Apparently, the anti-gay marriage lobby isn't big on producing original material these days.
This morning, Sum of Change was startled to discover that video we shot at Netroots Nation this past August is being featured, unattributed, in a television advertisement for the 'Yes on 1' campaign produced by Stand for Marriage Maine. (We chose not to link to the commercial in question, "They Said", we would prefer if people did not watch it)
Stand for Marriage Maine uses our video to falsely suggest that gay rights groups are backtracking on what they paint as a 2005 promise not to pursue the legalization of gay marriage. The ad quotes Pat Peard, leader of Maine Won’t Discriminate, as saying that gay rights legislation "has nothing to do with marriage." The ad then shows Sum of Change's footage of Maine Equality's Monique Hoeflinger stating that her organization's 'No on 1' campaign, which works in exact opposition to 'Yes on 1,' had in fact been fighting for marriage equality since 2005.
Not only is this assertion false, Stand for Marriage Maine does not have the right to the footage and even went so far as to cut out Sum of Change’s logo.
While initially outraged by the theft of our material, we are more disturbed that Sum of Change is in any way associated with Stand for Marriage Maine. What 'Yes on 1' fails to realize is that marriage in a religious sense and marriage equality are two very different things. Peard's claim is that the gay rights debate has little to do with changing the religious institution of marriage but rather awarding the civil rights associated with marriage to gay couples, a conversation in which Maine Equality has indeed been honorably engaged since 2005.
In fact, this sentiment was echoed by Portland Democratic Party chair Sive Neilan. "I think everybody should have equal rights," Neilan told reporters at a rally in April. "[The legislation] has nothing to do with . . . marriage."
Sum of Change immediately issued a cease and desist request to Stand for Marriage Maine, but Zachary S. Kester and Barry A. Bostromm, the organization's attorneys, seems fairly nonplussed by our threat to pursue legal action. Kester is also the chair of the Christian Legal Society. Kester and Bostromm responded with a terse message to Sum of Change:
“Attached is Stand for Marriage Maine PAC's response to your cease and decist request. Any further communications regarding this or any other communication by Stand of Marriage Maine PAC are to be directed to this office.”
Apparently, Mr. Kester and Mr. Bostromm don’t know how to spell ‘desist’ (or ‘decist,’ as he puts it), nor are they aware that the organization they represent is called ‘Stand for Marriage Maine’ and not ‘Stand of Marriage Maine.’ We’re betting neither are the utmost authority on copyright law, either.
In the attached statement, Kester and Bostromm stood by Stand for Marriage Maine’s refusal to take down Sum of Change's footage:
“No permission was required and no permission was sought from Sum of Change Productions, LLC, for use of a very short segment of the gay right summit video, which was filmed at a conference of gay marriage supporters on August 13, 2009.”
Wrong again, Mr. Kester and Mr. Bostromm. The "conference of gay marriage supporters" at which we filmed the "gay right summit video" was, in fact, Netroots Nation, a political convention for American progressive political activists which addresses a wide range of topics. Though gay rights were indeed discussed at this year's conference, a few panelists speaking on behalf of gay rights does not a “gay right summit” make. Sum of Change has difficulty finding confidence in Mr. Kester’s legal assessment when he struggles to correctly define the nature of Netroots Nation.
(Sum of Change feels the need to point out that the gay community is pursuing gay rights, plural, not a "gay right," singular, as Mr. Kester and Mr. Bostromm put it.)
Also, the fair use doctrine under federal copyright law which Stand for Marriage Maine cites as its legal reasoning does not allow the organization to claim authorship of material. By failing to cite Sum of Change as the author of the footage in question, Stand for Marriage Maine implies ownership in an exhibition of blatant plagiarism.
Not surprisingly, this is not the first time Stand for Marriage Maine has run into trouble for stealing material. National Public Radio is currently pursuing legal action against the organization for using audio from an NPR radio show in television spots without permission. Gee, that doesn’t sound familiar.
Scott Fish, Director of Communications for the ‘Yes on 1’ campaign, called NPR’s claim a “ridiculous and frivolous complaint." However, when asked about the use of Sum of Change’s footage in a similar commercial, Fish played dumb and claimed not to have any knowledge of the television commercial whatsoever.
Sum of Change is currently considering legal action against Stand for Marriage Maine. We will continue to update the site with developments.