Below find an email we received last night from the Ambridge Area School District threatening to file legal action against us if we do not delete the above photograph.
Below that, find the email sent today in response by BeaverCountian.com founder John Paul.
(Without peeking, can you guess what his reaction was?)
Happy National Constitution Day everyone!
from: Shari Berg (SBerg@ambridge.k12.pa.us)
subject: Unauthorized Ambridge Logo Usage
Dear Mr. Paul,
It has been brought to our attention that your online publication, The Beaver Countian, is using the Ambridge Area School District logo as a graphic to accompany a story about the Ambridge Police tasering a juvenile Friday evening (see attached).
On behalf of the Superintendent of the Ambridge Area School District, I am requesting that you immediately remove the AASD logo in conjunction with any article on this incident, as it gives the false impression that the Ambridge Area School District was involved in this incident. The events did not occur on School District property, nor did they involve any of our School Resource Officers. By using the AASD logo with your articles, your publication is misrepresenting the District’s involvement in this incident.
Your use of the AASD logo, without written permission from the District, is in violation of Policy 920: Use of District Name, Color, Insignia or Logos. Policy 920 limits the use or reproduction of the AASD formal insignia by any groups or individuals within or outside of the District without specific prior School Board approval, which you did not obtain. It also designates the AASD formal logo/insignia as intellectual property. Failure to remove our logo from your article will result in the District taking all necessary steps to protect its property, including legal action, if necessary.
Public Relations Consultant
from: John Paul (JP@BeaverCountian.com)
to: Shari Berg (SBerg@ambridge.k12.pa.us)
Did a “public relations consultant” for the Ambridge Area School District seriously just threaten to file a lawsuit against us for violating one of its policies?
For the sake of the young people your district is charged with educating, I hope this is a bad joke.
In case it is not, here is our formal response:
We published, as part of a news report, a photograph we took of a wall in a public building emblazoned with the district’s insignia. We have published it before and we will publish it again, including when we publish your email today.
Unlike others your district has attempted to bully, I think you will find we are well educated about our legal rights, including the Supreme Court’s adoption of a fair use doctrine in protection of the First Amendment, as applicable in this instance.
Yes, I am well aware of the Ambridge Area School District’s shameful history of outrageous threats against citizens of the county, having reported on them in the past:
Apparently your new superintendent intends to pick up where your prior superintendent left off?
I note this is not the first time we have been lectured this year with nonsense from a school district who uses the law firm of Weiss, Burkardt and Kramer as its solicitors. I direct your attention to the asinine antics from May when Blackhawk insisted we needed prior school board approval to publish a video we recorded of a public meeting:
This is all just embarrassing coming from educators, totally and completely embarrassing.
Unfortunately for the totalitarian regime you are serving as propagandist of, we are not intimidated by public officials’ officiousness. If your superintendent wants to file a lawsuit against us citing a violation of “District Policy 920,” or a copyright violation, or trademark violation, or whatever other absurdities you all come up with, be our guest. We would be more than happy to use a court of law as a classroom to provide your district and the public with a valuable education about Constitutional rights in this country.
As for your claim that the incident at subject of our article had absolutely nothing to do with the district:
Law enforcement has, and continues to, publicly frame this incident in context of the Ambridge football game. According to police, the incident in question occurred following the school event (at which Ambridge police provided security) and most in the group of approximately 30 individuals at issue were on their way home from it when calls of a fight/disturbance came into 911. We have spoken to witnesses (including parents of students in your district who were among the group) that have provided information substantiating what we were told by law enforcement.
That all being said, I will point out we had already changed the image associated with the story in an editorial decision made shortly after its publication Sunday afternoon. We determined the article may become the first of a series of pieces stemming from the incident, which could involve additional issues not directly related to happenings following the high school football game that night (See the article as it currently appears on our site, which includes stock imagery of a police badge).
The screenshot you attached to your email is of our Facebook page. As a technical matter, Facebook does not permit a page administrator to alter the preview image of a link after it has been posted. This is why you are still seeing the photo of the sacred district icon. Yes, we could theoretically delete the post, but we are not going to do that.
Finally, in case you were unaware, I would like to point out that today is National Constitution Day. On this day, federal law urges all publicly funded educational institutions and federal agencies to offer educational programming about our nation’s Constitution.
With your email, the Ambridge Area School District has done a most excellent job of that (even if it was unintended).
I am looking forward to meeting you all in court. I look awesome in a tie.
Yours on this National Constitution Day,
– John Paul
Following is the photograph we took of the Ambridge Area School District’s insignia, which we are publishing a few more times without asking permission from anyone in the government. Feel free to leave your thoughts below.