Newly published documents have poked holes in the Washington Free Beacon's claim that it has been victimized by a pro-Hillary Clinton conspiracy aiming to restrict the site's access to information about the former secretary of state. In fact, the site's access has been restricted because it violated the University of Arkansas' rules regarding the use of intellectual property from its archives.
On June 15, the Free Beacon published an article on Clinton using recordings of unpublished interviews conducted in the 1980s. Tapes of the interviews were archived at the University of Arkansas (UA).
UA subsequently revoked the Free Beacon's research privileges, asserting that publication of the interviews required authorization from the university library and, having failed to obtain such permission, the Free Beacon violated UA's intellectual property rights.
The Free Beacon claimed that it obtained the materials in question "without having to fill out any forms and without being provided a copy of any university 'policy.'" It also suggested that the decision to revoke its access was a pro-Clinton conspiracy, noting, "A Hillary Clinton donor who serves as dean of the University of Arkansas libraries has banned the Washington Free Beacon from the school's special collections archives, after the news outlet published revealing stories about Hillary Clinton based on documents available at the university library."
Business Insider, however, obtained documents from UA that contradict the Beacon's claims, writing that "documents provided to Business Insider ... indicate there were several conditions surrounding the release of tapes from the library to the Free Beacon" (emphasis added):
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."
Business Insider also obtained an email from a UA library staff member to Reinschmiedt that "reiterated that any copies of the tapes could be used 'for research and single use only.'"
In addition, the Free Beacon itself published a letter from UA Dean of Libraries Carolyn Henderson Allen showing that the library had previously warned the site about publishing materials from UA archives without filling out the necessary forms following a February article by Free Beacon's Alana Goodman:
I wrote Ms. Alana Goodman on February 10, 2014, to advise her to comply with the policies of Special Collections relating to the unauthorized publication of certain materials...In the same letter, I provided her with the specific link to the permission to publish form that is required for all individuals and organizations that seek to publish material obtained through Special Collections. I cautioned her that the failure to comply with this specific policy in the future would lead to the suspension of any research privileges with Special Collections.
Requiring permission from the university before publishing content from its archives is common practice. The libraries of Yale University, the University of Georgia, Arizona State University, and Stanford University are just a handful of academic institutions that maintain policies similar to those at UA.