A video snippet of a Wrexham Council meeting has resulted in an ‘enforcement action’ threat to councillors who wish to publish their own clips.
Plaid Cymru’s Councillor Carrie Harper posted a video clip from the Executive Board meeting webcast on her own Facebook page (viewable for now here), with a repost earlier today adding comment: “Unbelievable. Because of this video, Wrexham Council have warned all councillors not to share content from their webcast or face “enforcement action”. Please share before they make us take it down.”
As with most issues of this nature the ‘streisand effect‘ has meant the video clip has had thousands of more views today with the ‘censorship’ claim meaning it has been shared even more.
Yesterday all councillors received a friendly reminder about use of such council video content, and that the copyright of such video resides with Wrexham Council and such actions can be seen as breaching their copyright.
We asked Wrexham Council for comment on the use of the video on Cllr Harper’s page, and enquired if such postings were against the Constitution of Wrexham Council or if the issue revolved around copyright.
With the reference to ‘enforcement’, we asked if Wrexham Council had asked the councillor to remove the video, and if it was possible to outline what course of action such enforcement could take.
Wrexham Council told us: “We have no objection for links to be disseminated to any footage from webcasts on our main webcasting site; either to whole meetings, individual items or discussion or comments by individual members, and the suite on our webcasting site allows for this.
“We want as many people as possible to access the webcast – both live and recorded – and follow meetings for themselves.”
“However, as all webcast footage remains under the copyright of Wrexham Council, we reserve the right to be asked for permission when anyone – a member of the public, Council member or otherwise – wishes to download or edit webcast footage, as this can be presented without any wider context; whereas someone accessing webcast footage via our site may watch the meeting or individual items in their entirety.”
We asked members of the Plaid Cymru group if they would be removing the clip. We also asked if they were aware of the rules surrounding use of the video and webcasting and if so, was the action a protest against the rules or if they were unaware of the rules.
These queries mirror a similar historic issue when Arfon Jones, then councillor rather than Police and Crime Commissioner, who tripped over the rules on tweeting back in 2012, unknowingly or in possible protest.
We also asked if Plaid Cymru would be looking to open out the copyright / webcasting rules via changing the council Constitution – perhaps making all council content ‘opendata’ via things such as creative commons licenses.
Plaid Cymru Councillor Marc Jones told us today: “After last week’s Executive Board, clips of the council’s own webcast were shared on Facebook as we as Plaid Cymru councillors were keen to ensure that as many people as possible were able to see the decision-making process around the budget proposals.
“These have been viewed by more than 10,000 people to date and it’s provoked a healthy debate about the budget proposals. We believe the webcasting of council meetings is a positive development to enable people who cannot attend the daytime meetings to see how our council carries out its business.
“On Tuesday, an e-mail was sent to all councillors reminding them that webcasts should not be shared without permission.
“We’re now waiting to hear whether we have been granted that permission but to stop democratically elected councillors from sharing webcasts of open meetings is stifling debate.
“A five-minute clip has been viewed by thousands of people whereas a three-hour meeting would have been viewed by a few hundred.
“We will also seek to change the rules to allow the public to share open democratic debate as widely as possible. We have to end the culture of secrecy within this council, which had to be challenged on other aspects of social media in the past and now accepts them as standard.”
Webcasting and Wrexham Council’s own Constitution are due for debate by Councillors this year, and asked if there was a relevant Lead Councillor available to comment on if they would like to see parity with England over the rules regarding filming of meetings, which in effect means anyone could film anything they like, however no comment was forthcoming.
A review of webcasting could see a widening of meetings covered, or increasing the software capabilities. Up the road in Flintshire the Council uses the same webcasting platform as Wrexham Council – however they allow the easy embedding of video and provide a handy tool to allow it.
There are options to open everything to all via whatever format, or there could be a rule brought in such as in Westminster where footage from Parliament can be used in news and factual programmes but cannot be used by comedy or satirical programmes.
The Council’s webcasting also has a shelf life, with archives disappearing, meaning even if references are used correctly it can means gaps appear:
— Wrexham.com (@wrexham) November 5, 2017
Wrexham.com has had an interest in filming meetings, having been the first (and only) to request and film a meeting prior to webcasting in 2014 – and last year also had a ‘private’ style request (again we think uniquely) to test out some hardware accepted by Councillors.
Back in 2013 we tweeted from a meeting and the world kept turning, with the below request we placed seeming almost unbelievable in hindsight – but was required:
We asked the Chair if we could transmit & recieve data via mobile devices during tonights meeting.The Chair said yes.Thus transmitting this!
— Wrexham.com (@wrexham) January 9, 2013
In four years time this article could look as conspicuously old-fashioned, as it will do to those reading right now in England where people have been allowed to film / stream in local authority meetings in theory without issue – since 2013 with this set of very clear and open rules.
Top pic: A screengrab from the Executive Board webcast, copyright Wrexham Council, we have not asked permission to use it 👀