Capitol and without the C-SPAN logo or voice-over.

Collins said he was unsure whether the parties would have a full hearing before the Eighth Circuit because the issue would likely be moot after the election.

(Natl. Cable Satellite Corp. v. Federer for Congress Committee, Media Counsel: Mark Sableman, Thompson Coburn, St. Louis, Mo.; Bruce Collins, Washington, D.C.) DB

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