MINOT, N.D. — A reader of mine, Briley Crissler, contacted me this morning and expressed some consternation over a recent ad for Gov. Doug Burgum's re-election campaign.
The ad is pretty standard stuff for campaigns but used some footage created by Crissler's younger brother Larin, and Briley told me it happened without permission or license.
Here's the ad, which was posted on Facebook on Oct. 2:
I contacted Larin.
He is 17 years old and currently a senior at Turtle Mountain High School. He founded Crissler Aviation Services in 2019 and serves customers in several ways with his drones. "I'm currently a minor, so I have to run the business with my brothers," he told me.
He does inspections, videography and photography. He's worked with media companies and even helped with search and rescue.
It's an impressive resume for someone so young.
The footage used by the Burgum campaign came from a YouTube video Larin created in June. The video was intended to "boost our views," and Larin was surprised to see it in the ad.
"One night, we were watching the news. As we continued watching, we saw one of the clips was our North Dakota drone footage," he told me. "It was just meant to be out there for people to enjoy. Nobody has contacted us to use that footage."
Here's a screenshot of the clip in question from the Crissler video:
This is a screenshot from the Burgum ad:
I contacted Burgum campaign manager Dawson Schefter for comment. He said he'd look into it and get back to me.
By the time he did, just an hour or so later, the Burgum campaign had already been in touch with Larin to work out a deal.
Schefter said the campaign thought the clip's use was allowed under the "fair use" doctrine but opted to license the work from Crissler anyway.
Schefter called Larin "very talented" and said the campaign plans to use his work in the future.
Larin confirmed that, adding that the Burgum campaign paid him $500 for the footage used. "They were deeply sorry," he told me.
The "fair use" doctrine for copyrighted materials in the United States is a complicated subject that many do not understand well. In most instances, you can't use even small portions of someone else's work unless you get their permission. There are some exception — notably things like commentary or criticism, search engines, parody, news reporting, or academic pursuits — but it's hard to see how a political campaign ad would fall into any of those categories.
Regardless, this story has a happy ending, with an impressive young entrepreneur getting a new client.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at email@example.com.