Documents obtained by Business Insider Friday raise several questions about inconsistencies in claims the Washington Free Beacon has made about being barred from accessing special collections in the University of Arkansas library after publishing stories critical of Hillary Clinton.
The Free Beacon, a conservative news site, used tapes from the library’s archives to publish a pair of stories about Clinton. Both of those stories were written by Free Beacon reporter Alana Goodman. One of the stories, which was published June 15, featured tapes of Clinton, a former attorney, describing her 1975 defence of a man accused of raping a 12-year-old-girl. On June 17, University of Arkansas Dean of Libraries Carolyn Henderson Allen sent a letter to Free Beacon Editor-in-Chief Matthew Continetti informing him the site’s “research privileges” at the school’s library would be “suspended” because the Free Beacon published the tapes without requesting permission from the university as required of library patrons.
Allen accused the Free Beacon of engaging in an “ongoing violation of the intellectual property rights of the University of Arkansas” by publishing the tapes without authorization. On June 19, the Free Beacon responded with a letter to Allen from Kurt Wimmer, an attorney representing the site. Allen countered that the library was “illegally prohibit(ing) the Free Beacon from accessing public records solely because you disagree with the material that the Free Beacon published.” In his letter, Wimmer said the Clinton tapes were provided to the site “without any condition.”
“Your staff provided the recordings to the Free Beacon without any condition, apprised the Free Beacon of no ‘policies’ limiting their dissemination, and required no agreement to be signed prior to receiving them. You now assert that the Free Beacon violated the ‘policies of Special Collections,’ yet you fail to quote or cite these ‘policies,’ or explain how they bind my client,” Wimmer wrote. “You mention a ‘permission to publish form,’ but the Free Beacon never signed this form, nor has it ever agreed to sign it. Your staff unconditionally provided the audio recordings to the Free Beacon and the Free Beacon did not agree to any restrictions on their use. Therefore, the Free Beacon was free to publish this information, and continues to be free to do so.”
However, documents provided to Business Insider by the University of Arkansas indicate there were several conditions surrounding the release of tapes from the library to the Free Beacon. The library said they were able to provide information about the Free Beacon’s research because the site waived privacy rights.
On June 20, Business Insider requested documentation relating to the Free Beacon’s acquisition of the tapes used for the story about Clinton and the rape case from the University of Arkansas. Associate Vice Chancellor for University Relations Laura Jacobs subsequently provided us with several documents including a request to copy the Clinton tapes made by a man named Shawn Reinschmiedt on March 10. That request was made on a form that included a “WARNING CONCERNING COPYRIGHT RESTRICTIONS” noting the library provided materials from its archives “under certain conditions.” The warning specifically mentioned those conditions did not allow materials to be used “for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research.” The warning also said library patrons could be found “liable for copyright infringement” if they request or use materials from the archives “in excess of ‘fair use.'” Reinschmiedt’s signature appeared under this form under a note indicating he read the copyright warning.
In an email, Free Beacon founder Michael Goldfarb said Reinschmiedt “runs a firm that has been working with the Beacon since we launched.”
“They help us with all kinds of research projects. His is not the only outside firm that helped on that story — the Beacon has a production firm on retainer that managed all the audio for us,” Goldfarb said. “We make these resources available to our reporters so they can do important work like reporting fresh details on Hillary’s little known defence of a child rapist.”
University of Arkansas also provided Business Insider an email sent from library staffer Geoffery Stark to Reinschmiedt on March 10 indicating his request was received. In that email, Stark reiterated that any copies of the tapes could be used “for research and single use only.”
“If you do wish to publish, you are required to complete and return the ‘Permission to Publish Request Form,'” Stark wrote.
On March 13, Stark sent Reinschmiedt the tapes he requested along with another letter and the permission form.
In addition to the correspondence between Reinschmiedt and the library, Jacobs also sent Business Insider a letter the library dean, Allen, sent to Goodman on Feb. 10, the day after her first story involving tapes of Clinton obtained from the library was published. In that letter, Allen noted Goodman used material obtained from the library for a story on the archives of Clinton’s close friend Diane Blair “without first obtaining permission to publish.”
“Should your research bring you back to Special Collections at the University of Arkansas in the future, please follow our guidelines and protocols for researchers to avoid having your research privileges suspended,” Allen wrote.
These documents appear to contradict Wimmer’s claims the Clinton tapes were “unconditionally provided” to the Free Beacon and that the site was never “apprised” of policies requiring researchers to obtain permission from the library prior to publishing materials obtained from its collections. Wimmer (the lawyer who represented Free Beacon) has not responded to a request for comment on this story. However, according to Free Beacon founder Goldfarb, whether or not the site was made aware of library policies about publishing materials from its archives, “the library does not have the legal right to demand a media outlet put the decision to publish in the hands of the university.”
“This is the crux of the issue. We will not give veto power over what we publish to a university administrator who in this case also happens to be a Clinton donor. And it is our view that the library does not have the legal right to demand a media outlet put the decision to publish in the hands of the university. These are public documents. No media outlet could surrender that decision to a third party,” Goldfarb said, adding, “We will not be denied access to public documents at a public institution and if they attempt to enforce this ban we will act to defend our first amendment rights.”
View the documents provided by the University of Arkansas and the letter from Wimmer below.
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