Resident says Obsitnik campaign is misusing her footage

An old dispute from the 2010 Congressional campaign has made its way back into this year’s race and Cos Cob resident Sarah Littman is fighting back against what she sees as Republican distortion of footage she shot.

At the annual Greenwich Democratic Town Committee (DTC) picnic in 2010, Ms. Littman taped footage of U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, a Cos Cob resident and former chairman of the DTC, speaking about his record which included his vote in favor of health care reform. She then placed the clip on You Tube and on the popular liberal blog myleftnutmeg.com, only to find it then used in an attack ad against Mr. Himes by his Republican opponent Dan Debicella who was trying to capitalize on the anti-Democrat wave of 2010 by tying Mr. Himes to the party’s majority in Congress.

And now the footage is back two years later as Mr. Himes faces another Republican, Westport businessman Steve Obsitnik. Ms. Littman, who is an author and independent journalist in town, said that she was tipped off to the presence of the ad by a friend from New Canaan who knew of her battles with Mr. Debicella’s campaign in 2010. The ad is currently running in the district and Ms. Littman provided a copy of the ad to the Post.

 

In the ad, Mr. Himes, in the footage from 2010, says he is “proud as hell” and that he “stands behind” what he has voted for as a member of Congress. Mr. Obsitnik’s campaign then attempts to tie those comments to issues such as the national debt, unemployment and high energy and gasoline prices before ending with the tag line “Really?” The ad is directly from the campaign, not from an outside group, and Mr. Obsitnik appears at the beginning to say he approves the message.

Ms. Littman had hired a lawyer in 2010 to try and stop the Debicella campaign from using the footage which she says is copyrighted in the weeks leading up to the election but the matter was never formally resolved. After Mr. Debicella lost the election she let the matter drop, considering it moot. Now she said her footage is once again being used out of context and without her consent and since she removed the footage from the Internet after the 2010 campaign, she speculated that people involved with the Debicella campaign must have given it to Mr. Obsitnik.

She said on Sept. 17 she sent a cease and desist letter to the Obsitnik campaign, Cablevision and Comcast to get them to stop airing the ad with her footage in it. Ms. Littman said she got responses from the cable companies telling her that they could not stop airing the ad based on her concerns due to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations and that she should address her concerns directly with Mr. Obsitnik.

Ms. Littman said she would love to, but so far has not received any response to her e-mails to Amanda Bergen, who is serving as communications director for the Obsitnik campaign.

“There has been absolutely no response from the campaign at all,” Ms. Littman told the Post in an interview on Tuesday. “I’ve heard nothing from them. They’ve completely ignored it.”

Now Ms. Littman said she’s wondering what recourse there is to try and stop the ad from running.

“I really can’t believe this is happening again,” Ms. Littman said. “I went through all of this with Debicella and I spent a lot of money on that. As a single mother and an independent journalist, I don’t have a lot of resources to fight this so it’s making me very angry.”

Ms. Bergen confirmed to the Post that she had received Ms. Littman’s request but said in a statement that the campaign will not comply.

“This is clearly a politically motivated attack by someone who is Jim Himes’ neighbor and even held a fund raising event for the congressman,” Ms. Bergen said. “Once a video is put on the Internet, it’s fair use. The video is Congressman Jim Himes in his own words. 43 straight months of unemployment over 8%, a failed stimulus, 316,000 jobs lost, $6 trillion in new debt, and gas prices over $4 a gallon is not a record to be proud of. If I were Congressman Himes, I would want this video down too.”

Ms. Littman said she believes this is an example of hypocrisy amongst Republicans particularly since Mr. Obsitnik has made multiple campaign appearances with Republican U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon. In response to recent ads from her Democratic opponent Chris Murphy and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee using raunchy clips of content from World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) during her tenure there as CEO, the company has taken those clips down from its website and prevented the ads from being posted on the Internet because it says the clips are copyrighted material.

“Republicans have to decide whether or not copyright is something they want respected,” Ms. Littman said. “Is it only something that should be followed when you have a million dollar corporation and a team of lawyers on your side but not when you’re an independent journalist with bills to pay? Is it proper for the McMahons to claim copyright, but not me? I can’t afford to hire high-priced lawyers to keep fighting this.”

 

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