University of Arkansas library administrators were in contact with Clinton Foundation officials the same day the university rushed to take action against the Washington Free Beacon for publishing recordings of Hillary Clinton discussing her 1975 defense of a child rapist, according to internal emails obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
Administrators scrambled to "get the lawyers involved" to draft a "cease and desist" letter to the Free Beacon the morning after the "Hillary Tapes" report, and over a week before the university admitted it did not actually own the copyright for the recordings.
Additional emails revealed that other media outlets had previously questioned the constitutionality of a university policy that requires news organizations to ask for permission to publish archival materials.
The University of Arkansas revoked the Free Beacon’s library research privileges because the news outlet did not fill out a "permission-to-publish" form.
The June 17 letter from Dean Carolyn Henderson Allen, a Hillary Clinton donor, to Free Beacon editor Matthew Continetti demanded that the news outlet immediately "cease and desist [its] ongoing violation of the intellectual property rights of the University of Arkansas" by removing the audio recordings from its website and returning all copies of the tapes to the library.
However, the university does not own the copyright for the tapes. The copyright was retained by Roy Reed, the Arkansas reporter who interviewed Hillary Clinton on the recordings and donated the tapes to the university in 1989. Reed told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette earlier this month that he did not object to the publication of the recordings.
The head of the Special Collections library first contacted Reed to confirm his possession of the copyright on June 23, nearly one week after sending the "cease and desist" letter, according to emails.
Library administrators wasted no time, however, when it came to taking action against the Free Beacon.
"I am wondering if we should get the lawyers involved in this since [the Free Beacon] didn’t get the correct permission and have published unauthorized content? Let me know what you think," wrote Dean Allen in an email to the head of the Special Collections library Timothy Nutt the morning of June 16.
"I think we should get the lawyers involved and have them right [sic] a letter to the Free Beacon revoking their use privileges, since they once again failed to follow our procedures," wrote Nutt.
The head of Special Collections library reached out to Reed to establish his ownership of the copyright on June 23, according to emails, after a local reporter inquired about who held the rights.
"Getting in touch/URGENT," Nutt wrote to Reed. "I would like to speak with you about some matters. If you could call me as soon as possible, I would appreciate it."
Reed told Nutt that he retained the copyright to the materials, and Nutt relayed the news over email to a team of PR officials and administrators.
University spokesperson Laura Jacobs appeared surprised by the news.
"But we are able to grant permission to publish due to the acquisition agreement?" Jacobs emailed Nutt.
"Yes, we give permission to publish," responded Nutt. "But the permission to publish form specifically states that ‘this permission will be valid only insofar as the University of Arkansas, as owner or custodian, holds rights in the material."
In a July 5 op-ed, the university argued that the permission-to-publish form is still necessary to help it "track use and keep the donors of our collections apprised of how their papers have been used."
Jacobs told the Free Beacon that she was "not aware of anyone with the university asking Mr. Reed what his opinion was of the Free Beacon‘s publishing of audio excerpts."
Reed told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette on July 3 that he did not have a problem with the publication of the recordings.
"I don’t see anything wrong with that. I certainly don’t object to it," he said.
Timothy Nutt, the head of the University of Arkansas Special Collections library that housed the audio recordings of Hillary Clinton, spoke with the Clinton Presidential Center’s mandatory review archivist Rob Seibert on June 16 about the "Hillary Tapes" story, according to the emails.
Seibert did not respond to request for comment.
"The conversation was on a personal topic, and toward the end of the conversation, they visited briefly about the publicity surrounding the Free Beacon‘s story on June 16," university spokesperson Laura Jacobs told the Free Beacon.
Jacobs said she also "had a conversation with a staff member at the Clinton Foundation less about the article and more specifically about the content of the Roy Reed collection and where that information can be found" on June 16. Jacobs declined to provide the name of the staff member.
University officials downplayed any link between the library’s actions against the Free Beacon and its discussions with Clinton Foundation officials.
"It’s not unusual to be contacted by colleagues during media activities such as these. The archival community is relatively small and we try to keep up with what’s going on in each other’s institutions," wrote Nutt in an email to Arkansas reporter Caleb Taylor last month, which was among the correspondence reviewed by the Free Beacon.
In another internal email, first reported by the Arkansas Project, university spokesperson Steve Voorhies reminded his colleagues that other media outlets had questioned the constitutionality of the permission slip policy.
"I know [the Free Beacon] didn’t follow our policies–but other media considered our policy unconstitutional. Obvious PR problems," wrote Voorhies.
Published under: Hillary Clinton