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Candidate ‘not backing down’ in YouTube controversy

By Staff | Mar 31, 2010

One day after a disagreement between Lee County School Board Chairman Steve Teuber and candidate Don Armstrong over the use of Teuber’s name and likeness in a politically-charged YouTube video, Armstrong says
he’s not taking the pictures down.
“I am not backing down,” said Armstrong. “He is a public official. If Steve has an issue he can call me.”
Teuber sent a letter to Armstrong on his firm’s official stationary, Sasso & Teuber, on March 30 giving him 10 days to remove the photographs. According to Teuber, Armstrong’s videos state that Teuber and other sitting board members were invited and may attend a forum hosted by Armstrong and other school board candidates.
Candidates for public office are allowed to use the photographs or names of their opponents during campaigns, but Teuber says Armstrong is benefitting from his likeness.
“All I ask is that he runs his campaign and not use me in it,” said Teuber. “Don’t try to include me or imply to people I am going to attend any of his functions.”
Teuber explained that more people are likely to attend an education forum if Armstrong advertises that the current chairman or other board members are invited or plan to attend.
Armstrong and other candidates have organized an education forum for April 10 at the Cape Coral Library to discuss major issues like funding, transportation or teacher pay.
Two videos have been uploaded to YouTube by Armstrong and this week he planned on posting a third until he received the letter from Teuber. Armstrong said any photographs or videos he has used on school board members are public records, taken from board meetings or the district’s own Web site.
Armstrong also used some controversial comments in his videos that he read in forums hosted by local news media outlets.
Teuber didn’t comment on whether he plans to file suit against Armstrong if the pictures aren’t taken down.
In his letter, Teuber cited Florida Statute 540.08 which bans the use of a person’s name, photograph or likeness for commercial or trade purposes.
According to Thomas Julin, a media lawyer from the Hunton & Williams firm in south Florida, the law prohibits the use of names or likenesses to directly promote a product or service and it should not be used to prohibit the use of opposing candidates names or likeness in a political advertisement.
Teuber also referred to the case “Tyne v. Time Warner Entertainment,” a case filed by Erica Tyne, the daughter of fisherman Billy Tyne who lost his life when the vessel Andrea Gail was lost at sea. The story was made into the film “The Perfect Storm” but relatives objected to the use of Billy Tyne’s likeness.
Deanna Shullman, a media lawyer with the firm Thomas & LoCicero, which litigated the Tyne case, said the case only extends to anything that directly promotes a product or service. She said it’s the equivalent of an athlete’s picture or likeness being printed on a cereal box.