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Parent, Evanston school officials spar over YouTube video
[February 13, 2011]

Parent, Evanston school officials spar over YouTube video

Feb 12, 2011 (Chicago Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- An Evanston dad was hoping for a response when he posted a video clip on that showed a heated exchange touching on race during a public school board meeting.

But the fallout that ensued had as much to do with legal questions, after an official with the Evanston-Skokie School District 65 cited copyright infringement and successfully asked the video website to remove the original clip.

YouTube complied -- and the father, Becket Strom, responded by posting several more video snippets taken from the same Jan. 24 board meeting.

Strom, who said someone gave him the video after obtaining it from the district, said he wanted to show how the superintendent's behavior is "problematic to the community." Now school officials have asked their lawyer to weigh in.

"Obviously, someone can come in and record an open meeting," said John Relias, an attorney who represents District 65.

But because the video may have been taken from a DVD provided by the district, "it's a very complicated question." "Just because it could be obtained through a FOIA (federal Freedom of Information Act) does not automatically give the person a right to post to YouTube," Relias said.

He said that the district has asked him to investigate, and that he has not advised officials on how to proceed.

The school district pays Evanston Community Television $35,000 per year to record its meetings and other events, said Pat Markham, the district's spokeswoman.

Markham, the official who initially asked YouTube to remove the video from its website, said that the board meetings are broadcast live and shown again multiple times on the local station. But she also has loaned DVDs of the meetings to members of the public.

"Truly my intention was not to preclude people from seeing a board meeting," Markham said. "I really thought that we had proprietary rights to the material." In the video clip, Superintendent Hardy Murphy and board member Tracy Quattrocki, are seen exchanging sharp words before the school board president steps in.

Quattrocki first questions whether the scores for the Stanford Achievement Test Series are fair representations of student achievement for "many of the groups that we're looking at." Murphy responds by saying the "real issue that we're struggling with here is that what we're doing is we're stereotyping black kids as failing." Quattrocki reacts with indignation, stating that she is offended.

Murphy then responds, "Well, you know Ms. Quattrocki, I am offended also by over and over again telling African-American children in this district that they're failures." Neither Murphy nor Quattrocki could be reached Friday for comment.

Several board members said they just learned about video controversy Thursday night during a school board candidates forum.

Board member Katie Bailey said she called the superintendent and board president to complain Friday.

"I have asked that it be put back (on YouTube)," board member Bailey said. "To me it's very simple, it's a public meeting." Randal Picker, a law professor at the University of Chicago, said that the law regarding the federal government shows that "the basic premise is that the government doesn't get copyrights of their own works." But Esther Seitz, an attorney with Illinois Press Association, said the law is vague on whether state and local governments also enjoy copyright protection.

As of Friday, Strom's reposted video clips remained on YouTube with a disclaimer that states: "Please note that while Evanston/Skokie School District 65 has claimed a copyright issue regarding school board meeting recordings posted to YouTube, District 65's own policy manual states that 'Any person may record or broadcast an open board meeting.'" "If I had filmed it myself, I could have posted it on the website," Strom said. "There would be no functional difference." To see more of the Chicago Tribune, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2011, Chicago Tribune Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For more information about the content services offered by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services (MCT), visit

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