(Top to bottom) 2019 Student Government Association (SGA) candidates from Empower and Elevate stand before the All-Slate Debate Feb. 18, 2019 in the L.A. Pittenger Student Center ballroom. Both slates could face fines for copyright violations. Scott Fleener, DN
Ball State SGA-nominated slates Empower and Elevate could be fined for copyright violations
Yesterday, two emails were sent to Student Government Association (SGA) with evidence that both slates were infringing on copyright logos.
The evidence submitted against Elevate referenced a social post that the slate’s Twitter account posted, using the Ball State logo in the graphic. According to Sara Maier, the chair of the elections board, the logo had been modified.
Ball State's website asks that requests of the logo be sent to the Ball State Marketing Strategy Team.
The evidence submitted against Empower shows that a website's logo and name were similar to that of Empower’s. Empower has used the logo on several of their social posts. Maier said this logo also appears to be modified.
Maier said the two slates will go through a hearing process Thursday.
“We haven’t decided outright that we are going to fine them,” Maier said. “We have taken steps to look at the violations that were reported to us.”
According to the Elections Code, the slates have to be voted guilty by a two-thirds majority vote. The code also states that the board has to first notify the respective campaign managers and then the public must be notified within 24 hours of the decision by the press secretary.
If either slate were to be fined more than 20 percent of the maximum expenditure amount of $2,000 for a campaign, which would be $400, then that slate will be automatically removed from the race.
Maier said the board will have to decide whether or not Empower’s violation is greater than Elevate’s.
“So we’re going to have to decide an amount basically, and then the reach and is there any difference because one is specifically Ball State-related, and the other doesn’t really have anything to do with Ball State.”
Maier said that based on precedent, previous slates that have used Ball State’s logo without permission have been fined $100. “But, once again the board is going to have to vote on that.” Maier said.
“At this point in time, we haven’t found any precedent regarding trademark violations apart from Ball State specific trademark violations.” Maier said. She said the board will continue to search for any precedent.
Isaac Mitchell, SGA president, said that the elections board is a “100 percentage, independent autonomous board”. He said that he has no influence over what the board does.
“So, all I know is kind of what they’ve told me about their process,” Mitchell said. “So far what it’s looking like though is the Elections Board is researching the incident and additionally that their researching now all slates [running], just to make sure that everyone is good.”
According to the Elections Code if either slate is found guilty of a copyright violation, they can appeal the decision to the Student Judicial Court. This court also has the power the reverse the decision made by the Elections Board if it is found to be “inappropriate,” in which the board will change its decision. The code also states that the press secretary must inform the public within 24 hours of the Student Judicial Court’s decision.
“Likely, what I think is going to happen is as soon as the hearings are done, we will inform the slates of our decisions.Then we will type up statements, then we will probably have our press secretary, Thomas May, send those to student media,” Maier said.