The Berkeley-based nonprofit Free History Project has sent a cease-and-desist letter to a right-wing political group which used footage from one of the project’s documentaries in a new ad that tries to tie Barack Obama to 1960s-era radical William Ayers.
The letter demands that all broadcasts of the American Issues Project ad, now running in Michigan and Ohio, be halted as a violation of copyright law.
San Francisco attorney John Keker wrote the ad’s producers have “willfully violated the Free History Project’s intellectual property rights,” and demanded that they “immediately remove the advertisement from any television, cable network, or other media outlet where it is currently running” and “remove the ad from the American Issues Project’s web site.” He’s also formally notifying Michigan and Ohio television stations about the alleged copyright violation.
The footage came from the Free History Project’s 2002 documentary “The Weather Underground,” tells the story of the radical group of the same name founded by William Ayers which hoped to overthrow the U.S. government during the late 1960’s and 70’s.
“We were shocked and dismayed to see that material from our film was taken and used in this manner,” film director Sam Green said in a news release. “Our goal in making The Weather Underground was to produce an even-handed and fair account of a turbulent period in American history. We would never authorize anyone to make use of the film for the purposes of divisive partisan politics.”
The American Issues Project has already written back to Keker insisting its use of the footage constitutes fair use of publicly available material, so I’m guessing there’s a lawsuit in the offing here.
AIP last week had announced a $2.8 million ad buy to air this spot; turns out that money came from Texas billionaire Harold Simmons, who’d helped bankroll the now-notorious “swift boat” attacks against John Kerry in 2004. As for the organization itself, board member Ed Failor Jr. was a paid consultant for John McCain’s campaign in Iowa last year, but an AIP spokesman now claims Failor isn’t connected with the McCain campaign any longer.
Ayers was a young putz who thought violence was an acceptable substitute for political discourse, and is now an old putz who can’t admit he was a young putz.
And as for Ayers and Obama — well, USA Today has a roundup:
• In 1995, Ayers hosted a brunch for Obama, who was running for the Illinois Senate. The ad says this meeting launched Obama’s political career. Quentin Young, a physician who was there, says it was a typical Hyde Park event and to imply otherwise is “guilt by simultaneously being in the same place.”
• In 1997, they were on a juvenile justice panel sponsored by the University of Chicago. They were on a 2002 panel on intellectualism that was co-sponsored by the Chicago Public Library.
• In 1997, the Chicago Tribune published a blurb from Obama about books he was reading. Obama said he was reading Ayers’ A Kind and Just Parent: The Children of Juvenile Court.
• From 1999-2002, both men were on the board of the Woods Fund, a Chicago foundation that makes grants to arts and civic groups. Obama left the board in 2002; Ayers remains on it. Laura Washington, chairwoman of the Woods Fund board, says suggestions of close ties are “an attempt to demonize Bill as a way of damaging Barack Obama.”
• Ayers gave $200 to Obama’s 2001 state Senate campaign.
So — they brunched once 13 years ago; they engaged in two panel discussions; Obama read Ayers’ book; they backed the same nonprofit; and Ayers gave Obama $200 seven years ago.
Wow, now I see it: they’re practically brothers! Surely Obama intends to name Ayers to his cabinet.
UPDATE @ 1:52 P.M.: My apologies to the commenters: Yes, I did forget to mention the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a school-reform nonprofit which Ayers helped found and which Obama chaired in the latter half of the ’90s. The CAC’s board was a who’s who of prominent Chicagoans reportedly including Susan Crown, Vice President of the Henry Crown Company; Patricia A. Graham, President of The Spencer Foundation; Stanley Ikenberry, President-emeritus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Handy Lindsey, Executive Director of the Field Foundation; Arnold Weber, former President of Northwestern University and then President of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago; and Wanda White, Executive Director of the Community Workshop on Economic Development.
My point is not that Ayers’ behavior as a violent radical was acceptable; he was a dangerous thug, and now he’s an unrepentent relic of an insane ideology. But this continued, strenuous effort to paint him as a patron or mentor to Obama seems absurd; so they moved in the same Chicago political circles, big deal — so did dozens of other prominent people. Trying to fix public schools together doesn’t mean one accepted the other’s entire ideology.