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Help the McNeil Bear Sanctuary off linmits to hunting

Alaska Officials Using Copyright To Try To Stifle Images Of Killed Wolves

TechDirt / July 23, 2009

So, we just had the story of police in the UK trying to abuse copyright to prevent the showing of speed camera photos. Now we've got a somewhat similar story in the US, pointed to us by Michael Scott, involving officials in Alaska using copyright to try to force offline photos of "aerial wolf kills." Apparently, the Alaskan gov't goes around and shoots wolves from helicopters to control the wolf population. Not surprisingly, some find this rather distasteful. One wildlife protection group obtained the government's photos of killed wolves from March of this year using a public records request, and put them online... at which point the gov't claimed that it was a copyright violation.

This seems questionable on a variety of fronts. In the US, we tend to have problems with the idea that gov't should copyright things. The federal gov't can't, though state gov'ts often have more leeway and often do claim copyright over documents (though, it can be controversial). More importantly, though, once again, this is clearly not the intention of copyright. It's quite obviously copyright law being used (yet again) to stifle free expression from protesters -- a form of free speech which should trump copyright law absolutely. Of course, in the end, like so many attempts to stifle speech, this is backfiring. The effort to suppress the photos is only serving to draw much more attention to them.

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